What a father must do…

7 Nov

What is God calling me to do as a father?

One way we can answer that question is by looking at the instructions God gives us throughout Scripture.  Another way we could answer is by looking at the different models or pictures He gives to illustrate a father’s role.     

Some of us did not grow up with good fathers and so we want a model, and God in His grace, gives us some really helpful examples of what it looks like to be a father.

I thought we could look at two. 

The first model that we can look to in order to understand the responsibilities of a father is actually a biblical pastor. 

Not just any man who calls himself a pastor, but a biblical pastor. 

The relationship between a pastor and his church and the role pastors play in their church give us a picture of the father’s responsibilities in his home.

The work of a pastor is compared to the work of a father in 1 Timothy 3.  When Paul gives out the qualifications of a godly pastor he says in 1 Timothy 3 that they must manage their own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, and here’s the kicker, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s?

A failure to manage your family disqualifies you from being a pastor, why, because there’s a connection between the two.  Paul makes a comparison, if you don’t know how to do the one, you won’t know how to do the other, and Paul wouldn’t compare these two jobs, of a pastor and a father, if there wasn’t something similar about their responsibilities.

No one would say for example if a man is going to be a good computer programmer he must first be good at farming because those two jobs don’t have much in common, but Paul can make this comparison between a father and a pastor, because these two jobs do!

That’s why when Paul talks about his own work as a minister of the gospel, he uses fatherhood as an illustration.  The work of a pastor is illustrated as being like that of a father.  Paul says to the Corinthians, “I became your father in Christ through the gospel.” And he tells the Thessalonians that they know how, he acted towards them, he says it was like a father with his children. 

Which means if we want to know what special responsibilities God has given fathers we might look to a biblical pastor, and when we look at biblical pastors, what do we learn?

First, we learn every father needs to manage his household.

That was Paul’s point back in Timothy. 

He said, if you don’t know how to manage your household, how will you know how to manage the family of God?

A pastor is a manager and so is a father. 

You need step up and take responsibility for where your family is at and where your family is going and especially for the way your children are behaving.   

That’s where Paul’s mind goes when he thinks about managing in 1 Timothy 3, he must manage his household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.

One of the things you see happening sometimes in families, and I can fall for this too, is where fathers just aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in their children’s lives.  The children will be going crazy, climbing up the walls, rebellious, yelling, kicking and the father is sitting there totally unaware.  

It is way too easy as a dad to be so passive when it comes to what is actually happening in your families.  A good manager is on the job, he’s not the owner who is away on vacation and has no idea what is happening at the company, no, the manager is responsible for the day to day operations.  And fathers we need to own up to this responsibility.

We can’t just leave the managing responsibilities of our families to our wives.  God’s called us to manage our homes.  That doesn’t mean we do everything, a good manager doesn’t do everything, come on, but it does mean at the very least we feel a responsibility for what is happening in our families and we are engaged in directing our families down God’s path and doing what it takes to help our families go that direction.

Because we have this job like pastors of overseeing, managing.

Second, as fathers we need to minister to or mentor our families.

That is what pastors do, right?  They instruct! They teach. They help people know God and obey God and live for God.  Isn’t this what Paul said was his goal?  I labor that I might see every man complete in Christ and you know, what’s a big part of that laboring, it’s teaching, in fact, when Paul talks about how he was like a father to the Thessalonians the very next thing he says is that he exhorted and encouraged and charged them to walk in a manner worthy of God.   Fathers teach their children sound doctrine, truth and they call on their children to apply it.  They exhort, they point out error, where children aren’t living according to the Word of God.  They encourage, they help their children see where they are doing well and they charge with seriousness their children to live lives that match up with what they know to be true about God.

If you ever want sort of a kick in the pants about your role as a father, you need to go back to the book of Proverbs and watch all the work that father puts into instructing his son how to live.  In fact, listen to some of how important he says a father and here will include mother’s instruction is as well, to their children. 

Proverbs 1:8 and 9, “Hear my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments to your neck.”  What he is saying there is that his instruction will help his son live a beautiful life.

Proverbs 2:1, “If you will receive my words and treasure my commandments…” verse 5, “Then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God.”  He’s telling his son that his instruction is intended to lead him into a right relationship with God.

Proverbs 3:1, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”  When a father teaches his child biblical truth and the son grabs hold of it, it can help that child live a prosperous and joyful life.  It can literally keep them alive longer. 

Proverbs 4:20 and 21, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings, do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.  For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.” 

If you really are concerned about your children living beautiful, healthy, joyful, good lives, then TEACH THEM WISDOM.

This is one of our primary responsibilities as fathers, to TEACH and it is something we are going to see Paul highlighting in a big way in the rest of this verse later on.

Fathers, like a pastor,you have the responsibility of training your children in the Word of God and overseeing their discipleship. 

In fact, this is one of those things you should be doing all the time.

I like how Moses puts it in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise.”

What Moses is telling us that we must do as parents is continually take the truth of God’s Word and help our children see its application in everyday, real life circumstances. We must help our children relate the Scripture to every area of life.   

I remember when we first had children and one of my daughters would do something that was sinful, and I would be like oh no, doesn’t she know, no, she doesn’t come out of the womb knowing God’s expectations of her, that’s why we are here, to TEACH THEM THAT!

You can’t just say the church is to do that or my wife is to do that, no you have a special responsibility to do that! 

Now how? 

I will tell you one of the simplest ways you can do that and it is to have a set time most every day where you sit down with your children and you have a time of family worship.  On a regular basis, take time out of your day, to sit down with your family and work through a passage of Scripture, pray, and sing.

