When you receive or read this teaching newsletter, Father’s Day will be eminent upon us. As I wrote recently in a newspaper article, godly fatherhood is under attack, as there is a narrative intended to neuter and emasculate fathers, so that the effect and influence of godly fathers can be negated. This is obviously the agenda of the same one who sought to eliminate the influence of Jesus by having the boys under 2 years of age killed.
What we want to do with this edition of The Kernels of Truth is to recognize the contribution an earthly father makes towards their offspring and to see the correlation between earthly fathers and our heavenly Father. To begin with that examination, we will begin with the role and function of fathers.
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes words of instruction to the fathers – “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This begins the foundation of our examination of fatherhood as God has designed the role of fathers in the lives of their offspring. Allow me now to issue a little bit of a qualifier or disclaimer. Even though the primary responsibility for training and instruction in the Lord is identified as belonging to the Father, that doesn’t mean the mother does not take part in the process. Proverbs 6 tells us “…don’t reject your mother’s teaching. Always bind them to your heart; tie them around your neck..” But we are particularly looking at the role of the father in the child’s life and it is clear that the primary commission for bringing them up in the Lord falls on him.
In the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which uses numbers to identify its words, the number for “father” is the number 1. Strong’s defines the word “ab” as the producer or generator of a certain thing; one who causes something to be. This word can sometimes actually mean architect, builder, the creator of something. We can see how this describes God our heavenly Father as well as the role of the earthly father as he seeks to emulate the Great Creator of all.
It is clear that God gave us the family so that it is possible to think of Him; so that all who have a father can have some basis for being able to think of our heavenly Father. This was made real when Jesus told Philip that if he had seen Jesus, he had seen the Father. It is a known fact, even in some “secular” circles of psychology that a child’s image of God is formed by their image of their earthly father…not to put too much pressure of some of us. God has a special grace for families that are led by single mothers, but it is certainly the optimum if a child can be raised in a home with a father and a mother. In my opinion (and the statistics bear this out) a truly healthy child is more likely when a godly mother and father are present.
The Scripture says that “children a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” I know sometimes having and raising children can be a load to bear, but the payoff definitely makes up for any challenges we may face. The psalmist also writes that children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. We do battle with the forces of evil by launching arrows into society, bathed and taught in the kingdom of God. The very next verse declares “blessed is the man (father) who fills his quiver with them.” These “arrows” are launched out into the world as a seed for the kingdom and an extension of our legacy in the earth (see the March issue of the Kernels – “An Appointment with Death.”)
What is the influence or effect of a godly father? Well, first of all we see that fathers communicate God to their children. Again, the psalmist writes,
“…I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.” Psalm 78:2b-4
The apostle John echoed these words in his first epistle when he wrote, “I am writing to you fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning.” Of all the gifts and offerings we can present to our offspring, knowing God is by far the most important. None of the rest of the things we might teach them carries much weight unless they know the God of all those things.
One of the ways we teach that is to extend the character and nature of God to our children. This is only possible when we endeavor to know God and who He is ourselves. We can only give to them what we have ourselves. Again, the psalmist wrote that “just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13) As fathers we have the formidable task of creating an atmosphere where those in our household can gain a concept of God, without tainting that image with our own flesh. It certainly is a challenge.
In the end, we want the God we know to become the God our children know. We want them to grow beyond God being our God to the place where God becomes their God as well. This happened with Jacob. He declared three times “the God of my father.” When he was deceiving his father into imparting the blessing to him, he said, “…the Lord your God granted me success.” In Genesis 28 God said to Jacob, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” A little later we see where “Jacob swore by the Fear (God) of his father Isaac…”, which led to God declaring in Exodus 3, “…I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He had grown beyond recognizing the God of Abraham and Isaac, and now knew the Lord as his own God. This is obviously the goal of every earthly father.
Another role of the father is to direct their households. God said of Abraham “I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him…” (Genesis 18:19) Now before someone blows a proverbial gasket, don’t let the word “command” cause you problems. It is a word that means to give charge or direct. The origin of the word is actually the piling up of rocks for markers. Chaim Bentorah, a Hebrew professor says, “It could be a command; follow the direction the rocks are pointing to or you will get lost. It could be instruction; follow the direction the rocks indicate. It could be a recommendation; this is the best route to your destination.” Remember the statement about Abraham commanding his family was made in the context of looking down into Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s mind was clearly on that city and its condition as its demise was directly tied to the failure of the family.
In a similar vein, fathers extend correction to their children. Hebrews says “what son (literally, offspring) is there whom his father does not discipline?” The Scripture teaches that discipline isn’t fun for the moment, but in the end it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. We must remember that we are talking primarily about correction, not necessarily punishment. Punishment has its place in child- rearing, but punishment that does not have as its goal correction, will only produce an angry child. Remember the Scripture teaches us in Colossians 3:21 – “Fathers, do not provoke (irritate or exasperate) your children, lest they become discouraged (or disheartened).” Correction is the pointing in a direction, not just berating a child.
Also, one more encouragement regarding correction. I know it is necessary at times for the mother to issue correction (and punishment), but as much as possible, fathers should be the “heavy” when necessary. Don’t leave the discipline, correction, and punishment to the mother of the child. Again, this isn’t always possible, but when you can, you be the one who issues the correction.
One day the time comes to be releasers; it will be time to launch those arrows into adulthood. This can be an emotional time seeing the little ones (not so little anymore) leave the nest (or you may be that parent who is in their bedroom measuring for alternate uses, as they are leaving for their future phase of life.) Remember, they weren’t given to you for your own private use, but are destined to launch out into the world with their bag of kingdom seed by their side (Psalm 126:6)
Let us conclude with some practical suggestions, some of which will be repetitive.
First of all, don’t put your own interests above that of your wife. Remember Abraham lying about Sarah being his sister as a means of self-preservation. The best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother. It is not helpful for you to treat your wife as second class. Your children should always come in second to their mother…if we want them to be healthy, godly offspring.
As has been stated earlier, but for the sake of repetition, be the one who assumes responsibility. Be the leader by example. In a similar subject, if your child is going to be mad at someone, let it be you, rather than their mother (if all possible).
Proactively direct your household, don’t wait for someone else to do it. Don’t just assume your church is going to provide what your children need. At best, a local church should only supplement what the father along with the mother are instilling in the children.
Be sacrificial. I know many parents who almost resent their children because they have had to sacrifice so much. Don’t let them manipulate you, but be willing to be sacrificial towards them. Similarly, as much as you can, avoid absenteeism. It is fine to go kick up some dust (legally and righteously) with the guys, but don’t make your kids wonder where you are all the time.
Finally, a word regarding spiritual fathers. There is a great need in our culture for spiritual fathers for those who do not have fathers or have no relationship with their father. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15) A spiritual father cannot replace an earthly father, but can provide leadership and guidance along the way. Timothy did know his father, but Luke tells us in the book of Acts that Timothy’s father was not a follower of Jesus Christ. Therefore Paul could refer to him as “Timothy, my true child in the faith,” and “Timothy, my beloved son.” This is a great need in this increasingly dysfunctional world with its dysfunctional families.
Let not earthly fathers be defined by the culture of the day, nor be dismayed by the voices of our society that seek to disqualify you from your role. Rather, let earthly fathers gain their identity from the heavenly Father, who shows us the way. If fathers will step up to their responsibilities, then mothers will be able to flourish in their roles as well, since they do not have to attempt to function in a double roll. As we celebrate Father’s Day, let us honor the institution as well as the men of Father’s Day.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!