This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Our theme in this second session is Fathers. One single word of tremendous importance and weight. There is nothing in the Bible more important than the revelation of fatherhood. It really is the central theme of the whole Bible. To discover this, let’s turn to a beautiful prayer of the apostle Paul recorded in Ephesians 3:14–15. This is only the beginning of his prayer, but that’s what we need to look at. Ephesians 3:14–15:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”
Now there’s something there in the original which isn’t brought out totally in that translation. The word that’s translated “family” there is patria, and it’s directly derived from the Greek word for father which is pater. We’ve got a lot of words in English derived from it, patriot is one. Patristic would be another.
And so, what Paul is saying is, “I bow my knees to the Father from whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth derives its name.” That is actually Phillips translation. Let me say that once more. Paul says:
“I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
Or, every fatherhood. You have to use both words, really. So what Paul is saying is every family is a fatherhood. The head of every family, the source of the life of every family is a father. And every fatherhood is derived from the fatherhood of God. So, the fatherhood behind all other fatherhoods and the reality behind all families is the fatherhood of God, it’s the supreme reality of the universe.
It makes all the difference on how we view things. What do we view as the source of the universe? Is it a big bang? Well, who knows what bang might come next. Is it just some inanimate force that relentlessly works out or is it a father? See, you’ll be a totally different person when you once grasp the fact that the fact behind all life is the Fatherhood of God.
I have a friend who is a Catholic who is in ministry. He related some years ago that he was in a very bleak, windy, dirty, street corner of a major American city. Believe me, they have a lot of dirty, windy street corners, bleak. And he felt so depressed and lonely. As a matter of fact, American cities are pretty dangerous places to be. Dusk was falling and he didn’t really know how to handle the situation, but he just began to say, “Father, Father, Father.” He probably repeated the word twenty times. He said his whole attitude changed. He realized there was a Father behind everything else.
You see, the realization of fatherhood will give you identity, it will give you security, it will give you motivation. We are surrounded today by billions of people on earth who lack those things: security, identity and motivation. God’s purpose is to provide those through the revelation of Himself as Father. And the primary channel of that revelation is the family, which is the prime expression of fatherhood.
See, I think many evangelical Christians really have never understood the destiny of our faith. We stop halfway, we never really make the journey to the end. Let me explain what I mean. In John 14:6, which is a kind of favorite text for evangelicals, Jesus said:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life...”
Many evangelicals stop there. “I am the way, the truth, the life.” It’s a tremendous statement but it’s incomplete because if Jesus is the way, where is He the way to? What’s the destination if Jesus is the way. He’s not the destination. What is the destination? The rest of the verse tells us:
“...no one comes to the Father except by me.”
Jesus said, “I am the way but the destination is the Father.” I have encountered thousands of evangelical Charismatic Christians, Christians of all sorts, who are born again, who know Jesus as savior and Lord, their lives are committed to him but they’ve never completed the journey. They’ve never really come to know the Fatherhood of God.
In John 17, that famous high priestly prayer of Jesus, He brings this out as the ultimate revelation of the gospel. It’s the Fatherhood of God. John 17:1, He says:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may also glorify you.”
That title “Father” occurs six times in this prayer. It’s the theme of the prayer.
And then in verse 6 He says:
“I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given me out of the world.”
What name did Jesus manifest? Not the name Jehovah. The Jewish people have known that for fourteen centuries. What was the name that was new, that’s almost unknown in the Old Testament, there’s only about three places in the Old Testament. What is the name? Father, that’s right. “I have manifested you as Father to these people.”
And then the last verse of that amazing prayer says this:
“I have declared to them your name and will declare it...”
The revelation is not complete, but it’s begun.
“...that the love with which you love me may be in them, and I in them.”
What will bring this love to fruition and fulfillment is the revelation of God as Father. I realize in my own Christian experience for many years I never really saw the destination. Partly because though I had a good father, one who really cared for me and provided for me, my relationship with him was distant. He was an officer in the British Army. During much of my boyhood he was in India and I was in England. And so, in a way, I never really knew the intimate, warm relationship that a boy should have with his father.
