We could easily become complacent in our fathering as Christians when we see the current statistics for homes that lack the physical presence of a father. We may think our children will be all right because we are there. But we risk being virtually absent as fathers if we do not have three essential ingredients as part of our practice of fathering.
The following is the sermon I preached at Jonesville Baptist Church on Father’s Day, June 16, 2002. You may want to send it to a father dear to you.
Wade Horn in the June 1997 issue of Imprimis published by Hillsdale College, commented on the importance of fathers in an article titled “Why There is No Substitute for Parents”.
In 1960, the total number of children living in fatherless families was fewer than eight million. Today, that total has risen to nearly twenty-four million. Nearly four out of ten children in America are being raised in homes without their fathers and soon it may be six out of ten. How did this happen? Why are so many of our nation’s children growing up without a full-time father? It is because our culture has accepted the idea that fathers are superfluous-in other words, they are not necessary in the “modern” family. Supposedly, their contributions to the well-being of children can easily be performed by the state, which disburses welfare checks, subsidizes midnight basketball leagues, and establishes child-care facilities.
Ideas, of course, have consequences. And the consequences of this idea have been as profound as they have been disastrous. Almost 75 percent of American children living in fatherless households will experience poverty before the age of eleven, compared to only 20 percent of those raised by two parents. Children living in homes where fathers are absent are far more likely to be expelled from or drop out of school, develop emotional or behavioral problems, commit suicide, and fall victim to child abuse or neglect. The males are also far more likely to become violent criminals. As matter of fact, men who grew up without dads currently represent 70 percent of the prison population serving long-term sentences. (Wade F. Horn, “Why There is No Substitute for Parents”, Imprimis, Vol. 26, No. 6, June, 1997, pp. 1-2)
It’s clear and I think we would all agree that fathers are important to the well-being of the family. Many of the problems in our society today can be traced back to a lack of leadership in the home. Our Families, our churches, our country, desperately need Godly fathers in our families who lead their homes according to the Word of God.
I believe our families face another danger though, and that is the problem of complacency. When we hear statistics such as these we may feel comfortable in the fact that our families physically have fathers yet be taking the chance our children will grow up virtually fatherless if we fail to see the need for three essential ingredients to Godly fathering. As we turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 I think we’ll be challenged with the example Paul sets for Godly fathering.
1 Thessalonians 2:11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,
v12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Note with me here that Paul is reminding the Thessalonian believers that he has dealt with them the way a father deals with his own children. He mentions three specific ways that a good father deals with his children. First of all, note that a Godly father encourages. Secondly he comforts and finally he urges his children to live lives worthy of God.
The first point that Paul makes is that a father encourages. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary points out that the word used here for “encouraging” in some contexts signifies a note of comfort but in this context it has the “flavor of ‘admonishing'”. To admonish someone means to “reprove gently but earnestly or to counsel (another) against something to be avoided or to caution someone else.”
As fathers it is important that we warn our children about the pitfalls they need to avoid in their lives. Look at Proverbs 4:10-15 for a good example of this.
Proverbs 4:10 Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.
11 I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.
v15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.
Here we have a father who is encouraging his son to listen to what he says and to “not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.”
Here is a father encouraging his son to stay away from wicked men. He tells his son not to spend time with evil men, to avoid the path of the wicked and not to even travel where they travel. There are many evil influences out there and a Godly father will warn his children to avoid those.
How do we train our children to avoid the path of the wicked? It begins in the home. Sadly in far too many homes the path of the wicked is easily accessible in our own homes. Television, computers, electronic games, radio, books and magazines are all items that many of us have in our homes. Each of these items can be instructive or entertaining and not necessarily a bad thing. But each of these things can also be a terrible instrument of wickedness.
A Godly father is going to protect his children from the path of the wicked. He is going to warn his children to avoid the path of the wicked. He will do all he can to encourage his children to stay clear of evil influences and the best place to start is in the home.
