Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

Recently, Rayola, Krista and I discovered Cesar Millan, known as “The Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic Channel. Since we share a common love for dogs and our long-haired Chihuahua mix in particular, we find his show fascinating. He emphasizes rehabilitating dogs, and training people. The more I watch his show, the more it is occurring to me that the very same principles he tries to teach dog owners are the same principles that parents (and those who work with children) need to understand if there is to be order in their environment. In fact, his common-sense methods for establishing and maintaining proper order in relationships can be compared to God’s dealings with mankind as found throughout the Bible, and especially in the Book of Proverbs.

The first thing that Cesar establishes is respect. Without respect up front, you are not going to get a dog to pay attention to what you are trying to teach him. Commanding respect translates to the dog that you are the “pack leader,” not the dog. In other words, you are the one in authority. Once this leadership is established, the dog becomes calm, submissive and teachable.

Incredibly, in our rebellious world, few people understand that this same principle applies not only to children, but to anyone. If, from the very beginning, a child’s parents fail to command their respect, in the eyes of the child, the parents have no authority. This means the parents will not be able to bring proper instruction into the life of the child. The key is, of course, consistency. Inconsistency causes confusion and insecurity whether for a dog or a child. In the case of the latter, anger and rebellion are the results.

God designed His creation to operate within a structure of authority. Obviously, whether we want to admit it or not, God Almighty is the supreme authority over all of His creation, including the human family. There willcome a day of accountability. When it comes to the family, God designed a structure of authority (and responsibility) to avoid chaos, confusion and anarchy. If you, as an adult or parent, are not the authority in your family, then somebody else will be.  Unfortunately, when there is a breakdown in the authority structure that God ordained for mankind, it’s not unusual to see the youngest member of the family becoming the ruling authority. It’s more than a little disturbing to watch parents and other family members bowing down to the whims of a young child who throws a screaming fit every time the word “No” is uttered. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when the child hits his or her teenage years, the consequences for all concerned will be anything but pleasant.

But, why is it so hard for parents in our affluent society to properly discipline their children? There may be many answers to this question, depending on the people and circumstances involved, but I believe the bottom line in most cases is selfishness. We are a self-absorbed culture. We want everything to revolve around us, and make our little world happy. We don’t want anything to ruffle our feathers, rock our boat, or rattle our comfortable cage. Basically, when it comes to making a determined decision to be diligent and disciplined in our “it’s-all-about-me” existence, we just can’t seem to find the fortitude to muster up our apathetic, fragile little egos to step up to the plate and meet the challenge.

Although I use children as an example, I realize their attitude has a lot to say about the different influences in their world. How many of our children simply reflect our own attitudes towards God’s authority in our life? How many of us are demanding our way with God while we are having a fit because we cannot have life on our own terms?

It’s interesting to consider why both dog owners and parents hate to say “No.” When it comes to dogs, it’s easy for me to relate to some of the dog owners I’ve observed on Millan’s show, such as people who feel guilty or mean when they don’t let their beloved pet have his way all the time. Of course, the end result is a dog that becomes the head of the pack, or the one in authority, with little or no respect for the owner. He may love his people as only the devoted heart of a dog can love, but obedience just isn’t part of his behavior pattern.

Clearly, the same can be said of human parents (and this is where selfishness comes in) who don’t want to feel guilty or mean when they need to draw the line with their undisciplined children. Yet, we read in Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” However, how many people today would agree that a parent’s failure to discipline is hatred, while administering discipline is love? Has our worldly society dulled our ability to critically think through all the vain human philosophy and idiotic “political correctness” to the point that basic common sense can only be found in a handful of people?

Besides wanting to avoid feeling bad about oneself when disciplinary measures need to be taken, many people are (let’s face it) simply too lazy to be bothered with administering consistent, fair discipline. Instead, they choose to ignore the problem, hoping it will just “go away.” Tragically, bad behavioral habits do not just “go away” and down the line both parents and children reap tragic consequences. If a child has no respect for his or her parents’ authority, then he or she will have little, if any, respect for the authority of other adults, such as teachers, employers, law enforcement, or God. After all, God does say “No” and when He says “No,” He means it! There will always be consequences for breaking God’s laws, either immediately, in the future, or in eternity. Galatians 6:7-8 warns: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

God didn’t consider the essence of “No” to be a dirty word when He instructed the man Adam in Genesis 2:17: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” [Emphasis added.] God wasn’t concerned about being “politically correct” when He wrote out the Ten Commandments wherein the first four begin with, “Thou shalt not.” (See Exodus 20:1-17.)