Consequently, I didn’t realize what was waiting for me in God. I was wonderfully saved, I was serving the Lord, but I hadn’t made the journey to the end because the destination is not Jesus, it’s the Father. If you study the ministry of Jesus, everything He did was to attract attention to the Father. Every miracle He worked, every word He preached, He gave the Father the glory.
And then, if we go on to the last chapter of the New Testament, Revelation 22:3–4, we come to the end of the journey. This is the destination. We’re not left still somewhere on the way. By the time the New Testament ends, the journey is complete. It says here:
“There shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.”
What’s the ultimate reward for faithful service? Continued service, that’s right. There’s nothing better than serving the Lord. So, His servants who served Him in this life shall serve Him forever.
And then it says:
“They shall see his face...”
And remember, that’s the most tremendous climax because Paul said of the Father, “whom no one has seen nor can see, who dwells in light unapproachable.” It’s going to take all the processes of salvation to bring us to the place where we can see the Father’s face. And then it says this:
“...his name shall be on their foreheads.”
What name? Father. Now, when you have a name on your forehead in the Bible, it means you have apprehended the truth in that name. At last we have really will have understood what it is to have God as our Father.
There’s an interesting passage in Revelation in chapter 14, which speaks about the 144,000 about whom so many people have so many different theories. Personally, I simply believe they’re just the people that are described exactly. 12,000 from every one of twelve tribes. But as my friend Bob Mumford says, “How can I help it if I’m right?” See, if I attribute it to him, I sound humble.
Let’s move on. Revelation 14:1:
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
Some texts will say “having his name and his Father’s name.” But you see, if you look at the last verse of that section, verse 5:
“In their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
That’s a marvelous recommendation. What’s distinctive about them? They have the Father’s name on their foreheads. They’ve apprehended what it is to have God as Father.
So you see, the tremendous sacred privilege of every human father is to represent to his family the Fatherhood of God: the supreme revelation of the whole Bible. God doesn’t just write things on pages, God puts truth in persons. We have the Bible, thank God for the written scripture, but Jesus said, “I am the truth.” I think many of us would acknowledge that if it was mere abstract truth, it would never satisfy us. What satisfies us is the truth in a person.
You see, I was a professional philosopher. I was tremendously wrapped up in all sorts of exciting theories about life and its purpose and the ideal state. I was a student of Plato, a devoted student of Plato. I read every word Plato ever wrote in the original language. But my problem was I couldn’t live in that rarefied atmosphere all the time. So about half the week I’d be up there with the theory of ideas, and the other half of the week I’d be right down there living in a very carnal way. I never was satisfied because just abstract truth doesn’t satisfy us. When I met Jesus I knew I had met the truth in a person. And that satisfied me as no abstract truth could ever do.
In a certain sense, God has committed to every father the responsibility to represent as a person the ultimate revelation of the Bible: Fatherhood. I would say the most godly thing that any man can ever be is a father. The most God like thing, because that’s the ultimate revelation of God Himself.
Now, every father does represent God to his family. That’s not an option. The question is does he represent Him rightly or wrongly? I suppose the greatest curse of our present age is fathers who’ve misrepresented God. I remember the record of a man who was witnessing on the street to young men and women. He said to a young man he was talking to, “God wants to be your Father.” The young man answered, “My father is the man I hate most in life.” See? Instead of being a recommendation, it was a barrier.
Most sociologists and psychologists and other people in that sort of profession would agree that a child forms its first impression of God from its father. Is the father loving, accessible, compassionate, strong? It’s easy for the child to picture God that way. But if the father is bitter, angry, critical or just absentee and irresponsible, that child begins life with a very negative idea about God. And often it takes a great deal to break down that negative approach to God.
