Are you the kind of father who pleases God?
One of the greatest privileges that God could ever give to us is to be a father of the children of His grace, to care for them and to lead them to the truth. But it is also one of the greatest responsibilities that God could place before us-to be a father.
Are you the kind of father who pleases God?
Man’s fall into sin has brought ruinous and tragic consequences into every area of life. One of the most tragic is right in the most fundamental relationships that God has made-in the home. Romans 1 is a powerful commentary on this. In man’s vaunted wisdom, he pushes God out and, as a result, does not know how to live in the fundamental relationships of life. He becomes worse than a beast. Man-leaving the natural use of the woman, we read in Romans 1, and working that which is base, man with man, woman with woman, in homosexuality and lesbianism.
More. Man becomes filled with every conceivable wickedness. Children become disobedient to parents. Man enters into life, into marriage, into home, into family and all things are pulled down in a stream of ungodliness. That is the commentary that is given on human life in Romans 1.
But, by a wonder of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, God restores us to the joy of obedience in God. A very beautiful word of God was given already in the last chapter of the Old Testament-in the last verse, in fact: Malachi 4:6. There, speaking of the coming of John the Baptist, Malachi says, “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” In other words, when the grace of God works through the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God, we are not only given to believe in a world to come, but we are taught now how to live to the glory of God in this present world, in the most fundamental relationships of life. God’s grace, given to His people, makes us fit to live in the here-and-now, in obedience to our calling and to His glory.
God is able to make fathers who are pleasing to Him. And it is of that kind of father, one in whom the grace of God is living, that I would like to speak today – the kind of father who pleases God.
God has a right to tell you what is pleasing in His sight. And God tells you, in His Word, what kind of father is pleasing in His sight. May we have listening ears, soft hearts, and convicted souls to hear the Word of God.
What kind of father pleases God? The answer is found in Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Fathers, you are called to nurture your children in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. If we are going to come under this Word of God, let us consider whom God is addressing. He is speaking here of fathers and children. He is addressing believing fathers, a father who has been made by God the head of his home and responsible to God for the rearing of his children. Fathers, bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
A believing father, first of all, understands that it is his task to rear his children-not the state’s. The state is not called to train children. Not even, first of all, the church; although the church must indeed feed all the members, also the children. Nor is it, first of all, the task of the school; although believing fathers join together to provide good Christian schools. Nor is it even the task of parents. The Word of God has just used the word “parents” in verse 1 of Ephesians 6: “Children, obey your parents….” But then when we come to verse 4 we do not read, “And ye parents bring up your children….” But we read, “And, ye fathers….” Why? Because a father, standing with his wife as a helpmeet to him, is first in the responsibility given of God. God has given an order. The husband, as head of his family, is the one who receives the responsibility first of all for the children.
So, the calling is this: Father, you who have been given the responsibility of leading not only your wife but also your household, you nurture your children in the fear of God. Let that sink down into your heart.
How do you do that?
First of all, provoke not your children to wrath. To nurture your children in the fear of God means that you must not provoke your children to wrath. Do not give unnecessary reasons to stir up the anger of your child against you. Do not deal sinfully with your child so that your child is tempted to be filled with resentment against you.
A parallel passage is found in Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Do not be bitter, do not discipline them in a sinful way, in your sinful irritability.
Now, understand. God is not saying, “Fathers, don’t do anything to get your child angry.” God is not saying that. If you nurture your child in the admonition and fear of the Lord they may, indeed, get angry. God does not say, “Fathers, you should have peace at any cost. Don’t ever confront your son. Don’t ever displease your daughter.” That is the pattern of this world. We must never discipline, displease, cause a child unpleasantness. That is the counsel of the ungodly. We read in I Kings 1:6 of Adonijah, the son of David, who attempted to usurp the throne of his father and to take the kingdom away from his brother Solomon. Adonijah was a self-seeking and rebellious young man. We receive this insight into the way that David reared him. We read in I Kings 1:6, “And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” The father avoided bringing any pain of correction to him. David was filled with an ungodly and misguided sympathy towards his son’s disobedience. If we do that, we are provoking them to God’s wrath.
