Fatherhood

Today, we celebrate fatherhood.  Being a dad is no small task.  You’re a bank, counselor, coach, mechanic, plumber, doctor, protector, comforter, and just about anything else that you’re family could possibly need.  The pressure on dads today is tremendous!  Today, we want to honor and celebrate you!

One of the most common roles that a dad plays is an advisor; whether your kids want your advice or not.  However, some of the advice that dads out there provide is priceless!  I mean truly precious nuggets of wisdom!  Things like, “Shut the door, where were you raised in a barn?” “You’ll be OK, just walk it off.” “You’ll understand when you get older.” Oh, and as soon as he says, “Back when I was your age…” pay very close attention because words are wisdom are sure to follow!

Whether growing up you had a dad that you strive to be like, one that you’d rather never become, or a completely absent father, we turn today to the best Father that anyone could ever have: Father God.

Psalm 68:5

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Although fatherlessness is a huge issue in our culture today, it is really nothing new.  Over and over again in the scriptures, we are reminded that God takes up the cause of the fatherless and widows; those without husbands.  To bless them is to be blessed by God and to cause harm to them is to arouse His anger.

God is the perfect father and the perfect example for us to look to for how to live as a man.  In fact, Jesus said exactly that in a blunt, but simple way:

Matthew 5:48

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

You’ll find in that in just about every translation, this is expressed in the same way.  The context is the sermon on the mount as Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  These are simple words, but an overwhelming expectation that seems impossible to live up to. 

Is perfection really the requirement?  After all, God knows full well that none of us can live perfectly in this weak flesh so prone to temptation.  A few other translations expound on these words of Jesus stating:

Matthew 5:48  (AMP)

You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48 (MSG)

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

This plea of Jesus rings true to God’s plea in Leviticus to be holy because He is holy.

Although we’ll never fully obtain perfection this side of Heaven, we still look to God as our example and strive to live out His example.  We can read these words as discouraging and condemning that reveal just how far we have fallen from His standard and how desperate we are for His forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

Though true, I personally think that if we were physically present back when God was speaking as recorded in Leviticus or on that mountainside with Jesus, we would understand these words to be ones of encouragement.  They give us the boldness and courage to live our lives to their full.

They are inspiring words from a loving Father who is coaching us on until we reach our full potential.  He sees something in you and I that we don’t even see in ourselves.  It’s God the Father saying, “You can do this!  I’m right here with you and for you!  Even when you stumble and fall, I’m here to help you back up.” 

“I’ll heal you and restore you and empower you and cheer you on!  You’ve got this!  Be perfect even as I am perfect.  Get your eyes off of your past and just look at me.  Don’t look at the challenges ahead, just look at me.  Don’t look at how everyone else is doing in their walk, just look at me.  It’s just you and me and we’re going to do great things together!  Be perfect even as I am perfect.”

“Cast off all fear and worry and just trust me.  I love you and I have awesome plans for your life.”

“Don’t try to live like everyone else.  I created you differently from them on purpose.  You were uniquely and wonderfully and fearfully created by me.  You are holy, set apart.  Keep your eyes on me, listen to my voice, walk the path that I have placed you on.  You’re not alone and you can do this!  Be holy even as I am holy.”

For any one of us to be the son, the father, the husband, the man that we were created be, we need our Father.  To be a good father, we need to look on the example of an even better Father and follow His example.  God is that Father!

God created man in His own image unique from the rest of His creation.  He spoke and created everything else.  Then, He came down into His creation and got dirty.  He formed man out of mud and then personally breathed the breath of life into his nostrils.  God created the mountains and forests and rivers, filled them with all kinds of critters, and then gave them to him to work in, to rule over, and to steward.

We were designed in the image of God.  He made us to work hard and play hard.  We’re creative; rednecks who love to make things and figure out how to get things done.  We hunt and fish and love enjoying the creation that God entrusted to us.  We get competitive.  We encourage and we rebuke.  We wave our terrible towel with each touchdown and scream in disappointment with every interception thrown and pass missed.

We try hard and we make mistakes.  We ask forgiveness, learn, and then we rise up to try again.  We’re doing the best that we can to be the person that God says that we are.

God is a jealous God who passionately pursues and protects what is His; an awesome expression of His great love.

God is a powerful God and nothing is too hard for Him.  What seems impossible and miraculous to us is common and ordinary to Him.  Nothing is ever too far gone for Him to restore and rebuild.  Even death is not an end to Him.

The way that God the Father is to us, we ought to strive to be to others, especially our own families.  Our households should ultimately reflect God’s Kingdom.  What is our Heavenly Father like?

God describes Himself as compassionate and gracious.  He says that He is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.  He says that He maintains His love toward us and forgives wickedness, rebellion, and sin. 