Let’s go a little step further now in this picture of what it is to be a father. I think I need to say at this point that I’m not providing merely theory. I have experience. When I married my first wife I inherited eight adopted daughters on the same day. So, I mean, I started ahead of most people. Of those daughters, six were Jewish, one was a Palestinian Arab, one was English. And later we adopted a black African baby. So we have a pretty good cross section of the human race in our family. It’s very interesting because the older they grow, the more characteristic they are of their original race. It’s very interesting. I can’t go into that.
What I’m saying is I’m just not offering you theory. I’m far from saying I’ve always been a successful father. I wish I could say it. But I’ve tried to learn from my mistakes—which have been many. I would try to help some of you to avoid making some of the mistakes that I’ve made. See, why should everybody go ahead and make all the same mistakes all over again? So, as I say, I’m not talking from theory.
Let’s look now in 1Corinthians 11:3:
“I want you to know the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman [or wife] is man [or husband], the head of Christ is God.”
If you put that from the top downwards, you have a descending chain of authority that starts with God the Father and ends up in the home. See, that’s why you can’t play around with the Bible’s teaching about family life, because it’s based on the eternal nature of God Himself. God is a Father, He’s the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the husband, the husband is the head of the wife. Now, in that chain you find two persons who relate both upwards and downwards. Christ relates upwards to the Father, downward to the man. The man relates upward to Christ and downward to the wife and, by implication, his family. So, in the same way that Christ represents God to the man, the man is responsible to represent Christ to his family. Do you see that? If you want a definition of the responsibility of a Christian husband and a father, it’s to represent Christ to his family. If you’re looking for a job description, that’s it.
Now, there are three main ministries of Christ, as I understand it, in which the father should represent Him to his family. Christ is priest, prophet and king. The husband has responsibilities in all three areas. He’s responsible to be the priest of his family, the prophet of his family and the king of his family. Let’s look at each of those in turn.
First of all, the father as priest. What’s the distinctive word, the unique word connected with a priest? One word. Sacrifice. The father is obligated to offer sacrifice on behalf of his family. In the New Testament, the primary sacrifice is intercession. Which incidentally, as we’ve been hearing, means praise, thanksgiving. You know that you help people tremendously in the spirit when you just praise God for them.
This is a story I didn’t want to go into, but it comes to me, of a man named Praying Hyde. Some of you have heard of him. He was a tremendous missionary in the Punjab in India when India was still under the British. His ministry was prayer, everything else was secondary. God taught him some tremendous lessons in prayer. Quite early on he came across an Indian evangelist whom he considered to be ineffective and cold. So he wanted to pray about this man and he began, “Lord, you know how,” and he was going to say, “cold Brother So and So is.” But the Holy Spirit stopped him and said, “Don’t you accuse God’s servant to Him.” You see, how shall we accuse those whom God has justified? So he changed and he began to think of everything good in that man’s life and to thank God for him. Within a few months that man was a flaming, successful evangelist. What changed him? Not being accused but being the object of thanksgiving. I would say to husbands and fathers, take a lot more time thanking God for your family because you create an atmosphere around them that makes it easy for them to succeed.
God has taught me this: If I cannot thank God for somebody, I have no right to pray for them. I better not pray at all because my prayer will do them more harm than good. So that’s just by the way, but as I sometimes say, there’s no extra charge for that.
Let’s look at a picture now of a man in the Old Testament, Job, who was a model as a priest of his family. We look at the opening chapter of Job, verses 1–5:
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God, and shunned evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys and a very large household; this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. Now his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.”
So once every week, as I understand it, all Job’s children got together to feast. Seven sons and three daughters. Job knew their practice and this is what he did:
“So it was when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them. And he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, `It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.”
That’s the Old Testament pattern of intercession: offerings, sacrifice for every one of your children. And when you offered the sacrifice for them, you claimed on their behalf the benefits of the sacrifice. It says Job sent and sanctified them. I really don’t know exactly what it means but I think it means that in some way Job let them know that he had claimed the benefits of the sacrifice on their behalf. That’s the picture of intercession. Claiming the benefits of a sacrifice on behalf of those for whom you are praying. Of course, the sacrifice for us is the sacrifice of Jesus. So, intercession for our children is really, in a way, claiming the benefits of what Christ accomplished on the cross by His death on behalf of our children.