No, the Word of God here, when it says, “Do not provoke your child to wrath,” means, “Do not perform your calling out of your own sinful flesh. Do not sin against your child.” That is a very serious and real warning that we must receive.
How would we provoke our children? There are two ways. We can do it immediately or we can do it over a long term.
We can provoke them to immediate anger by dealing with them out of the irritability and hypocrisy of our own sinful flesh. We can bring unreasonable demands upon them, imposing upon the child what is unreasonable. Or we could do it by partiality in our dealings – having favorite sons or daughters. Nothing so damages a child and causes resentment. Or we can provoke them to wrath by an inconsistent example when we say to them, “Son (or daughter), you must seek the things of the kingdom of God in your life; you must be a faithful church member; you must obey God; you must be willing to sacrifice for your confession in Jesus Christ,” and then we live before them in such a way that it is very plain that the only thing that matters in our lives is how much money we make, that we feel very free to speak evil about others in the church, that we cheat on our income tax. Then we are bold-faced hypocrites. Or we could provoke our children by inflexibility in our rules and by never humbling ourselves before them to confess when we have sinned against them. We never come to them and say, “Now, dad was wrong when I did what I did to you. I was doing that out of my own sinful anger.”
You can also provoke them to wrath in a long-term way. That is when you will say, “I will not do anything to provoke or displease my children. I will give them whatever they want.” That has resulted in an angry generation. They grew up undisciplined, without respect for father or authority. They do not know how to take up their own place in the home. When we fail to restrain our children, when we fail to insist that they respect the holy things of God, then they grow up to find themselves adults, yet they are still infants spiritually. If we fail to impose upon our children the right rule of God, then we have provoked them to anger.
Rather, we must nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. Nurture them. And the idea is, continue to give yourself to the task of nurturing. Stay at it. And then, bring them up in the fear of God.
When you nourish or nurture something, what do you do? You provide it with everything that is necessary for its development and existence. We say, “I must nurture, I must nourish a plant back to life. I must nurse something that is sick back to health.” What do you do? Well, you have some knowledge of the nature of that plant. You know what is needed, and you give what is necessary to bring that plant back to full health and development. Now, this is your calling. Take your children and, by the grace of God, provide them with all that is necessary that they may be able to stand to the glory of God. Nurture them so that they may walk as those who are washed in the blood of the Savior, that they may live as the citizens of Christ’s kingdom in this world, that they may be lights in darkness, that they may seek the heavenly kingdom, that they may be pilgrim strangers to the glory of God in all that they say and do. Provide, to the utmost of your power, what is necessary that, by God’s grace, they may stand one day as strong men and strong women of God who know God, love God, trust God, and obey God in their life. Father, that is your calling.
It is not enough that you are simply the biological cause of their existence. You fathered a child. That does not make you a father that is pleasing to God. It is not enough that you provide simply the economical subsistence-bread, and the paycheck.
No, a father is one who provides all, according to his ability and power, that the child will need to grow spiritually, so that, as a child of God, he may take up his calling in this life, and the totality of that life, to God’s glory.
The totality of their life! Yes, it does involve the physical and the emotional and the spiritual. All of that is under your care as a father. It does not mean simply putting clothes on their backs and food in their bellies and paying the bills so they have a house to come home to, and leave them a good inheritance, provide them a five or six-bedroom home-as if then you can call yourself a successful father. Oh, no! The children that God has given to you, of such is the kingdom of God, said Jesus. Now, God says, prepare them by nurturing them.
The future elders, pastors, deacons, mothers, leaders of the people of God are your children. Our calling is to equip them, to equip them mentally, spiritually, in every department of their life.
You see, a father is much more than just getting a card on Father’s Day and getting a hug from your kid. You have been entrusted with the nurture of God’s children. One day that little boy will be someone’s husband. One day that little girl is going to be someone’s wife. You must nurture them that they may stand in this world strongly confessing, “God is my God,” and living to the glory of God in all that they do.
