I do believe that this subject has been chosen because specifically young people or Protestant Reformed people need to learn about contentment under authority. During this week of the convention I have watched you and you have exhibited both a consciousness of authority and a respect for that authority. You do not need to be “blasted” for your lack of respect for authority.
Rather I believe that this subject was chosen because it is a vital part of our Christian life. It is something about which you and I always need encouragement. We always can use some reminders as to how our God would have us live.
It cannot be denied that we are always under authority. It begins with the authority of our parents. Later we become conscious of the presence of the authority of the church, of school, and of the state.
Often there are times when we believe that those who exercise this authority are unjust and not worthy of respect.
This past week, as you heard some of the rules for the convention and some of the decisions of the steering committee, did you conclude that the steering committee was tough and rigid, especially about the curfew? Did you think that the steering committee was improper in forbidding you the use of your cars?
There may be other times that you heard your parents, while talking about a decision of the consistory or synod, express strong disagreement and dissatisfaction; and your reaction was that you wondered whether that decision should be followed.
Do you believe that the discipline of your school or of your parents is horribly harsh and unjust?
Do some of you have fathers who are very demanding, who present themselves as someone with whom you cannot talk because it seems that they are not interested in you, or do not show any concern for you? Do you believe that you are justified in not talking with your father because you cannot see his love and concern for you? Do you smirk cynically when we sing, “The tender love a father has for all his children dear?” Or do you find your father gone from home a lot, and when he is home he still is so busy that he appears to have no concern for you? Or do you see him fighting frequently with your mother, and the house constantly filled with tension between them?
Do some of you have a mother who is so possessive and nosey, always asking about what you do and even looking into your drawers? Does she ask so many questions after you come home from going away – questions about what you did and with whom you went? Is she always disapproving of your clothes and friends?
Do you sometimes look at your home as a jail and your parents as prison guards, always depriving you of your liberties, making rules to cover every conceivable situation? Can you have fun with your classmates, but do you believe that no one in your home understands you? Do you find that your parents sin against you, but they never apologize? Do you find yourself becoming bitter because they make you apologize, but they never do? Or is it worse (which may God forbid): are you the object of abuse physically, psychologically or sexually?
Do you look at the homes of others and conclude that they are much better than yours? Parents in those homes allow their children to go places and do things that you are not allowed to do? Would you rather have those parents than your own?
Every single one of us, whether we are young or older, has had some of these experiences at one time or another, to one degree or another. We looked at our homes, parents, teachers, elders, steering committees and said that we hate it and wish it were changed.
But God has other ideas. The God, Who you wish would make some changes in your life, is the God Who loves you to such an extent that He bought you from sin’s dominion at the cost of His own Son’s life. And He is the God Who is so deeply concerned with the whole of life that He knows each of the hairs of your head and each detail of your life.
God is pleased, as a part of His perfect plan for your life, to have you live under authority, whether it be your father or your mother, the convention’s steering committee or your consistory, or your teachers in school.
Not only is God pleased to place us under authority, but it is also the will of His good pleasure that we be content under that authority.
What is authority?
We learn much about authority by clearing up some wrong conceptions and learning what is not authority.
Authority has nothing to do with might or power. Authority is not necessarily in the hands of those who are the strongest. Authority has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that your parents or teachers are stronger than you are.
Nor does authority have anything to do with the majority. Because your parents are two and you are one, you are always outvoted. In my house it may be seven (children) to one (their father), but that does not change a thing. The majority of the citizens of the United States may believe that abortion is legitimate, but that majority vote does not make it right.
Authority, rather, consists of three things. First, it is the right to determine for others what is right and wrong, to set the standard. Second, it is the right to demand obedience to the determined standard of right and wrong. And third, it is the right to punish those who do not meet that standard along with the right to reward those who do meet that standard.
All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to God. Authority is His because He is the Creator. He not only creates us, but also He creates the relationships in which we are to live. As the Creator, He has the right to determine what is right and what is wrong for His creatures.