Now you might say if you were a little bit cynical, “Well, it didn’t do much good.” Because, in one disaster, all his children were wiped out. Here’s one of the cases where you need to read the Bible carefully. I’d like you to turn with me to the closing chapter of Job and James says, “consider the patience of Job and the end of the Lord.” In other words, don’t form any conclusions till you’ve read the end of the story. You remember after Job had learned his rather hard lessons, he was fully restored. Incidentally, when did restoration come to him, just as a matter of interest? When he prayed for his critics. So don’t let your critics get you down, use them as a ladder to climb up on. See, pray for them. God will release His grace to you.
Now it says in verse 12 of chapter 42:
“Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, one thousand female donkeys.”
He had exactly double the number of livestock. But the next verse says:
“He had also seven sons and three daughters.”
He’d only got the same number of sons and daughters as he had before. Why? Why didn’t God double them? My understanding is because Job’s prayers had been answered and though they’d been carried out of time into eternity, they were in God’s keeping in the place of the righteous dead waiting the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ. So, it did pay, you see? And in fact, it shows how urgent it is to pray for your family. Job had no idea that a disaster was coming in which the whole family would be carried off in one moment. But his prayer prevailed. Let’s never look just at the results in time, that’s a great mistake of contemporary Christians. The ultimate results are in eternity.
Then let’s look at the ordinances of the Passover, which is a tremendous example of a father’s ministry as priest. It’s recorded in Exodus 12. You’ll recall that it was through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb that Israel was delivered out of their slavery in Egypt and brought out to be a new nation. Whereas the Egyptians who had no sacrifice endured the judgment of God upon their firstborn. The ordinance of the Passover depended on the father. There was no one else who could do what the father had to do. And so, Moses said in Exodus 12:3:
“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, On the tenth day of this month, every man shall take for himself a lamb according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.”
So every father had a responsibility to provide a sacrifice for his household.
And then the way that the sacrifice was made effective was by sprinkling its blood on the outside of the door: the lintel, the two door posts. And this is recorded in Exodus 12:22–23:
“And you [that’s every father] shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and two door posts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two door posts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.”
So the only protection in Egypt was the blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled visibly on the outside of the door of every home. And there was only one person who could sprinkle the blood. Who was that? The father. You see, the well being of his whole household depended on the father’s faithfulness as a priest. Do you think God’s principles have changed? I don’t. I think it’s the same today.
And then turning on to the New Testament we have that amazing incident of the epileptic boy in Mark 9, whom the disciples could not heal. But when Jesus came down from the mount of transfiguration, the father brought the boy to Jesus. We’ll just read the brief conversation. The father described all the sufferings of the boy, et cetera. And Jesus said to him:
“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, `Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.’“
What impresses me about that is the boy could not believe for himself. But the Lord held the father accountable to believe for his son. I believe that’s a principle. I believe that God holds fathers accountable to have faith for their children. See, the boy was hopeless. He couldn’t do anything for himself, he was an epileptic. Jesus said, “If you can believe, it will be done.” I wonder how many of us as fathers recognize our responsibility to exercise faith for our family.
I noticed one thing about the ministry of Jesus which became very real to me when God plunged me into the ministry of deliverance. Because I often had people that would come up in a meeting with a child and say, “Pray for him” or “Pray for her.” I learned to ask a question: Are you the parents of the child? Quite often the answer would be, “No, we’re not the parents. The parents are not believers but we want to bring this child.” I challenge you to search the ministry of Jesus. He never prayed for a child except on the basis of the faith of one or both parents. There is no scriptural precedent for that, you see? Jesus never went against the Father’s divine order. Parents have much greater responsibility than most of us are willing to acknowledge. They say in German—I won’t say it in German, but they say, “To become a father is easy. To be one is difficult.” Would you agree with that?