I was talking to my older sons the other day after one of them had said he thought it would be cool to have a TV in his room and I stated to the boys, “one thing you can count on is you will never have a TV. set in your room.” I didn’t say that because I dislike my children, I said it because of the deep love I have for them and I explained that to them. That is something we as parents ought to be very careful about. The television is something that we need to carefully monitor. There is so much evil and wickedness depicted on television that there are many shows that a Godly father isn’t going to allow his children to view in his home and should not see them himself.
There was a talk show recently that featured a little boy of about 4 or 5 who loved to watch TV. He had a set in his bedroom and even insisted on having it on all night. I wonder where was his Dad? Why would a father allow that kind of habit to develop in his young son’s life?
As fathers we need to give our children guidance and direction. We need to warn our children about the pitfalls of exposing themselves to the evil that is passed off as entertainment.
Speaking of what passes for entertainment these days, listen to the product and manufacturer’s description of a game designed for the “Sony Playstation, called “Grand Theft Auto”.
Grand Theft Auto 3 lets you explore the fully realised universe that is Liberty City, and complete gangland missions. You can steal any car you see, from sports cars to taxis, and even boats. There are over a dozen ways to take out other characters, including fist-fighting, baseball bat, handgun, Uzi, rocket launcher, and Molotov cocktail. The game world has unpredictable weather, a variety of pedestrian types who act in unique ways, changing times of day and night, and a multi-tiered, fully corrupt police force. The revenge plot offers strong story elements that are balanced with the game’s non-linear freedom-of-movement.
Crime does pay. The hugely successful, highly controversial Grand Theft Auto franchise moves into 3 dimensions in the dark and seedy underworld of Liberty City. With the freedom to go anywhere and jack anyone, Grand Theft Auto 3 puts the dark, intriguing and ruthless world of crime at your fingertips, if you have enough guts to take it.
A Godly father is not going to allow this kind of rubbish in his home. He will warn his children to avoid games like this that glorify evil and explain why this displeases the Lord. Dads, we need to be aware of the games our children are playing and carefully monitor them. There is plenty of garbage out there that is passed off for entertainment. Warn your kids! They won’t know what to avoid if we aren’t setting some guidelines and instructing them.
Many households today have computers and access to the Internet. We have a computer in our home and have found it to be a tremendous asset in many ways. There are wonderful Christian sites and resources on the internet. There are some great educational resources as well. But there is a dark, wicked and evil path that is readily available to our children via the internet and we Dads better be aware of it if we have access to the internet in our homes. We better safeguard our children and warn them of the danger lurking out there. Don’t allow your children to be on the computer unsupervised! We don’t really enjoy having our computer in the living area of the house but it is out in the open where we can easily monitor its usage.
If your children have access to the internet at the library, school or friends’ homes, you better be aware of it and you better take the time to instruct your children to avoid the path of wickedness so readily available.
We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand as fathers and be oblivious to the great spiritual peril that faces our children in this wicked world.
What kind of music is listened to in your home? Warn your children about music. There’s a lot of corrupt, vile and Godless music out there and it isn’t what we want our children absorbing into their impressionable minds.
What kind of books and magazines are read in your home? Are you taking care to help your children avoid the path of evil?
Being a father is not an easy task. It requires work and effort on our part to encourage our children to avoid evil. Evil surrounds us and how unfortunate it is when we allow evil influences to infiltrate our homes.
We also need to encourage our children to avoid evil influences outside of the home. Have you stood in line at a checkout counter lately next to a display of magazines? Many of them have pictures on the front that we need to train our children to avert their eyes from. We need to learn to do that ourselves gentlemen and teach our children to do the same.
We need to know our children’s friends. Encourage them to avoid the path of the wicked by establishing Godly friendships. Dads we need you! We need to be actively involved in the lives of our children warning them of the spiritual peril that surrounds them and doing our best to protect them from harmful influences.
Paul treated the Thessalonians as a father does his child. He encouraged them. Are you encouraging your children today to stay away from the path of the wicked and to stay in the path of the righteous? Isn’t Psalm 1:1-2 a great reminder for us?
