Faithful Fathers

by David Thurman
via Gospel Minutes, Vol. 56, No. 29, July 20, 2007

Our world seems to take delight in bashing men. It is not fashionable to be a man, a husband or a father. As such, it is getting harder and harder to be a man, a husband or a father.

Fortunately, those of us who believe in God have a role model in the Father of mankind. We can look to the perfect Father in heaven and learn how to be faithful followers in our world today.

God led His children, the Israelites, out of bondage in Egypt. For 40 years they journeyed through the Sinai wilderness, until finally arriving at the brink of the promised land. Moses gives them the second revelation of the Law in the book of Deuteronomy. In chapter 8, God describes Himself as a father to these children. "Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was discipling you just as a man disciplines his son" (Deuteronomy 8:5). Throughout this chapter God describes it as the same methods that a faithful father will use. Notice how God led them, and how fathers today can
lead their children.

Obedience Follows Blessing

"All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not" (Deuteronomy 8: 1,2). God led them all these years. He later tells them that He fed them (8:3), kept their clothes like new (8:4) and freed them from slavery (8:14) and even brought water from a rock for them (8:15). God provided all they needed long before they reached the brink of Canaan. Like any good father, God had provided for His children in every way: food, clothing, shoes, freedom and water. Whatever they needed, He made sure they had it.

All good fathers do this. Long before a child can walk, talk or contribute anything productive in terms of service or chores, the father is providing for the child. Making sure the baby has food, shelter, health care and so on. Good fathers (like God) want obedience from their children. But, before obedience can be expected, good fathers realize they must bless the child first.

This is the sequence for God, it should be the same for those of us who are fathers and parents. First we see to it that our children have what they need. Then, over time, as the blessings we provide equip the children, we can expect (and even demand) obedience.

God is like that all the time. "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45). God sends His blessings daily on those who love and obey Him. He also sends His blessings (rain, sunshine, food and so on) on those who have never acknowledged Him as God. God wants obedience from everyone, but He knows the blessings come first, then the obedience.

Hearts Must be Tested

"And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell tese forty years" (Deuteronomy 8:2-4). God tested His children. As we have seen, He saw to it they had what they needed. But, He also humbled them by making them learn to depend on
Him. God could have provided much more to His children. He could have given them luxury items, foods, clothes, wagons and such to carry the loads. But God led them through a desert, letting them do without some things, so as to see what was in their hearts.

Good fathers do this all the time. A faithful father will test his children to discover what is in their hearts. These tests might be discipline, might be chores, might be choices they have to make. Fathers do this so their children will grow up to be responsible and mature adults.

Sometimes people complain that a loving God would remove all sorrow, all struggle from our world. But, would a loving father actually fail to challenge his children by failing to give them chores, or teach them accountability, or make them face tough choices? You see, a loving father does put his children through things that he could prevent, all to see what kind of people they will turn out to be.

A loving God will do the same thing. Yes, He could give us all ease and comfort. But God wants us to grow up and be responsible to Him and to others. To do that, as a loving father, He must put us through tests and even struggles, to determine what kind of character each of us has.

Respect is Earned

"Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him" (Deuteronomy 8:6). God wants us to fear Him, not in the sense of being afraid, but in the sense (as other versions say it) of respecting or reverencing Him. God puts it simply. "I have taken care of you, molded and shaped you, and blessed you. Now you are to honor Me with respect."

All fathers want respect, but some fail to see the order God used with His children. He took care of them, earning their respect. A father is not guaranteed respect just because he can have children. He earns respect be paying the price to raise them, love them, mold and shape them, and bless them. Good fathers should be respected, since they have paid the price to raise good children.

Paul warns fathers about this. "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart" (Colossians 3:21). Some fathers demand respect, they create the bitterness, the discouragement Paul is describing. Faithful fathers earn respect by being the right kind of person, doing the right sorts of things.

Success is the Goal

"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you shall eat food without scarcity, in which you shall not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deuteronomy
8:7-10). God had a great future in mind for His children. He had brought them to a land that was rich in abundance. Canaan would provide all they needed. They would do without nothing. God had led them, tested them, and now wanted them to enjoy the fruits of His labor and theirs.

Fathers want the best for their children. They want them to be better educated, better employed, have better financial success and so on. Every father hopes his children are better off than he is. When a father looks at his baby, he sees a future full of opportunity and success.

That is what God wants for you. He doesn't want you living in misery, dread, drudgery or fear. He wants you to be happy and successful in life. He has done this by allowing His Son to die for you. That is so you can experience the joy, the thrill of salvation. Like the Eunuch, God wants you to rejoice. "And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:38, 39). God sees a great future for you, if you will come to Him and let Him be your Father in heaven.

Face Life's Realities

God warns His children to be careful. They might, when on their own in Canaan, be tempted to forget God and His blessings. They might do worse things yet. "And it shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God, and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you shall surely perish" (Deuteronomy 8:19). God cautions them by telling them of the snares ahead. Being comfortable and well off in the promised land, they will still fact temptations, trials, and risk sinning in the worst ways. God wants them to face the harsh realities of life.

Good fathers warn their children as well. They raise them, they equip them, but they pull no punches when it comes to what life will bring. Many children (and yours) will face the same temptations I do. They will face struggles, pain and disappointment. I must prepare them for that, or I have failed them. Life will be hard at times. They must know the snares, the risks, and the challenges, so they will be prepared to face them. It is a naive father who fails to warn his children of the realities of life.

God realizes that Satan will not leave His children alone. Paul talks of this. "There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me" (II Corinthians 12:7). This apostle was a great servant, preacher, and marvelous example of what a Christian is. Yet, Satan came after him. Paul struggled with this messenger of Satan.

Your children will struggle too. The more you prepare them to face real life, the more you can expect the enemy to attempt to derail them. The better you teach them, the harder Satan will work to undermine your teaching. And, one day, they will be grown up and on their own. You will not be able to make their decisions for them. Faithful fathers prepare their children now for the realities of life that will come.

Honor the Father

You may not have the best father in the world. Your father may not have been a faithful father, maybe more of a failure. But whatever you experienced in your youth, you can have a perfect Father today. All you need to do is become a part of His family. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Jesus says you must experience a new birth, a different kind of birth, one of water and Spirit. This new birth will make you part of God's family. Peter tells us how to be born again. "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). When you are baptized into the name of Jesus, you are forgiven of your sins and receive the gift ofthe Holy Spirit. This is the same thing Jesus talked about in John 3.

In Christ, you become part of God's great family. "For through Him (Jesus) we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are God's household" (Ephesians 2:18,19). You can be part of this family. Be baptized into god's family, today!