The truth is we must first learn self-discipline, and how to say “No,” or deny ourselves, before we can, without hypocrisy, say “No” to those whom we are responsible for, whether it be children or souls God has entrusted to our care.

Jesus put it this way: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” Luke 9:23. Many people who declare that they want to follow Jesus make little, if any, effort to deny themselves up front. Yet, this is clearly the first step of obedience that God requires on our part, followed by taking up our cross (mortifying the flesh, and identifying with Christ) in order to truly follow Him. Failure to take up our cross, and follow Him, means we cannot be His disciple. (See Matthew 16:27.) Like it or not, this is the route God has laid out for those who would follow Jesus on the straight and narrow path. Thus, God is requiring us to say “No” to ourselves, or to impose self-discipline. Otherwise, He will say “No” to us when we seek to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God on our own terms. (See Matthew 7:21-23.)

People who come to God for whatever reason with their pride still intact have their own agenda. Even though they may give lip service to Jesus, declaring that they want to follow Him, in their heart of hearts, they want Jesus to follow them instead, and bless what they are trying to accomplish. They may appear to be religious, but it is only a façade, because it’s still all about them and how they look.

Because God, in His unchangeable attributes of holiness and love is just and righteous, He cannot say “Yes” to those attitudes, motivations, heart conditions, and lifestyles that fail to line up to His commandments no matter how much we may cry, whine and throw a fit. Being the good parent that He is, He does not waver or make exceptions, but He is always consistent and truthful. Once a person reads the Bible, then that person is accountable to what he or she has read. In other words, it becomes his or her responsibility to take note of God’s instructions, and to line up his or her life accordingly because we shall be judged by the Word. (See John 12:48.) Thus, we can conclude that “No” is not a dirty word (even though the majority of young people and adults who refuse to grow up, think it is) but a word that is necessary to ensure not only a blessed life in this world, but eternal life in the world to come as well.

The other word that is often considered a “dirty word” in our society is the word “work.” But, even in the dog world, dogs need a job to do. Cesar Millan skillfully demonstrates this fact in different ways with the dogs he rehabilitates, depending on the particular breed. For example, large breeds are given a pack to wear while out on their daily walk. This will cause the dog’s mind to remain focused on the pack, so that he will keep a calm, steady pace while burning off excess energy.

Having owned a couple of Border Collies between us ladies, we learned all too well that this type of working dog must have something to do. Otherwise, their pent up energy can either become destructive, or drive the poor dog to near insanity. Dogs, like people, need to have a function, or purpose if their lives are to have meaning. Lying around all their lives like a fur rug is not healthy for dogs, mentally or physically any more than being a couch potato is good for people.

While multitudes of people of all ages do appreciate finding work, and being employed, most of the time they are only working to get a paycheck. They still hate the idea of work, couldn’t care less about the people they work for or serve, and know little of the joy of putting forth their very best effort to do a good job. Their goal in life is to have fun. People are becoming increasingly sloppy and apathetic on their jobs, hoping to just slide by. In other words, integrity is very much lacking in most of the population, and, sad to say, among “churched” folks as well. It’s hard to find people who take pride (using the right sense of the word) in striving for excellence, honesty and perfection. But, people who do understand the satisfaction of knowing that they have done their best are blessed, happy and content. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” We need to be diligent in redeeming the time that we have been given on this earth.

The necessity of work originates with God. We find this in Genesis 2:15: “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” [Emphasis added.] There you have it—responsibility! Apparently, God doesn’t view work as a “dirty word” either. And, even though prior to Adam’s decision to disobey God, his job didn’t require hard labor by the “sweat of his brow.” He still had the God-given responsibility to protect the garden he had been placed in. Adam wasn’t created to just lounge around like a worthless, unproductive bump on a log, and neither are we!

This brings us back to the two “dirty words” that our selfish society resents. It is vital that we learn to not only say no, but to realize it is a healthy boundary. In fact, the lessons surrounding “no” teach us as much about proper behavior as they do about the wrong behavior. We need to say yes to working out our salvation, finding our life in Christ, and being responsible for the type of people we are becoming before God. Scripturally, we are being called to labor in every aspect of our life. Finding our life will require us to pay a price to develop character, obtain godly wisdom, and partake of God’s kingdom. It is time we separated ourselves from the philosophies of the world and developed the mind of Christ. Due to the perverted philosophies of the world, many are sitting on their laurels and waiting for life to come to them. However, consider Amos’ words: “Seek the LORD, and ye shall live” Amos 5:6a.

The question is do you truly want to live?