Effective Fathers

October 20, 2002 / No. 3120

Dear radio friends,

For the last two Sundays we have addressed the vital subject of fatherhood. We focused on the principles of fatherhood as illustrated in the spiritual fatherhood of the apostle Paul recorded in I Thessalonians 2:7-12. Paul reminds the infant church of Thessalonica how he had labored among them as an apostle of Christ. He says, “As a father doth his children,” and “as a nurse cherisheth her children.” From that example of spiritual fathering we sought to apply the Word of God to us as Christian fathers. We saw two principles. The first: that the fundamental grace needed for fatherhood is sensitive, intense, self-giving love. The apostle says, “We were gentle among you as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous,” he says, “we were willing to impart to you our very souls. We labored day and night with travail.” So we learned that if we are to be covenant, godly fathers we, too, must reflect God’s fatherhood to our children in the way of intense, selfless love of God.

Secondly, we saw the need to be a consistent example to our children. In verse 10 of the passage the apostle says that “ye are witnesses (that is the Thessalonians were witnesses), and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you.” We learned that it is not enough simply to have a heart of love. But we must be a genuine example. We must not be a sham in front of our children – one thing in public and another thing at home. Paul says, “What you saw of me publicly was what I was.” So we learn that unless we too live in practical godliness before our children there is little hope that we will have any spiritual influence upon them.

But now we come to the question, precisely what are we to do and how are we to do it? Have you ever asked those questions? You held, perhaps, your first baby in your arms. Maybe in the past months you did that. Emotions flood your heart. Do you know what your calling is? Do you know how to go about it?

Let us go back to that passage in I Thessalonians 2:11 and 12 and answer those questions. Our title today is: Effective Fathering. And it is taken from these words of the apostle: “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” We note here that the apostle had a very specific goal in his fathering. What was it? Verse 12, “that ye should walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” Paul had a goal in his spiritual fathering, namely, that the believer’s life be worthy of the gospel of God, that he would live as one who had been brought into God’s kingdom and was being prepared for everlasting life. All that Paul did was done with that grand goal in mind.

If you were to break in upon the apostle Paul and drop down upon him as he was working among the Thessalonian believers; if you had come to him in the wee hours of the morning when he was making tents because he would not be chargeable unto any of them; or if you had visited him while he was preaching in the synagogue and teaching and visiting from house to house – if at any point you had interrupted him in his ministry among the Thessalonian children and tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Paul, what are you doing? What are you trying to accomplish? Why are you up so early in the morning? Why are you preaching to these Jews? Why are you spending so much time and labor with these Thessalonian Gentiles?” Paul would say, “I have a goal. I have one thing that all my labors are focused upon. That these Thessalonians, who were once idol-worshipers might walk now worthy of God who hath called them to His kingdom and glory.” The apostle Paul was not a man stirring up spiritual dust. He was not trying to define his goals along the way. He was not seeing what worked. He had a clear goal. His goal was that the Thessalonians live a life worthy of God, pleasing to God, and a life mindful of their calling that they had been called out of the world of sin and now were being prepared for eternal life. In so doing, the apostle Paul is showing us what our goal must be as human fathers. We must have the same goals for our spiritual household.

That means that our goal as fathers must be taken from the Word of God. Where did Paul get his goals? Did he go out and sit on a log and scratch his chin and say, “Well, I should have a goal, what shall it be?” Oh, no. His goal was not self-caused. But God Himself had revealed it to him in His Word. Paul received the goal of his fathering from God. As Paul, so we. We are to take our goals from the Word of God. Not our own goals. You do not say concerning your children, do you, “Well, I want them to be…” or “It seems to me…” or “Well, society thinks that they ought to be like….” Is that the way you talk? That is wicked! No, no! You must train your children according to the biblical model, from God’s Word. Why must you do that? For the simple reason that those children are not yours. Psalm 100: “It is he that hath made us and not we ourselves.” We are not our own. Those children are entrusted of God to you. You have no right to mold them into anything but what God has instructed you in His Word.