Whose task is that? That is your task, father. You must do so by chastening them. That word “chasten” is a very comprehensive word. It means here “to instruct.” At times that instruction can take the form of chastisement, which is the intelligent and consistent use of the rod to enforce a lesson. Train them by instructing them in the ways of God with consistent punishment.
It means, in a word, discipline them. Seek that all of their life come under the order of God’s Word and that they learn the joy of obeying God and the sorrow of disobeying God. That means that you must be a disciplined person yourself, that you, yourself, must be under the Word of God in your life and in your words and in your activity. Joshua, in chapter 24, was able to say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I live one way: to serve the Lord. And my house will do the same. I will not impose upon my children a discipline which is foreign to myself. So instruct them. Instruct them about sin and about Christ, about salvation and about hell. Instruct your daughter in what she is to be, as a woman. If she picks up the women’s magazine in the house she will get an idea of what the world thinks a woman ought to be: always skinny, looking sexy, and smelling sweet. That is a true woman, according to the world. How is she going to know that that is not a true woman? How is she going to know that a true woman is one who fears the Lord, is chaste and is modest and has the beauty of God in her? How will she know that? You must instruct her from God’s Word.
Instruct your son in what he is to be, as a man. The world is also going to try to teach your son what a man is. The world teaches. Behind the advertising and TV is a philosophy, a teaching. Today the definition of a man is: how many women can he fornicate with? Or his car-he makes all the girls take a second look as he passes by. Fathers, you must instruct him that that is not a man. That is a vain show. You must instruct him that a man of God has integrity and honesty and is virtuous and is faithful.
You must discipline them and you must give them verbal instruction – reproving them when they go wrong and encouraging them in a way of truth. You must bring the Word of God to them.
The book of Proverbs is a beautiful example. It has been given to you specifically as a father to equip you in the rearing of your children. As a father you can do no better thing than make the book of Proverbs a daily meditation. Chapter 2:1 of Proverbs: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, hide my commandments with thee … my son, forget not my law … hear ye children the instruction of a father.” You see, the book of Proverbs is given to you as a father to be your guide in bringing up your children. You must admonish your children of the pitfalls of life. You must warn your children about certain things. And, by your words and actions, you must show them the way that they are to go. Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Of the Lord. That means, only by the grace of the Lord. You must do this in the spirit of dependency upon God. There is no father who can say, “I have done this perfectly.” Only the proudest man who is utterly blind to himself can imagine himself to be a perfect father. We see our failures and our weaknesses. Those weaknesses do not excuse us. But, at the same time, we remember that we have a merciful and kind master in heaven. But it means that our strength must be from the Lord. The content of our principles and teachings must be of the Lord. It must not be our own opinion. It must be the Lord’s. And it means that we must be upon our knees asking the Lord for grace and strength.
As a father, have you been on your knees to ask the Lord, “Lord, teach me to be a father”? If we do what comes naturally to us, we will be very poor fathers. Then we will train up our children in our own inclinations, according to our own flesh. And the flesh cannot please the Lord. No, our power and our principles must be from the Lord. And we must bring to our children the living Lord in the Scriptures. Then we will live in prayer and we will live in the Bible. We will daily be reading the Word of God. We will read that Word of God not only for ourselves, but we will read that Word of God from the viewpoint of having been made a father. We will spend much time in communion with our Lord and Master.
And, children, are you thankful for the father that the Lord has given to you-a Christian father, if He has given you a Christian father? Do you pray that your father may know the Lord and walk before Him?
Do you hear this Word of God?
Are you the kind of father who pleases God?
May God make us such fathers, fathers according to the Word of God, so that our children may grow up under the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And, by the grace of God, be to His glory.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy good and holy Word. And we pray that Thou wilt again take it and bind it to our heart and that Thou wilt also work it out in the daily practices of our life, that we might stand before Thee in our calling as a father, looking to the Lord for our strength and doing all that we do as unto the Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.