As I sit down to write this article on fatherhood I can’t help but be thankful for the father I have been blessed to learn from and admire. Even at this very moment his voice is echoing down the hall as I hear him talking to my 1 year old daughter who is playing with him on the living room floor.
The laughter and joy coming from my daughter and dad make me think of Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.”
Fathers learn from Scripture
In today’s world it can seem that caring fathers are hard to find, especially considering there are so many children who have never even met their own father. The Scriptures have much to say in regards to family life and a father’s role. Obviously the Lord created the family and wants us to learn more about Him through life lessons that occur in daily life within a family.
Fathers have been given a tremendous privilege and responsibility before the Lord! As believers, the term father does not only apply to men who have physical offspring but to men who act as spiritual fathers to younger brothers in the Lord like Paul was to Timothy. So all men who have a relationship with the Lord Jesus have the opportunity to be a father to someone and should take that opportunity seriously.
Not provoking children
One way to take this role seriously is to read Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21. Both of these verses encourage fathers to not provoke their children. Provoking means to stir up or to stimulate a person to action and it typically has a negative connotation. In Ephesians it reads that provoking your children can result in wrath or fierce anger desiring vengeance, or, as it says in Colossians, it can lead to discouragement.
As a father, I naturally have the desire for my child to excel in all aspects of life (spiritually, scholastically, socially, etc.). The challenge can arise when trying to encourage your child to excel in a way that pleases the Lord. Obviously fathers have a great potential of provoking their children to wrath or discouragement or else the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have mentioned provoking more than once.
Not only does the Scripture warn about the consequences of provoking your children, but I’ve seen first hand some fathers who meant well in desiring to raise their children for the Lord but in turn acted in such a way that they provoked their children to either some fashion of wrath or discouragement. I noticed that these fathers put a lot of pressure on their children to live up to their expectations and typically would only punish their child for doing something wrong but almost never reward them for doing something right.
This is quite contrary to my understanding of our Heavenly Father’s attitude when I think of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. There we read of a father who showed unconditional love for his son who apparently had no desire to remain with his father and who did not value any of the inheritance that he was given.
Despite the wasteful actions of the son, the father not only welcomed him home but threw a party to celebrate his arrival and gave him the best robe and ring to wear with great food. There is much to learn about our heart attitude and the Lord’s from this parable, but one of the thoughts I treasure is the love shown by the father.
I’m convinced from the Word of God and personal experience that the greatest thing I can do for my child is show unconditional love. One of the reasons why I was open to hear the gospel from my parents is because I saw how much they cared for me. Just like the old expression says “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” My dad proved his love over and over simply by the time he would spend with me.
From birth until I was four years old my dad was an over-the-road truck driver and would be away for a week at a time. He realized that this was a bad way to raise a family so He asked the Lord to change his job so he could be with my mom and me every day. The Lord dramatically answered his prayers by allowing his company to go bankrupt and, as a result, he entered an entirely different career path that allowed him to be home on the weekends and every evening.
One of my vivid memories growing up was that my dad would always write my name in his appointment book each week so he wouldn’t overbook himself, but he made sure that he was able to spend ample time with me. As a result of all of his time spent with me as a child, I don’t only view him as my father but as my close friend. Needless to say, I never questioned how much my dad (and mom) loved me!
A powerful influence
Now that I’ve been blessed to be a father, I have a greater grasp on the responsibility that has been placed upon me. You do not need to have a Ph.D. to realize that parents have a tremendous influence on their children, especially young children. Simple observation reveals how young children love to imitate what their parents do.
This proved true again tonight as my 1 year old daughter pulled out a tissue and placed it below her nose to blow even though she does not have a runny nose. While I couldn’t help but laugh as she did this, it was also very sobering to see that she is watching everything I do and will begin to judge what is right and wrong based on the way that my wife and I live.
Leading by example
At this point in our daughter’s life one of the things we’re trying to teach her is to eat what is on her plate and to sit in her chair during our meal. I can already see that for this to be more effective I need to be eating everything on my plate and sitting right beside her the entire time. Whether you’re an earthly father to your children or spiritual father to someone you led to the Lord, you should seek to have the same attitude as Paul had in 1 Corinthians 4, when he urges his beloved children in the faith to imitate him.
Since children are already good at imitating, so we must make sure that they’re imitating traits in us that would please the Lord.
Bringing up a child
One of my main desires as a father is to bring up my child in the training and admonition of the Lord. In order for me to do that I must teach my daughter that as a family we seek to serve the Lord Jesus and live for Him completely. I can show her by reading the Bible and praying with her daily and by bringing her to gatherings of the Lord’s people as often as I am able.
But one of my main goals, as I already stated, is to show her God’s unconditional love as I was shown by my parents. I want her to see that I love her by my actions and words. I want her to know that she can trust and confide in me no matter what happens to her in life.
Depending on the Lord
May all of us who are fathers (biologically and spiritually speaking) ask the Lord for instruction on how to better care for our children. As with all things in life, the more we depend on the Lord the more He proves Himself faithful. I’ve been blessed to have multiple examples in my life of what it means to be a godly father, and one of the common traits they all have is humility.
If we humbly acknowledge that we need the Lord for guidance and communicate that need effectively to our children, we can trust and expect the Lord to reveal His truth to them. When pondering the future as a father, I can honestly say that I will have no greater joy than to hear and see that my children walk in the truth. Happy Father’s Day!