And then we look on in the ministry of Paul, the famous incident in Philippi where the jail was shaken with an earthquake and all the prisoners were set free. The jailer was about to kill himself because he was answerable with his life for the lives of the prisoners. If they escaped, his life had to answer for it. But do you remember Paul said, “Don’t kill yourself, we’re all here.” And so he cried out that age old question, “What must I do to be saved?” And here’s the New Testament answer, verse 31 of Acts 16:
“So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved...’”
Now a lot of evangelicals stop there, but that’s not the end of the verse.
“...you will be saved, you and your household [your family].’”
What a pity to cut off those last few words because a father has the privilege to believe for the salvation of his family. Because of the responsibilities that he has, God also gives him the authority. See, God never gives responsibility without authority. Nor does he give authority without responsibility. So because of the tremendous responsibilities that God has placed upon a father, He gives him the authority to believe for his household. That’s what Joshua said. He said, “As for me and my house,” what did he say? “We will serve the Lord.” How did he know his house would serve the Lord? Because he had the authority to believe for them.
I was dealing with a dear lady once who came to me all troubled about her unsaved family. I said in a comforting way, “Acts 16:31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and your family.” She went away. And the Holy Spirit very gently chided me and He said, “You misapplied that scripture. It was not spoken to a woman, it was spoken to a man who was the head of his house. He had the right to believe for his house.
Now you ladies will be up in arms maybe and say, “Well, what about us?” Don’t go to that scripture. You want a real good pattern? If you’ll humble yourself, it’s Rahab the harlot. Oh, how marvelous! She believed for her whole household. But it was not on the basis of her position in the family, you understand? It was on the basis of faith which God gave her.
So there we are, that’s the father’s responsibility as priest. Let’s look at the father’s responsibility as prophet. You can put it this way. As priest he represents his family to God. As prophet he represents God to his family. That again is the special unique privilege of every father. Let’s look in Ephesians 6:4. Paul says:
“And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Whose responsibility is it to teach the children the truth of God’s Word? Who usually does it? Mother. Is that God’s order? No. And you know what happens if that’s the way it’s done, little Johnny grows up and when he’s about 12 years old he says, “I want to be a man like my father. He doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t read the Bible. So, I don’t have to.” Understand? The problem about the women doing it is—God bless the women who do it, but the problem is the boys get the impression that Christianity is something for women. And if you’re going to be a real man, you’ll go a different route.
Colossians 3:21, Paul says something that goes together with that other passage:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
See, there’s a middle line. On the one hand, exercise discipline. Don’t let them become undisciplined. For some years I was principle of a college for training teachers in East Africa. One of the things that became very clear to me is if you cannot discipline children, you cannot teach them. That’s why there are so many untaught children in contemporary culture, because there’s no discipline. Without discipline it is impossible to teach. I tell you, I would not for a million dollars a year be a teacher in our present culture. It’s an impossible task. So, if you’re going to teach, you have to maintain discipline. But at the same time, Paul says, don’t provoke them. Don’t discourage them. Don’t be harsh and critical. Don’t cause them to give up. If you’re continually pointing out to your child that he’s wrong, he’ll come to the point where he’ll think, “It’s no good. I might as well not try, I can’t do it right anyhow.” So there’s this middle ground. But the responsibility is that of the father.
Then in Deuteronomy 11, Moses gives some amazingly wise advice on how fathers should fulfill this responsibility for the spiritual instruction of their family. Deuteronomy 11, beginning at verse 18. And the essence of the responsibility is to bring God’s word to your family. Deuteronomy 11:18:
“Therefore you shall lay up these words [and these are addressed to fathers] of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
In other words, what’s to be conspicuous in your life? The Word of God.
“You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
In other words, every situation in a family’s life is an occasion for teaching scriptures to them. Don’t confine it to a religious setting on one day in the week. I have ministered to the children of quite a number of ministers over the years. Some of them are the worst rebels. What I discovered about them was that for most of them, their religion they viewed as a special suit they put on to go to church on Sundays, wore in church, came back home, took it off and put it in the closet and didn’t wear it again till next Sunday. See? That was partly their parent’s fault because if religion is worth anything, it’s got to be part of the daily life of the home.