God conferred all this authority on Christ (Matt. 28:19), and Christ, in turn, delegates authority to certain positions among mankind (John 19:11), while retaining to Himself the final authority. When He dispenses authority to some of the positions He created among men, He does not give it away completely. The authority remains His always. All those to whom He gives that authority must, in the judgment day, answer to Him for their use of His authority. Those to whom authority has been delegated by God must exercise it in God’s name, to His glory, and as those who must render a final accounting to Him.
While you young people may think it is difficult to obey the authority put over you, but I would contend that, from a certain perspective, it is more difficult to exercise authority. Those in positions of authority will have to answer to God for how they represented Him. I would rather be in the position of doing what someone else tells me to do, because if they tell me to do something wrong, then they also bear the blame. Sometimes you think that you cannot wait until you are the “boss”; but I say to you, “Don’t be so quick.”
The authority which God delegates (to your parents, for example) is so authoritative that they have the right to determine whether you will go somewhere or not, whether you will do something or not. And when you question their judgment, they might find it wise to explain their judgment, but they do not have to explain why. Their authority gives to them the right to determine what is right and wrong for you, regardless whether “everybody else” is doing it, or whether you understand and agree with them.
Those under authority must submit and obey to those in authority over them – for God’s sake. This submission and obedience must be willingly and not grudgingly. This implies three things.
First, those under authority must show honor and respect. When you look at your mother, father, teacher or elder, you must respect God, the office He established, and the persons He places in those offices. Whatever their character, it is by the appointment of Divine providence that they are there. On account of their station, the Supreme Legislator commands that they be honored.
Second, those under authority must obey. They must do what the authority demands. They must yield themselves to do as the authority wishes.
And thirdly, those under authority must submit. If they find themselves in a position when they cannot obey because something contrary to God’s law is demanded, then they must submit, that is, willingly bear the consequences.
Now we come to the heart of my speech. You must be content with the authority that God has been pleased to place over you.
The God Who is far beyond the universe, Who created all things and holds it all in the palm of His hand, Who gave you life and breath, strength and beauty, that God loves you. He loves you for Jesus’ sake. He loves you so much that He gave His only and beloved Son for you. I might die for someone, but I would not want to give my son to die for them; I would rather give myself. God gave His son, because He loves you. He does not love you only when you are old; He loves you now. He loves you with the tenderness that characterizes a father holding his just born child. He loves you every moment of your life. His love never lets you go. You cannot escape God’s love. Never.
This love of God for you is that which determines the whole of His plan for your life. Every little detail of your life is included in His plan of love. Nothing escapes His control. Everything that happens to you, your strength or lack of it, your kind of beauty or the lack of what you think is beauty – everything, including your pimples, is a part of the plan of the God Who loves you.
God wants you to know this and to be happy in this knowledge. He wants you to rejoice in what He is doing in your life.
Part of God’s plan for you is that He gave to you just the right kind of parents that you need. Someday (if it is God’s will that you marry) He will give you just the right kind of husband or wife. It will be a perfect match, because it will be a match made in heaven. No mistakes are ever made in your life.
The dad that you have is exactly the right one for you. God makes no mistakes. He makes no mistakes when He gives the reprobate their fathers. But when God gave you your father, He gave you the father you need, because He loves you. And your mother is just the right mother. Someone else’s mother would not do. She would not do, because God, in His perfect wisdom, is molding you to be just the right kind of person (not the kind that you want yourself to be) He wants you to be.
In our lifetime He is molding and shaping us for the place that He has determined for us in heaven, and all of this molding is because of His love. God carries you every step of the way, with every blink of your eyes, every nod of you head, every movement of you mind. Every part of your whole being is a part of His perfect, love-filled, caring plan.
Therefore, accept and trust His wisdom. Do not set yourself up as a judge of God, your Father.
When someone is unhappy about and not content with any part of His perfectly wise, love-filled plan, then they are the first and the most hurt. When we work against God’s plan, then we lose our joy and happiness. When we fight and resist God’s will for us, then we are the ones who are hurt the most. When you run into your bedroom and cry into your pillow, then the devil is using one of his most powerful tools: self-pity. We love ourselves so much that we judge God to be foolish and wrong in putting us under the people He has placed in authority over us.
