Let me begin by wishing all my fellow fathers a Happy Father’s Day. In light of this day, I’ve decided to write this short article as an encouragement for men to properly assume their role as fathers. The role of Fatherhood is not to be taken lightly. Everything in your home will rise and fall on what kind of father you are. You will set the stage for either the success or the failure of your family. If you will properly fulfill your biblical role as father in your home, I promise you God’s blessing. As Fathers we must be constantly striving to be a model of the characteristics of our Heavenly Father. By that I mean we must become the type of Father He is. That means we must reflect the divine image of the God who created us. We must become the loving, kind, gentle, generous, forgiving, and merciful Father that He is, in our relationship with our children. The painful truth is that we only have one chance to raise our children in the way God has designed. When it comes to raising our children, there are no second chances; so get it right. As fathers we hold the chief responsibility when it comes to raising our children. Whether you realize it or not, you are the number one influencer in the lives of your children. Either positive or negative, no one will ever influence your children more than you will.
When it comes to fatherhood, the word of God speaks loud and very clear. The greatest commandment in Scripture is this: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Our first covenantal responsibility is of course toward God. We are to love and serve Him with every fiber of our being. But second to that is our covenantal responsibility to our wives and to the children God has given us. Going back to verse 2, we read, “So that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” Following Deuteronomy 6:5, we read, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (vv. 6-7).
Israelite history reveals that the father was to be diligent in instructing his children in the ways and words of the Lord for their own spiritual development and well-being. The father who was obedient to the commands of Scripture did just that. This brings us to Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” To “train” indicates the first instruction that a father and mother give to a child, i.e., his early education. The training is designed to make clear to children the manner of life they are intended for. To commence a child’s early education in this way is of great importance.
Ephesians 6:4 is a summary of instructions to the father, stated in both a negative and positive way. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The negative part of this verse indicates that a father is not to foster negativity in his children by severity, injustice, partiality, or unreasonable exercise of authority. Harsh, unreasonable conduct towards a child will only serve to nurture evil in the heart. The word “provoke” means “to irritate, exasperate, rub the wrong way, or incite.” This is done by a wrong spirit and wrong methods—severity, unreasonableness, sternness, harshness, cruel demands, needless restrictions, and selfish insistence upon dictatorial authority. Such provocation will produce adverse reactions, deadening children’s affection, reducing their desire for holiness, and making them feel that they cannot possibly please their parents. A wise parent seeks to make obedience desirable and attainable by love and gentleness.
The positive aspect of Ephesians 6:4 is expressed in a comprehensive direction—educate them, bring them up, develop their conduct in all of life by the instruction and admonition of the Lord. This is the whole process of educating and discipline. The word “admonition” carries the idea of reminding the child of faults (constructively) and duties (responsibilities). The Christian father is really an instrument in God’s hand. The whole process of instruction and discipline must be that which God commands and which He administers, so that His authority should be brought into constant and immediate contact with the mind, heart, and conscience of children. The Christian father should never present himself as the ultimate authority to determine truth and duty. It is only by making God the teacher and ruler on whose authority everything is done that the goals of education can best be attained.
Martin Luther said, “Keep an apple beside the rod to give the child when he does well.” Discipline must be exercised with watchful care and constant training with much prayer. Chastening, discipline, and counsel by the Word of God, giving both reproof and encouragement, is at the core of “admonition.” The instruction proceeds from the Lord, is learned in the school of Christian experience, and is administered by the parents—primarily the father, but also, under his direction, the mother. Christian discipline is needed to enable children to grow up with reverence for God, respect for parental authority, knowledge of Christian standards, and habits of self-control. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A father’s first responsibility is to acquaint his children with Scripture. The means and methods that fathers may use to teach God’s truth will vary. As the father is faithful in role modeling, what children learn about God will put them in good standing throughout their earthly lives, no matter what they do or where they go.
In my short eight years of parenting and 15 years of ministry, I’ve learned a few things. And one of those things is that children will naturally seek affection and develop their self esteem from the parent of the opposite sex. Most parents would agree with me that girls are all about their fathers and boys love their mothers. In my own fatherhood my daughters are complete daddy’s girls. They love their mother, but they are crazy about their daddy. Consequently, I have come to realize that children use the parent of the opposite sex as a template for choosing a spouse. Therefore it is my responsibility as a father, to model for my daughters, what it means to be a Godly man. The greatest gift a father can give his daughter, outside of leading her to salvation, is to imprint the image of a Godly man on her heart. And the greatest compliment my daughters can give me is to hear them say one day that they want to marry a man like their father. One day we will be walking our daughters down the aisle, and the choice she made for a husband will likely hinge more on OUR actions than hers.
For more than 20 years, we will have the greatest influence on our daughter’s understanding of how a man should treat his wife in a manner consistent with God’s plan. How else will our daughter know the type of love she deserves from her future husband if we do not demonstrate the self-sacrificial love that we have been called to show our own wives? (Ephesians 5:25) Where will our daughters see a husband who honors his wife and lives to understand her needs according to God’s will if it’s not being modeled in her own home? (1 Peter 3:7) If we simply begin to give advice once she starts dating, we are too late. We have missed the opportunity to inscribe on her heart all the qualities we desire to see in her future husband. From the time she is born we must instill a hunger in her to search for a man after God’s own heart. Perhaps in this fight for our daughters’ hearts, we should embrace the old sports adage that the best defense is a good offense. Everything I said about fathers and daughters, the same is also true with mothers and their sons. Let me end with these words: When it’s all said and done, there is nothing more I will be judged on, than what kind of father I was. My prayer is that you will strive every day to become a father like the FATHER. BE blessed.
“A righteous man walks in his integrity and his children are blessed after him.” (Prov. 20:7)