Being a father has a lot of joy and many rewards. This joy is coupled with responsibility and duty. It is a mission of love and perseverance of the highest calling. Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48). As we celebrate fathers today let’s spend a few minutes reflecting upon the joy, privilege and responsibilities of raising children.
It is the solemn and sacred responsibility of parents (mother and father) to give their children the instruction, correction and discipline that will establish them with a Biblical worldview and provide an upbringing that is based on a relationship with God and His word. Parents should be examples for their children of what a Christian is supposed to be, of what a man is supposed to be and of what a woman is supposed to be. The primary concern of parents should be that of their children’s relationship with Jesus Christ. This focus should be secondary to preparing their children for jobs, professions, ministry in the church or even social standing.
One of the most significant roles a man can fill during his time on earth is that of a father. The Bible has much to say concerning parents and children. Let’s take a brief look at what the Bible has to say concerning parents and children.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Parents cannot abdicate or delegate their roles in their children’s lives. It is the family that holds that greatest responsibility in raising children. It is the father and the mother who are responsible for education (both spiritual and natural). The church and the education system of your country are the supporting cast for what you as a parent are raising your children to be. Far too often we have allowed the equation to be reversed and parents rely on churches and teachers to be the primary educators of their children. Most of the men and women involved in these institutions care about the children they instruct and educate and they work hard to be good at what they do. Regardless of how good a pastor or teacher is at their job they can never fill the role of mom or dad. Being a parent requires that you take ownership of and responsibility for the upbringing and well-being of your child; there can be no passing the buck.
Some have said that fatherhood can be broken down into three main categories:
This is definitely not the complete list but it does encompass much of what takes places between a father and his children.
Lead by Example
So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. (Matthew 23:3)
Before we can be good parents we must first be good people. Before we can provide instruction, provision, protection and guidance for our children we must have our lives founded upon the Word of God and a living relationship with Jesus Christ. We cannot expect our children to live in a way that we do not. We cannot expect our children to believe in a way that we do not. We cannot expect our children to follow our instructions if we do not provide a living example that mirrors the words that have come from our mouths.
The old saying rings true in our lives and in the lives of our children, “children will listen to what you say but they will believe what they see you do.”
Grace and Truth
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
At our house my wife is referred to as “Grace” by our daughters and I am referred to as “Truth.” In families there must be a balance between the empowering love and encouragement that we give to our children and the reality of what is actually taking place in their lives.
This grace and truth I am referring to is not the New Testament theological definitions but that which has developed in my own family that hopefully will make sense to you.
Grace says, “You can be anything you want to be. If you can imagine it, you can do it.”
Truth says, “If you don’t study and apply yourself you will not be able to succeed.”
Grace says, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, only how you play the game.”
Truth says, “Losing is a part of life and you are not supposed to like it; work harder so you can win next time.”
Grace says, “People should love you for who you are on the inside.”
Truth says, “Only God and your parents love you for who you are on the inside; everyone else will require you to earn their love and respect.”
Grace encourages the gifts, talents and dreams of your children. Truth prevents them from embarrassing themselves when they are not ready (think American Idol auditions).
Grace provides an atmosphere of acceptance, love and possibility. Truth provides a foundation of responsibility, hard-work and achievement.
You cannot choose between the two, children need both.
Parents | Instructors | Friends
For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. (1 Corinthians 4:15)
These are three different roles; parents, instructors and friends. As a father or mother it is your duty to fill the role of parent; not the other two. Parents instruct their children and are definitely friendly with them but they are first and foremost parents.
Filling the role of parent means that sometimes you have to do things that your children will not like. You have to provide discipline. You have to set boundaries. You have to say “no”.
You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16)
Like it or not, our children are a direct reflection of us (their parents). Children are definitely influenced by outside forces like teachers, friends, extended family, pastors, entertainers, etc., but the primary influence in our children’s lives is us (their parents).
If your children are allowed to throw temper tantrums at age 3, do not be surprised by the rebellion you experience when they turn 13.
If your children are not disciplined to read, study, pray, worship and witness with the family, do not be surprised if they do not do these things on their own.
If responsibility, achievement and hard-work are not something that you teach your children while they live with you, it should not be a surprise if they struggle early in their adult life.
If there are no consequences to bad behavior or rewards for excellence, it will be challenging for your child to function in the real world where they will be judged on what they do.
The role of a parent is to instruct a child, train a child, love a child, and provide for a child so that they will be successful adults. This will cause great inconvenience in the lives of the parents. It will require significant amounts of time, treasure and sacrifice. It will require that you place your children’s needs above your own.
The role of the parent is not to manage a child so that the parent’s life can flourish. The role of the parent is to invest into the life of the child so that the child’s life can flourish.
Husband and Wives
Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Colossians 3:19)
Fathers play a significant role in the lives of both their sons and their daughters. This influence is both direct and indirect. One of the most meaningful things that imparted to children from their father is the role of the husband.
Sons learn what it means to be husbands by the way they see their father treat their mother. Daughters learn what to expect from husbands by the way they see their father treat their mother. There are always exceptions to every rule, but it is the relationship of our parents that creates our foundational understanding of love.
“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
Theodore Hesburgh, Catholic Priest and President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame
There is nothing more powerful in the lives of children than a mother and father, who love God, are filled with the Holy Spirit and who love one another.
As the father of two teenage daughters I work hard to give them everything that I possibly can. The older they get the more I begin to understand my role in their life; I am on half of their launching pad (my wife is the other). Family has created a resource for them throughout their life. They will be able to look back and see where they came from, what they were taught; the examples we provided.
I will count myself successful if they have learned how to learn. I will count myself successful if they have learned how to make decisions. I will count myself successful by the friends they make and the men they marry. I will count myself successful by the quality of their character and the message they proclaim. I will count myself successful if they love Jesus with all of their hearts.
To all of the fathers reading, my prayer is that your patience will endure, that you will be steadfast in all that you do and that God will impart His wisdom to you in a powerful way.