But really that’s just a start, and what’s even more important is that you as fathers are pursuing a deeper and deeper understanding of God’s Word and how it applies to your lives and that you are growing in your love for the gospel as a father, to the point where you are making connections between the truth and your life all the time, and so, as you are in the taxi with your children or you are playing games with your children or you are with your children and someone is treating you poorly, you are constantly and in a loving gracious way, helping your children learn to interpret what is happening to them from a biblical perspective.

As fathers we need to manage, we need to mentor, and a third thing I think we can learn from the biblical pastor’s responsibilities about our responsibilities as fathers, is that we must model.

We must seek to live lives that show our children what it looks like to love Christ and to live for Christ in this world.  Paul was constantly saying to the churches, imitate me, and one of the greatest things we can ever give our children as fathers is a life worthy of being imitated.  You want to ask yourself as a father, if my children imitated the way I am living, would I be happy, and more importantly, would God be happy.  That’s the best inheritance you can give your children.

I was reminded of that recently as I read the story of a former missionary to the Congo.  

His name was Herbert Grings.

When he was an older man, he had been on the mission field for many years, but had gone back home after his wife had died, but when he was about 75 years old, when many would have been retiring, he instead went back to the Congo as a missionary and his children, actually wrote a testimony about their father’s life, they said that going back to the Congo,

“…God gave him ten more years of constantly witnessing and giving out Scriptures and leaflets, many of which he hand-printed himself… He was just a month short of his 85th birthday, with sixty years of uninterrupted service for his Lord, when he slipped into His presence November 7, 1977.

Our heavenly Father’s tender care was never more real than in those final minutes of life here on earth. The one who stood by his bedside was Pambo, son of one of those earliest converts back in 1936. It was he who now sang hymns and read Scripture to Daddy as he dropped his robe of flesh and entered eternal light and bliss.

What joy for the weary pilgrim to be home at last, moored on the shining shore and welcomed by loved ones. What a legacy he left behind!  Yes, that is what of lasting value he left us – not the few earthly possessions; a well-worn Bible, fiber hammock, a little cash. No, our riches lay in inner qualities –

(1) Knowledge of the Bible through regular reading from our youngest years

(2) Knowing and proving the power of prayer

(3) Memorization of Scripture

(4) Living for God and being in His service,

(5) The gift of those who prayed for him carrying over into our lives and ministries

(6) The example of his life.

Of material things he had little, but his treasure was laid up in heaven where it could be neither diminished or lost. And we have gained that vision for ourselves. As a tribute to our parents, we children had the God-blest privilege of serving for more than thirty consecutive years when there was one or more of us in the Congo.

As we think about our father we find ourselves saying with a combination of admiration and sincerity, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” If Daddy could have had a “last word” it might have well been this chorus:

“All that I want is in Jesus, He satisfies, joy He supplies, Life would be worthless without Him, All things in Jesus I find.”

The second and third generations are carrying on in the course laid out back there in 1917 when dad first moved to Africa. The great-grandchildren are being raised on the mission field as their parents were before them.”

 And then the children write, 

“Our prayer, as you read this “real-life” story, is that God will stir your heart to live for Him. You, too, can prove His faithfulness and see Him honor Himself through you. One thing that will surely stand out in this account is the importance of training up our children in the way they should go – living before them the example of “setting our affections on things above, not on things on the earth” that we might gain an incorruptible crown.”

As fathers, we have a special responsibility to our children, what is that responsibility?  To manage our households, to mentor our children, and to model before them a godly life.

Now there’s a second model God gives us of what it means to be a father, and we don’t have time to talk much about it, but at least I can point you to it, because with all this talk you may need some encouragement. 

Back in Ephesians 3:14–15, Paul prays, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father [greek word patēr], from whom every family [greek word patria] in heaven and on earth is named. 

I mention the Greek because you see it is easy to pick up on Paul’s patēr/patria play on words.  One man chose to translate this phrase as “the Father from whom all fatherhood is named.”  What that means is if we want to know what a good Father is and what a good Father does, we must look then to God, because that is what human fatherhood is actually based on.  

As fathers we should learn about fatherhood from the Father of Fatherhood.

Now what can we learn?

Let me tell you one thing that is such an encouragement for me as I think even about the ways I have failed as father.  One of the things we learn about fatherhood from God the Father is that he is gracious and generous.

Someone recently a whole book on fatherhood and he focuses one entire chapter on a verse-by-verse stroll through the Gospel of John, and he highlighting every reference made to the Father/Son relationship, trying to learn from God’s fatherhood.

And at the end of all that, you know what he says, he says:

“The most obvious feature of the Father of Jesus Christ is His generosity. He is generous with His glory (John 1:14), with His tasks (John 5:18), with His protection (John 10:28–32), with His home (John 14:1–2), and with His joy (John 16:23–24). The Father gives (John 3:34–36). The Father gives His Son (John 3:1618:11); the Father gives His Spirit (John 14:16–17); the Father gives Himself (John 14:22–24).”

As we seek to be human fathers, we are be confronted with our failures time and time again, and that is when we need to go back and look at what our heavenly father is like, and what is he like?  He is generous, with everything.

Which gives us hope right?  We don’t need to run away from this lesson we see here in our text, about our special responsibilities as fathers, even though we know we can’t do it on our own, because we serve a Father who is generous and gracious and who will not leave us to do this on our own, if we will only humbly depend on Him and seek to be controlled by the Spirit He promises to those who trust in Christ. 

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