My first wife, before I married her, was mother to these girls for about 18 years on her own. Very short of money, often without any promise of food for the next day. But one thing she did was to get the children praying with her. She said, “Children, we’ve got nothing for breakfast. We’d better pray.” They prayed, food came and that taught the children more about God than a dozen lessons in Sunday school. Understand? They saw God answers my prayer.
Don’t ever keep children out of your spiritual life. Bring them into it. If you’re going on holiday, all pray together about the holiday. Where you’ll go, what you’ll do. If one of the children has a problem at school, don’t just correct them, say, “Let’s pray together about it.” Because if children learn to pray, they’ll grow up believers. I can say that out of experience. I think none of our girls have ever been without temptation, believe me. They’ve all had their trials and their problems. But basically, if you talk to them, they’ll always remember something in their life when God dramatically intervened.
I remember one of the girls who is not really part of our family, she closed a big iron door on her toe and almost cut the toe off. Lydia called her and prayed, and the toe was healed. Well, that girl was not by any means a model Christian but she never escaped from the fact that she knew she had a toe because her mother prayed.
My English daughter was about 18. She was with us in Kenya when we were serving there. We went to a conference in Mombasa and met there a dear brother who is with the Lord now. Elizabeth—that’s her name—was very short-sighted and her eyesight was deteriorating. Every year we had to get her thicker glasses. We said, “Brother Mattson, would you pray for Elizabeth’s eyes?” He prayed, she took her glasses off. We didn’t tell her to do that. So a few days later we wondered how she was doing. “How are your eyes?” we said. “Well,” she said, “he prayed, didn’t he?” She had 20/20 vision. She later became a nurse and never had to wear glasses. She went through her tests but one thing she knew, God is real, He answers prayer. See? That’s a kind of anchor when people are carried away in the tide of this world. Let them remember something that happened in the home when you prayed with them and God answered.
See, don’t keep children out of your spiritual life. Bring them into it. I have a friend who is a close friend of mine, a minister. He has four daughters. They were like Philip’s daughters, they were all virgins and they prophesied. One of them is married now. But they all prophesied. Each of them had a special prayer ministry. One would pray for finance, another would pray for healing, another would pray for another aspect. See? But that family has stuck together and those girls are rooted in Christ because they shared in the spiritual life of the home.
You don’t bless children by taking all the responsibility from them. On the contrary, the more you commit to them, the stronger they’ll grow. You’ve got to do it with wisdom.
Finally, just one other picture of a father as prophet, the one who represents God to his family. I have taught so many times on that scripture, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the son of man.” And I pointed out all the awful evils of the day of Noah—which is all true and it’s happening in front of our eyes. But one day I found out something else, there’s a good side to that. Hebrews 11:7:
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
So there’s another aspect of Noah’s day. Noah, the righteous man, heard from God about the disaster that was coming, made preparation and saved his family. I really believe that we’re living in days when we’re going to have to be like that. I think more and more sudden disasters are going to sweep the earth. It’s no longer safe to travel by air. You never know when there will be a bomb on the plane. But if you have the insight of Noah, you’ll know how to save your family, how to protect your family.
Incidentally, this is just a little light relief for a moment. But I heard about a man who was very nervous about traveling because he was afraid that there would be somebody on the plane with a bomb. So a statistician told him, “Well, the chances of one man on the plane with a bomb is 1 in 450,000. But the chances of two men on the same plane with a bomb is 1 in 5 million.” So, after that he always carried a bomb, you see! That’s not recommended for the example of Noah.
All right, we’re going on now to the father as king or governor. 1Timothy 3:4–5, speaking about an elder:
“One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?”
The word there is rule or govern. That’s the third aspect of the ministry of the husband. He represents Christ as priest, as prophet, as king. What’s the job of a king? To rule or to reign, that’s right.
Now, this is kind of dropped out of a lot of thinking today. We live in an atmosphere where authority is almost a dirty word. But the fact of the matter is without authority, all you have is anarchy. So, we need authority. And above all, we need the authority of the father in his home.