God wants you to be content. He commands you to be content! He wants you to look at His plan for you and conclude with Him that it is right and perfect.
The way to achieve this contentment is not by considering the persons in authority over you, but by looking at God. Look at God as He sits upon His throne of glorious majesty, which makes the sun become a candle in comparison. Look at God Who is perfect. Look at God Whom you nailed to the cross, and hear Jesus’ agonizing cry when He experienced hell for your sins. This is the God Who says that this is the right mother and this is the right father for you. Do not look at them, but look at God.
When we are rebellious, then we are not first rebelling against our parents, but against God. When you begin to become frustrated at what you perceive to be a lack of understanding on the part of your parents, then remember that God put them there. They may be wrong; they may be improper; they may be nosey; they may be disapproving; and they may be misunderstanding you. But what difference does that make for you? Do you think that God will accept that as a legitimate excuse? God knows better. Isaiah says that His ways are higher than our ways.
Contentment becomes our experience when we remember that God knows what is best for us. Think of His love. Remember what the Scriptures say about His love. Live in the tranquil assurance that all this is working out just right, that no mistakes are being made in any part of your life. Honor them, even when you see their sins and weaknesses, for God’s sake. Honor them because of the huge debt you owe to God for His love for you. Thank God for your parents!
Contentment is a gift of God’s grace.
And contentment is a lesson to be learned in the tough school of experience (Phil. 4:11). Often when we learn this lesson in God’s school, it is hard. It is hard because God does not tell us why, and give us a reason. His ways are often in the dark, as well as being rough.
But learn contentment we must and learn it we can. You have already learned contentment. You can learn contentment and be content because you are the recipients of the constant praise of God. In your own strength you cannot. But you can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13).
You can be content, when you remember what the Bible says of God’s love for you. And you learn contentment when you pray. Sometimes you might pray, somewhat like Paul, that God remove these parents from you. But God answers every time, “My child, My grace is sufficient for you. In every step of your life, My grace is sufficient for you.”
You are able to play a big role in the tranquility and happiness of the Christian home.
Return to your homes and look at your father and mother differently. Begin to understand why your mother is so possessive at times. For nine months you were a part of her very body. She experienced tremendous discomfort and pain for you. She lost sleep in order to nurse you. She missed innumerable opportunities to advance herself personally, because she loved you and gave herself for you. She was a great means that God used to make you to be who and what you are. You carry part of her nature and personality with you wherever you go.
You say that you do not see the tender love a father is supposed to have? Maybe there is a reason why YOU, at this time, do not see his tender love – maybe it is because of the way you have been acting. But there is tender love. When your dad first held you and his chin quivered, or the tears rolled silently down his cheeks, then there was tender love. In your father is the tender love that works long and hard, in order to clothe you. In your father is tender love: He cares so much for you that he will sacrifice much so that you can obtain a Christian, though expensive, education. There is tender love.
Return home and see your parents as human beings. You want to be treated in a certain way. Treat your parents in the manner you wish to be treated. Think of your parents as having their own personal interests, instead of only considering your own interests. Rather than criticizing, try to understand them. Understand why they get frustrated. Look at them as God’s gift to you. Instead of blaming them, encourage them by being cheerful and helpful. School is not the only place to be cheerful; it is legitimate at home, too!
Do not be quickly discouraged. It is going to be difficult to change things at home, because patterns have been set. But the situation at your home and your relationship to your parents can be changed. It is not in cement. Though all things are impossible with men, all things are possible with God. By God’s grace you can change your relationship with your parents, because you can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you.
Return home with a renewed commitment to be content. You can make your home a happier place, not by changing others, but by changing yourselves. Do not be discouraged, even if your parents keep the old patterns.
Are you willing to be content?
Because God wants you to be content, are you willing to change the way you conduct yourself in suffering, in self-denial, and while under those in authority over you?
Are you willing, for God’s sake?
When you consider yourself mistreated, then remember that God’s Word says that you are receiving just the right kind of treatment, for all things are working together for your spiritual good. When you think you are not understood, then remember God, you Father, understands you perfectly and He is doing everything right.
Return to your homes believing that God is planning all things well for you.