Paul received the goal of his fathering from God.

That means that our goals must be as comprehensive as the Bible teaches us. We must nurture them. Not just their minds, not just their bodies. But mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We must bring them up in every way in the way of the Lord. We must bring them up according to their physical development. We must bring them up in their spiritual development, in their social development. We must bring them up in their inward, devotional life. In every aspect of their life we, as fathers, must bring them up. If you want the details of this, you must take the book of Proverbs. And, as a father, you must pray, “Oh, God, help me to understand what I am to teach them.” Then that book of Proverbs will become a book for parents. Then you go through the book of Proverbs and you write down the categories as Solomon was concerned with everything in his child’s life – loose women, sexual integrity, gluttony, laziness, honesty, diligence, drunkenness, friendships. Not one facet of life is left uncovered.

Our goals for our children must be shaped from the Word of God and must be as comprehensive as the Word of God.

Let me apply that for just a few moments. Do you see the tragedy of having no clear, biblical goals? Paul, as a spiritual father, could say that holy goals were always before him in the fathering of the Thessalonians.

Our goals for our children must be shaped 
from the Word of God and must be as comprehensive as the Word of God.

If someone would tap you on the shoulder today and ask you the question, “What are you doing with your kids?” Someone at the office or your neighbor. Would you be able to answer – not, perhaps, with textbook eloquence – but would you be able to say, “Oh, yes, I definitely know what I am aiming at in bringing up my children. I want them to be wise in the wisdom of God’s Word. I don’t care if they go on to college. I don’t care necessarily even if they graduate from high school. But I want them to know God and I want them to be able to apply that Word of God to their life.” Now, yes, most often a good education is crucial and important. It is a wonderful blessing. But that is not the issue now. The issue is not that you say, “I’ve got to get my kids through college.” Oh, no. Our goal is wisdom; that the Word of God be in their hearts and that they know how to live responsibly before God. Our goal is not, first of all, the degree that they get, that they be the first or the best in computer technology, mechanics, humanities. But that they be wise in God’s Word.

Our goal for our girls is not simply that we give them a memory verse or two, but that in their minds, souls, hearts, and strength they serve and glorify God. The goals for your child must not be, “Well, I kept my kids fed and clothed and now they are out of the nest. And I can get rid of them.” The goal for your children must not be, “I want them to have it better than I had it: a decent job. I want them to be a ‘nice guy.'” Is that the only goal you have, Dad? Is that your goal? Is it a carnal goal?

It means that we must have biblical goals for our children. Do you? That means that our priorities have to be straight. In this world, which demands more of our time and allures us into thinking about ourselves first, we will never have our priorities right unless we spend hours with God in His Word. Do you know what the need of the church is today? The need of the church today is ministers of the Word of God, faithful ministers. And the need of the church today is … fathers. The church of Jesus Christ today does not need a gymnasium in the parking lot. It does not need a different gospel for young people. It needs fathers – devoted, indoctrinated, biblical fathers – committed to the goals that God has given to them for their children.

The need of the church today is … fathers.

Now, fathers, what about the use of your time, your spare time? What about your priorities? What do you live for – to flop down in front of the television? What do you live for – to keep up the lawn and the flowers and the car? What is important to you, the most important thing to you in your life – to whack a ball down a fairway, or think of throwing out a line to catch a fish, or down on the dock with a new boat? Is there anything necessarily wrong with any of those things? No, nothing wrong with any of them. I am asking you, and I am asking myself, about priorities, about heart issues.

Our age has a mentality, and that mentality to you as a father is, you have got to play. If you are forty or forty-five, or thirty-five or fifty-five, you have got to play. That comes first. No time for the church, no time for home. You have got to play, play, play!

Listen, man of God. There is a cost to being a father. The cost is: self-denial. It costs to be a father. Oh, but this cost is a wonderful thing, for it brings an exceeding great reward of the grace of God.