What’s always impressed me is God’s statement about why he chose Abraham. Let’s turn to Genesis 18 for a moment and we’ll read verses 17–19. But let me point out about the very name of Abraham. You know his original name was Abram which in Hebrew is ?Av ram? which means “exalted father.” Then when God made His second and eternal covenant with him, He changed his name to ?Av ram ham? which means “father of a multitude.” But the essence of Abraham’s character was that he was a father, it was as a father that God chose him, because he wanted a new nation to come from him. The Lord here in Genesis 18 reveals why he chose Abraham. There were hundreds of thousands of men on earth at that day, and amongst all of them God picked out one man to be the privileged, unique head of a new race.
“And the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing? Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I have known him in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has spoken to him.’”
Why did he choose him, what did he see in him that made him eligible? There’s two ways of translating that. I prefer the old translation which says, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, that they will keep the way of the Lord.” This other translation says, “I have known him, I have chosen him in order that he may command his children and his household.” But whichever translation you use, the fact of the matter is the feature of Abraham’s character that made him eligible for God’s choice, one of the most privileged positions in history, was that God could rely on him to command his children and his household. There is a time for the father to command. There are situations in which orders have to be given and rules have to be observed.
I tell you one thing, if you want to produce an unhappy child, withhold discipline from him. The most unhappy children are the ones who have no discipline in their lives. And they’re the most insecure because a child likes to have boundaries that give him a security. I remember my African daughter once when she was about 16 was going through some of the problems that teenagers go through—although she’s a very sweet Christian girl. She wanted to do something that was really not wise or right. She looked at me and said, “Can I do it, will you let me?” I said, “No, I won’t because it will be bad for you.” You would have thought she would have been upset. But I saw in her face, she was relieved that I set a boundary. Understand? She didn’t have the strength in herself to make her own boundary but she was grateful to me for setting a boundary.
It is unfair to turn children loose, especially in the world as it is today, and make no boundaries. The boundaries should be simple, practical and you should be able to explain them to children. “Why don’t we watch such and such a program on television?” “Well, because it’s very undermining to your spiritual and moral life.” Of course, that’s one of the major problems we have today. I think probably in most households today one of the greatest responsibilities of the father is to check the use of television. For me it’s simple, I never turn it on. But that’s not everybody’s solution. And I’m not recommending that. I’m not saying that makes me more spiritual in anyway else. I just dislike television. To me it’s an interruption of the things that really matter. If I want to find out what’s happening in the world, I buy a weekly news magazine. Then I don’t waste my time listening to commercials and getting a whole lot of information which is absolutely unimportant the next day. But I know that I’m an exception. That’s all right. I’m not worried, don’t be upset about me.
But notice the other thing that the Lord said about Abraham in that passage.
“Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation.”
I want to tell you for sure that a nation is no greater than its fathers. If the fathers fail, a nation is sure to decline. The strength of every nation is in the character and integrity and strength of its fathers. In Romans 4:11–12—we don’t need to turn there—we are told that Abraham is a father to all those who walk in his steps. In other words, it’s not enough just to say, “I’m born again and therefore, Abraham is my father.” We have to walk the way he walked. In no area is it more important than in the family.
Then we need perhaps for a moment just to consider one other man who was very close to Abraham, and his name was Lot. If you study the career of these two men, they went through a lot together. Then they came to the place where they were going to separate. And you know what a perfect gentleman Abraham was. He didn’t say, “I’m going to choose.” He said, “Lot, you choose. Whatever you don’t choose, I’ll take.” And he was the senior man, the man with the real knowledge of God. He didn’t grab, do you know that?
Somebody said God gives his best to those who leave the choice to Him. Are you willing to do that? Abraham said, “God, I know you have the room.” So Lot headed for where? Sodom. What attracted him? Basically money, prosperity. Lot was a lover of the world and the things of the world.