Yet He also disciplines those that He loves teaching us how to do what is right.  His discipline guides us on paths of righteousness leading to an abundant life and blessing and helps us to avoid walking down the wrong path that leads to death and destruction.

God hates sin.  It separates us from Him and damages our life.  He takes our sin so seriously that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son who never sinned just so that we can be forgiven.  He who was perfect and sinless became sin on our behalf and took on the punishment that we deserve.  Jesus took on our wrong in order to make us right.

With this in mind, we don’t want to live our lives as ungrateful children, right?  Most of us as fathers have experienced something like this with our own children, right? When you sacrifice to bless them and they are completely ungrateful for it? When they whine and complain and compare instead of giving thanks?

We all understand how gratitude affects the atmosphere of our homes.  We know how gratitude unlocks our hearts to desire to bless our children and how their lack of it makes us want to take even what they do have away from them. 

In the same way, we need to watch our own lives and ensure that we maintain an attitude of gratitude with our Heavenly Father and set that same atmosphere wherever we go.

Every good and perfect gift comes from our Heavenly Father.  However, there is one gift that God offers up to us that far exceeds any other gift that we could ever receive.  It’s also the greatest gift that any father can offer to others; their presence.

God sent the Holy Spirit, His very Presence, to dwell with us.  More than just spending a few hours a week together, God chose to live together with us and it is an incredible gift.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us is a gift that we so often take for granted.  He chose to adopt us into His family and to become our Father.

So often, we struggle and strive on our own trying to figure things out and to make things work.  All the while, our Heavenly Father waits on us to freely provide us all that we need.  He wants to teach us and guide us and equip us and empower us to live out our lives to their fullest.  Often, we simply don’t have because we don’t ask and when we do ask, we ask for selfish motives instead of selfless ones.

Whether or not you are a biological father, you can be a spiritual father.  In order to grow and mature in our relationship with the Heavenly Father, we gather around us other men who live out the attributes of Him.  They become our spiritual fathers.  Then, as we mature, we can gather around us those just starting out in their faith.  This is known and the process of discipleship.

Early in the church, fatherlessness was an issue not just biologically, but spiritually.  There were teachers and preachers aplenty, but few who chose to become sons and fathers.  Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this issue that they were experiencing and sounded a whole lot like our earthly fathers:

1 Corinthians 4:10-17

10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

This sounds a lot like that old, “When I was your age I walked ten miles to school uphill both ways in five feet of snow…” speech.  He went on the clarify, though:

14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand instructors 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. 17 For this reason I have sent 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.

In The Message version, it accurately describes this truth:

1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (MSG)

I’m writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father. I’m not, you know, asking you to do anything I’m not already doing myself.

If you feel that you’ve grown stagnant in your faith, look around you for men who’s lives show fruits of the Spirit as evidence that they are a bit further along in the faith.  Hang out with them and learn from them.  Ask them questions and learn from them.  Allow them to be your spiritual father.

If you aren’t helping anyone else grow in their faith, then intentionally look around you for men that are still younger in their faith or those that aren’t even saved yet.  Encourage them to put their faith in Jesus and help them to grow up in their faith.  All of us should be spiritual sons and fathers as we progress in the process of discipleship.

No different than the church plant in Corinth, the church in general today still contains lots of people ready to point out the sin in other people’s lives, but not too many people willing to take the time and effort to help them grow in their faith.  Many instructors, few fathers.  Many critics, few coaches.  Many observers, few workers.

Let’s follow the example of our Heavenly Father who got down in the dirt and breathed life into us.  Let’s follow the example of His Son who wrapped Himself in flesh, hung out with sinners.  From He, whom was tempted and weak in every way that we are, yet who overcame it all. 

Let’s be sons of God and fathers to the fatherless.  Let’s be intentional to take the time and effort to encourage others and help them grow in their faith.  Whether biological sons or grandsons or spiritual ones, we’ve got some work to do.  As we follow the example of our Heavenly Father and continue to grow in our faith, let’s invite others to follow our example and do the same.

Fathers, your task is not easy.  This world places so much pressure on you from every direction and the call of God to be perfect even as He is perfect may sound like more than you can possibly bear. 

Take heart, however.  This calling is one of encouragement.  It is literally intended to give you courage.  It is an invitation to take the burdens and pressures of this world and to pass them along to Him.  It is an invitation to lock arms with the all-powerful God of the universe and to find rest and refuge as His son.  You may be expected to be many things, but the upmost important role that you can fill is to be a son of God.

Mighty warrior, God is with you and for you and His very Presence can fill your life.  You’ve got this, just keep your eyes on Him and you’re going to walk together into a future that far exceeds anything that you can possibly think, ask, or imagine!

Fathers, today, we honor and celebrate YOU!