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Paul also acted as a father by comforting the Thessalonians. A Godly father comforts or consoles his children. How can we comfort our children? Some might say – “well, I comfort my children by giving them whatever they want”. But the word used here for comfort, means, “to speak to, address one, whether by way of admonition and incentive or to calm and console.”
How does a Godly father comfort his children? If we know the Lord in times of trouble where do we turn for comfort? Don’t we turn to the Lord and His word?
I remember after the terrible events of September 11 watching stories of many who had lost loved ones that day. Some were so grief-stricken and filled with despair that there seemed to be no comfort for them. Then at times, you would see a family member interviewed that knew the Lord and knew their loved one was safe with our Heavenly Father. What a difference it made! You could observe the comfort and hope that loved one had. What a contrast to the despair that seemed evident in many who did not have the eternal hope of being reunited one day with their dear departed loved one.
Our source of comfort in life should be the Lord and His Word and that is what we should seek to comfort our children with as well. Some fathers attempt to comfort their children through material possessions. They will buy all sorts of gadgets and toys in an effort to appease their children. A good father does provide for his child’s physical needs, but the comfort that material goods bring isn’t lasting. It may appeal for a while but the novelty soon wears off and the child is longing for some other possession to take its place.
True comfort is found in the Lord and His Word. A personal relationship with the Lord will bring us comfort that nothing in this world can bring. Spending time in reading and studying the Bible will bring comfort that the best-crafted literary work will never bring.
How can we as fathers comfort our children? We can comfort them with the Lord and His Word. We need to set the example for them by having a right relationship with the Lord. We need to set the example by making His word a priority in our lives. Where will our children seek comfort when life is hard? Will they seek it from a bottle of alcohol or a bottle of pills? How do we comfort our children? Do we point them to the Lord and His Word? Do we set the example of turning to God and turning to the Bible for comfort in our own lives?
We live in a world that can be cruel and hard. We live in a world filled with evil. Where do you turn for comfort in the midst of it all? How do you comfort your children when they are faced with difficulties in life?
I was listening to one of my brother Ken’s sermon tapes recently and he was sharing how a family spent lots of time memorizing the Bible together. Then one day they lost their house to a fire, but the comforting thing for this family was to realize that the Scripture that had been hidden away in their children’s hearts could not be touched by the flames.
God’s word endures and if we instill it in our children and comfort them with it, they will have a comfort that will never fade away or rust and decay. Friendships may come and go in the lives of our children but if they have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, He will always be with them to comfort and guide them and He will never forsake them.
A Godly father doesn’t enjoy seeing his child suffer. A Godly father is quick to offer his comfort when his child is in distress, but a Godly father also knows that the only true source of comfort is found in the Lord and in His Word.
Paul acted like a father to the Thessalonians first by encouraging them and then by comforting them. A Godly father will encourage his children to avoid evil and to find comfort in the Lord and His word. The third thing Paul did in acting as a father was to urge the Thessalonians to live lives worthy of God.
The “Expositor’s Bible Commentary” notes that the word, ‘urging’ adds a note of authority. The Lord has given fathers authority in the lives of their children. Children are commanded to “obey your parents in the Lord”. Sadly, authority is often lacking in our homes and in our lives as fathers. Authority has been called into question by our society. Authority isn’t always respected the way it should be. Rights of children have been emphasized and elevated. In many homes it isn’t Dad leading and guiding the home by his God-given authority, but it is the children who rule the roost. They are demanding and undisciplined and often catered to by their parents.
As fathers, our goal should be that our children “live lives worthy of God.” Paul said he urged the Thessalonians to do this just as a father would.
How do we “urge” our children to live lives worthy of God?