We read the end of that chapter, he was headed for Sodom. The next time we read about him he was right inside Sodom and a kind of respected citizen. Then came the time when God was going to pronounce and bring judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of Abraham’s intercession, God sent two angels to get Lot out of Sodom. They said, “Have you got anybody here, sons or daughters or sons-in-law? Warn them, because God is going to destroy this city.” And Lot went to talk to his sons-in-law and said, “God is going to send judgment.” They laughed at him, they couldn’t take him seriously. So eventually he escaped with his wife and two daughters. His wife didn’t make it because she was turned to a pillar of salt. He left the rest of his family in Sodom. What I want to point out to you is this. Lot led his family into Sodom but he couldn’t get them out again. What a responsibility.
Fathers, where are you leading your family? What is it that motivates you? Do you love the world and the things of the world? You’re in danger of going the way of Lot.
Now one brief thought as we close. How can you fulfill your responsibility as a father? This is something I have thought about much myself. It’s not just a theory that I’m handing out. I want to suggest to you maybe five things to keep in mind.
Number one, acknowledge your responsibility. Take your position. Say, “God, I’m a father. I understand at least in a measure what you expect of a father. I accept my responsibility before you.” You see, in the Bible, as I’ve said, responsibility and authority go together. God gives authority to those who accept responsibility. If you don’t accept responsibility, you won’t have authority. Because, that’s the justice and the wisdom of God. If you will accept your responsibility. You don’t have to be a tremendous success, you don’t have to have all the answers but you have to be willing to say, “God, I accept my responsibility.” Then God will give you the authority that you need because authority comes from God. He’s the only source.
Second, humble yourself before God. Acknowledge, “God, this job is too big for me. I really can’t handle it.” Peter said humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Do you want His grace? Humble yourself.
That’s not difficult because the job of a father is so exalted that none of us is capable of fulfilling it in our own strength.
Thirdly, trust God for the grace. Expect Him to give you the grace. Exercise faith. Like if you were called to the ministry of, let’s say, an evangelist. You would trust God for the grace to be an evangelist. Well, why can’t you trust God for the grace to be a father? See what I’m saying? Which is really a much more difficult ministry. My personal opinion, the two hardest jobs in the world are number one, being a father and number two, being a pastor. God have mercy on the man who is both a father and a pastor. I respect them.
The fourth principle, very simple, be diligent. Give it all you’ve got. It’s not a part-time job, it’s not something you do with your left hand. It demands all you have to do it right.
And finally, make it the first claim on your time. You see, the amount of time you give to a thing indicates the priority you give to it. Most delinquent children, when they talk to counselors or youth workers, all have one complaint. “Our parents never listened to us. They would lecture us, they would tell us what to do but they never let us talk to them.” You see, when Moses said to be a father you’ve got to teach your child when you walk by the way, when you sit down, when you rise up; he meant it’s a full-time job. So, it takes all you’ve got. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a secular job but it means that really being a father is your number one priority. You give it first place in your life.
Let me just recapitulate my recommendation. I want to say frankly, I know in many areas I haven’t succeeded in doing this. If I were to go through my time as a father again, there’s one thing I would do. I would spend more time with my children. Like many ministers, I was personally ambitious. I wanted a successful church. And many times I think I sacrificed my family to the church. I would never do that again. I’m sorry.
Let me give you my five recommendations and we close. Acknowledge your responsibility, and with responsibility goes authority. Second, humble yourself before God. Third, trust God for the grace. Fourth, be diligent—it’s a full-time job. And fifth, make it the first claim on your time.
Those of you that are fathers and husbands, I’d like to pray for you. Would you stand? Wives, you just join me in praying for your husbands and the fathers of your families. “Father, I want to thank you so much that your name is Father, that you are a father, that you really care about families, that the family is the way you want to make yourself known on earth. I thank you for every dear brother in Christ who is standing before you now. And Lord, I include myself amongst them. I pray Lord, for the release of your grace in these men and in their families in a new measure from this night forward. Lord, I believe I have faith right now in the name of Jesus to release the grace upon them that they will need. For your glory, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
A free copy of this transcript is available to download and share for personal use.