This past weekend was Fathers’ Day. It is the day when Dads are complimented, pampered, and given gifts. Well… sort of. One little boy gave an interesting description of Father’ Day. He said, “Father’s Day is just like Mother’s Day; only you don’t spend as much on a present.”
It is not easy being a father. One cynic, speaking from his own experience, noted that children go through four fascinating stages. First, they call you DaDa. Then they call you Daddy. As they mature they call you Dad. Finally, they call you collect.
The role of a father is more important in today’s world than ever before. It is a different role than in earlier generations. In most households today, Dad is called upon to play more of a nurturing role in caring for children. If Mom works outside the home, Dad must take a more active role in doing household chores. Dad is no longer “lord of the castle.” Hopefully, he has not been reduced to being another of the garbage cans.
For Christians, fathers need to be nurturing of his children, supportive of his wife, and yet at the same time provide the spiritual leadership of the home that the Bible accord to fathers. It is a rare man, a special kind of man, who can combine all three of these qualities. In many ways, families need fathers more than ever before.
It is not just the home that pulls men. This is a tough time to be a parent in general because of all the competing claims on our time, energy, and money from outside us as well. The typical parent, mother or father, could be responding to all of the following claims simultaneously:
The church needs a new treasurer, and you are nominated. One of the church leaders begs you to sign on for another year as a Sunday School teacher. The cub scouts are desperate for another leader and unless one is found, a den will have to be discontinued. You just learned at work that a coming retirement will cause some reshuffling. A branch manager’s position will open up. Someone who takes on extra projects and shows lots of enthusiasm is going to move up. It could be you. Maybe a charity you support is in dire needs of funds and needs more support.
Then, as you face all these choices, you glance at that picture of your family on your desk. The children are growing so fast. Your spouse, only half in jest, suggests that she has to make an appointment to see you. Don’t they have legitimate claims on you?
So how do we balance this tension? Jesus gives us four important words in Matthew 14:22 that help us put things in perspective. It says, “Jesus dismissed the crowd.” This wasn’t just any crowd. This was about 10,000 people who had heard Jesus teach, had seen Him heal the sick and had watched Him produce enough food miraculously to feed them all. This crowd was ready to make Jesus king.
But Jesus dismissed them! Why? Verse 23 says, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” He said no to a good opportunity in order to say yes to a better one. It was a deliberate choice to honor his priorities. Jesus’ first responsibility was not to satisfy a crowd but to be faithful to his heavenly Father.
On another occasion, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” We do not like that word “meek.” It suggests weakness or being wishy-washy or wimpy. But, that is not what it means. The Greek word for meek used in the Bible is the same word used to describe a wild stallion that has been trained for the saddle. It means power under control, strength with direction. It means to be focused. Blessed are the focused, those who know their priorities and honor them.
Did you know that there is approximately the same amount of gunpowder in a firecracker as in a rifle shell? But the firecracker is unfocused. It just makes a big noise and accomplishes nothing. The rifle shell, on the other hand, focuses that power in a specific direction and delivers an enormous punch.
You can be a firecracker Christian or a rifle shot Christian. It is a matter of focus. The Apostle Paul was a highly focused, rifle shot Christian. He declared, “I press toward the mark for the high call of God in Christ Jesus.” You can be a firecracker parent or a rifle-shot parent. One makes a lot of noise. The other gets results. It is a matter of focus.
I did not say it was easy, rather be focused is hard and will take a lot of effort, but I want to encourage each of you to take heart, there is help for you in the scriptures.
Proverbs 4:1-4 says this: “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, “Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.
From this passage, I want to share three truths with you that I hope will encourage you and also challenge you in how important you are to your children and how our efforts aren’t in vain.”
Here we discover three important truths that will help us teach our children to grow up into the men and women of God He desires. Firstly, be an example to them. This means we need to walk the talk. Too often as parents, we are quick to give advice or set boundaries, but how quickly or consistently do we follow our own standards? It is imperative that we are consistent and do what we ask of them. Unfortunately, “because I am the parent…” is not a good excuse.
Secondly, be present in their lives. Our lives today are full of “forces” pulling us away from what matters most. The truth is, children, even our own spouses, often spell love, “T-I-M-E.” Busyness is not an excuse to spend time with our families. They need and just as importantly, we need it. Time is the one gift God has given us that once lost, can never be found again.
Lastly, be faithful in prayer. I feel uncomfortable when people comment on how well our children are doing. They say things like, “You raised them right” or “You must be great parents.” The truth is it is by the grace of God and in the end, they belong to God. My only part is to try and be faithful to Him by modeling and molding them through spending time with them. And, most importantly, you must pray for them.
Being a father, being a parent is one of the most challenging roles God places on us. But if we are faithful, the rewards can be eternal.