A word to you children. Do you thank God for your father, or do you resent him because he is always on your case and he is always asking you, “What are you doing, where are you going, and with whom?” You had better thank God, because that sounds to me like a father who has some goals, some biblical goals, for you. And he is ready to accomplish those goals. If it means to upset you, he will upset you. He is like the apostle Paul, then, who said to the Thessalonians, “I did not always use flattering words and I did not always please men. But I pleased God.” Sometimes the Thessalonians were not very thrilled with what Paul was telling them. But they learned to love him for telling them anyway.

Do you resent your father? Do you lip off to him? Do you get mad at him? Do you roll your eyes before him? Or do you thank God that in a generation in which the young people in the church have just been let go, your father will not let you go, but has a biblical goal for you? That goal is not that you are wealthy and not about what you wear and not your name, home, boat, or car, but that you be wise and that you love God and that you be trustworthy and that you know the gospel and that you walk worthy of God.

If you are going to accomplish that goal, then, father, you have to use the means that God gives. The apostle says that he exhorted and comforted and charged his children. And he kept at those things. He exhorted, he called upon them, he comforted them in their trials, and he charged them (he laid a solemn obligation before them).

If we are to mold our children to walk worthy of God who has called them into His kingdom and glory, then we must use the Word of God. We must not simply come and say, “Well, what works?” We must not rely upon secularism – what do the world’s educators say about a child’s development? We must go to the Word of God. Our day witnesses the apparent folly of the experts. That should not surprise us. When anyone tries to understand human nature from infancy to adulthood and denies the God who created man and denies that man is fallen and can only live in Jesus Christ, then whatever he says about human development is simply accumulated darkness. It is ignorance. The Word of God will be sufficient. You must apply that Word of God. You must apply it to your children wisely and individually according to their needs, and prayerfully.

There is no task under heaven more demanding than being a Christian father. The Bible reveals to us Eli, a father who was a priest and judge and teacher – and a failure as a father. The Bible reveals to us David, a man after God’s own heart, noble, a ruler of a nation who knew how to command an army and govern a people. But for all of that, he was a man who failed as a father. There are men who can lead corporations. There are men who can be at the top of their field – and they cannot lead a family, because it takes grace to be a father.

There is no task under heaven more demanding 
than being a Christian father.

Young men, are you preparing to be fathers? Then do not be so interested in your hair style and the build of your muscles and your car. Are you learning to deny yourself? Or are you a petulant little boy who pouts when things do not go the way you like? Or do you want to be a man of God? There is no task so worthy. I see young men today aspiring with all of their heart to be businessmen, willing to pay the price, to climb the corporate ladder. I see young men devote themselves to athletics – discipline, running, lifting, training; young men who are pursuing their goals with all of their hearts. Here is the greatest task of all: to be a father in Jesus Christ.

Boys, whom do you look up to? Do you look up to some guy who hits forty-five home runs, throws a football? Girls, whom do you look up to? A cute guy, a popular guy? Let this be your model: a man of God who is a father in Jesus Christ. There is no task that is so important as fatherhood. And for it God has promised His grace.

Sometimes we ask the question: Should I pray for this? We know sometimes our motives get all twisted up in our prayers and we cannot untangle them, and we say, “Should I pray for a new job? Should I pray for a house?” But you do not need to ask whether you should pray to be an effective father. You do not need to ask if you should pray to be a biblical father. Yes, you should. You will find it very hard to provide chapter and verse for a prayer like this: “Lord, make me the head of this corporation. Lord, give me a new home.” You will find it is a pretty hard job to find support for that in the Bible. But when you pray, “Lord, make my sons and daughters worthy of God and give me the grace to mold them as citizens of Thy kingdom,” oh, yes, you are praying correctly. Seek all of this at the throne of grace. Confess your sins to God. And remember, there is no more noble ambition in God’s kingdom than to be a father.

May God raise up a generation of godly fathers.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. Now, apply it to our hearts and lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.