As fathers we do this by exercising our authority. My children are in church this morning because as the leader of our home, that is what I expect of them. If one of my children would have approached me this morning and said, “I don’t want to go to church today,” would I have responded by saying, “fine, you can stay home if you’d rather?” No, of course not. I would have told them “it is in your best interest to be in church and that is where you’ll be”. It’s important for my children to be in church and I’m going to see to it as their father that they are there. Some day when they are grown and on their own, they will have the option of whether or not they “want” to attend church, but while they are under my care and guidance, I have the authority as their father to see to it that they are in church.
Often parents feel strongly that they need to give their children choices. Otherwise, they reason, if we don’t give them choices while they are at home in a controlled environment, how will they be able to make the right choices when they are on their own? This is a dangerous notion. There are some things that should never be optional. I’ve known of parents that insist that their children take some of everything at the dinner table to help their child get the rounded meals and nutrition they need for good health, yet when it comes time for church they say they just can’t get their kid to go to church. Do we not want our children spiritually healthy too? Then why wouldn’t we insist that our children attend church with us? Church attendance ought to be as much a family activity as taking a vacation trip together. And church attendance is just the beginning for a healthy spiritual life.
I like what Pastor Ron Gleason said commenting on a sidebar article in the Orange County Register titled How to Get Your Kids to Church.
“I read it out of curiosity and not because I needed to be enlightened. I really know how to get kids to church. I say, “Kids, get up. We’re going to church.” And they get up and go. Simple.”
It is also not my responsibility as a Dad to see to it that my children get whatever pleases them. It is my responsibility as a father to urge my children to “live lives worthy of God.” It takes action on my part as a father to “urge” my children to “live lives worthy of God.” I cannot sit back passively hoping they’ll live a life that is worthy of God. I have to be actively involved and exercising my authority as their father to urge them to live a life that is pleasing to God. We may not be cool or popular Dads at times when we urge our children to live lives worthy of God. It may not be cool to take my kids to church every Sunday instead of the racetrack or a football game. I may not be popular by saying “no” to the latest fad, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I urge my children to live a life that is worthy of God.
A lot of Dads urge their children to prepare themselves to make a good living or to excel in athletics. Now there is nothing wrong with making a decent living or doing well in sports, but our priority for our children should be that they “live a life worthy of God.” If we look at our schedule for the coming week does it reflect that priority?
Is it our priority for our children to “live lives worthy of God?” If that is our priority then the activities we are involved in as a family are going to reflect that. If our lives are crowded out by all kinds of pursuits while leaving God out of the picture then we are missing out on what really counts.
It is important to remember that we need to set the example as fathers. Most of us want the best for our children. We want to encourage our children to avoid evil. We want to comfort them when times are difficult. We want them to live lives that are worthy of God, but are we setting the example for them that shows them how important these things are in our lives as well.
Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4:14-17.
1 Corinthians 4:14 I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.
15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
v17 For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul tells the Corinthians that he became their father through the gospel. He urges them to imitate him. He was like a father to them and his example was one that could be followed.
Father’s–could we say like Paul said to the Corinthians, “I urge you to imitate me?” Or would we have to say to our children, “do as I say not as I do?”
We need to lead by our examples men. How effective are we going to be in encouraging our children to avoid evil if we aren’t avoiding it ourselves? They’ll see the hypocrisy in our lives. Why should they avoid evil and wickedness in their lives if we don’t?
Why should our children be comforted by God and His word if we aren’t?
Why will they be convinced to live a life worthy of God when they watch us and see that we aren’t living lives that are worthy of God?
We need to be like Paul who could confidently say to the Corinthians, “imitate me.” Can we say, “imitate me” to our children or are there areas in our lives that we need to deal with and get right with the Lord? Are you fit for your child to follow?
Men, we have a great responsibility and a tremendous opportunity as fathers. Are we encouraging, comforting and urging our children to live lives worthy of God, who calls them into his kingdom and glory? Are we setting an example for them so we can say like Paul, “imitate me?”
We can make a tremendous difference in our homes and in the lives of our children if we are committed to being Godly fathers. Let’s determine that with God’s help we will be fathers who will make an eternal difference in the lives of the children He has entrusted to our care.