A Godly Father
A GODLY FATHER
When Billy Crystal’s daughter turned eleven, he was in New York filming a movie. He called her long-distance and apologized for his heavy work schedule and promised that a big package would be delivered to her soon. Later that day he flew from New York to Los Angeles, and when his daughter, Lindsey, opened the door, a six-foot high carton greeted her. She began ripping it open on the spot and discovered that dad was inside the carton. Billy says, “She hugged me for five minutes. It was unbelievable!” He went on to say, “I missed twenty-five birthdays with my dad. I’m not going to let that happen with my girls.” Billy Crystal was fifteen when his father died of a heart attack.
It seems to me that I see a lot of fathers making a concerted effort to be exceptional fathers today. Maybe it’s because their fathers weren’t around much when they were growing up, and they’re determined to do better. Maybe it’s because their wives are more outspoken and are insisting that dad help with the diapers and feeding and nurturing the child. But I think it’s primarily because dads are frightened about the moral decay of our culture. They hear about the violence at school, the drug addictions, the teenage pregnancies, the suicides - and they are determined to insulate their children against those threats.
Christian fathers know that the answer is not really teen-curfews and gun laws and drug penalties and metal detectors at the entrances of schools. Christian fathers know that the ultimate solution for the children is God’s will, building a home according to God’s way so that it’ll be a shelter in the time of storm. That’s why the Bible says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.”
That’s why I’d like for us to consider what it takes for us to be a godly man and a godly father as it is described in Psalm 1. The qualities mentioned here are timeless and they’re so needed in this era. I want us to see three characteristics of a godly father. Hopefully, every man in this room will aspire to these lofty goals, and every other member of the family will seek to reinforce these values so that our homes can be havens of joy and peace.
I. LIVES UNDER GOD’S AUTHORITY
The first responsibility of a godly father is to live under God’s authority, to live under God’s umbrella of authority. The first two verses read, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Now, men, there are two worldviews that are vying for your allegiance. On the one hand is the counsel of this world; on the other hand is the counsel of the Word of God. They’re becoming more and more opposed to one another.
The world’s counsel contends that you are here by an accident of evolution. Nothing really matters except the physical and your personal desires. You are absolutely free to determine what is right and wrong for you because this world is all there is. But the counsel of the Word of God says that you are here by God’s creation, and that your life has a purpose. What really matters are the things of the Spirit, the things that can’t be seen. Ultimately, you’re accountable to God for obedience to his commands. And instead of mocking God’s law, the man of God meditates on God’s law. “He delights in it,” the Scripture says, because he sees in it a blueprint for happy living. The Psalmist said, “Great peace have they who love your Law and nothing can make them stumble.”
Now these two sources of authority—the counsel of the world, the Word of God—give contradictory advice to fathers today.
- On the one hand, the world will tell you your child is dispensable. If you don’t want the child, go ahead and abort it. But the Word of God counsels you that life is formed in the mother’s womb and we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
- The world counsels you that children are a financial burden on you and on the culture; therefore, limit yourself to just one or two children. But the Word of God teaches “Sons are a heritage from the Lord. Children are a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
- The world counsels you “Don’t try to impose your values on your child. You’ll turn them off. Let them choose for themselves. Eventually, they’ll choose what is right for them.” But God’s Word counsels you in Proverbs 29, “A child left to himself disgraces his mother. Discipline your son and he will give you peace and he will bring delight to your soul”.
- The world counsels you “Don’t spank your child. That teaches violence. That’s abuse.” But God’s Word teaches in Proverbs 31, “He who spares the rod hates his son. He who loves him is careful to discipline him”.
- The world counsels you, “The government is ultimately responsible for your child. We’ll determine what your child should be taught in school. We’ll determine whether it’s right to distribute condoms to your child. We’ll determine whether your child has to inform you before she has an abortion or not.” But God’s Word teaches, “Fathers, you’re the ones who are gonna have to stand before God and give an account of your family not the government.” Ephesians 6 says, “Fathers, bring your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Now if a man seeks to be a godly father, other members of the family have a responsibility to be supportive. Teenagers, let’s say you ask your dad for permission to take the weekend with some of your friends, and your father said, “Well, I don’t really trust your friends, and I don’t think there’s enough adult supervision. You can’t go.” What’s your reaction? Do you whine about how strict your father is and complain that he doesn’t trust you and pout?...and finally you storm out of the room and slam the door to your room and turn up the CD as loud as it can go?...and your dad knocks on the door and you say, “Go away! I don’t care to ever see you again the rest of my life!”? Well, you make his life miserable. Maybe that’s your intent…but the Bible says you’re gonna reap what you sow some day.
You have a responsibility to live under God’s authority too. Ephesians 6 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise — that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
Let’s say that you ask your dad for permission to go the weekend and he says, “No, I don’t really trust your friends, and I don’t think there’s enough adult supervision,” and you say, “Well, Dad, thanks for caring about me. I understand. I’ll go along.” What’ll happen? Right, he’ll have a heart attack right there. It’ll be all over. No, he’ll think you’re the greatest kid. He thinks he’s the greatest father. And the next time you go and ask, “Can I go?” he’ll say, “Sure! Your attitude has been so great. Here’s $500. You stay a week. I don’t care how long you’re gone.” Maybe it won’t go quite that well, but the Bible promises that it’ll go well with you. Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.”
Wives, if you have a husband who seeks to be a godly father, it is so important that you be supportive and reinforcing. Ephesians 5:33 says, “The wife must respect her husband.”
Do you remember the stir the Southern Baptist Convention created a few years ago when they endorsed the traditional family, which included the ideas that wives should graciously submit to their husbands? Counselors of this world went crazy over the idea and suggested that the Baptists wanted to keep the women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. One columnist who identified herself as a feminist-Christian said, “No matter how you try to explain that, it is hateful language.” Larry King interviewed Jerry Falwell challenging him on his archaic ideas. Newsweek Magazine quoted Kathy Rogers, Executive Director of the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense Fund saying, “We don’t think any human being should have to submit to any other human being.”
But you know the principle of leadership and submission to leadership is best illustrated in Jesus Christ. Philippians 2 says Christ was equal with God but he humbled himself and became submissive to the Father, saying, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” He went even to the Cross for the salvation of the family, and far from being degrading or hateful, that was Jesus’ greatest honor. We praise him for that. God has given him a name above every name. That passage says, “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” We all are called upon to be submissive in different spheres. As Christians we’re called upon to be submissive to the authorities of government. Children are called upon to be submissive to their parents. At work we’re called to be submissive to our boss. In church we’re to be submissive to the elders.
If I tell you, “I’m not submissive to the elders of this church. I’m not submissive to anybody!”—that’s arrogant! That’s ridiculous. Everybody needs to be accountable to someone…so I need to be submissive to the elders. That doesn’t mean that they’re superior to me or they know more of the Bible. I just know in the sphere of the church, in order to have order, God has given us a structure. And when God’s Word says, “Wives, you be submissive. Husbands, you be loving leaders.”—that’s not degrading. That’s not hateful. It’s just acknowledging that in the most important sphere, that of the home, there needs to be an acknowledged leader at times when there is no mutual consensus. Now everybody knows that when the Bible talks about submission it’s not talking about the husband being the dictator and dragging his wife around by the hair and barking out orders. We know that. I like that sign in the paint shop that reads, “Husbands choosing colors must have notes from their wives.” Now you know that’s true.
But if you choose not to live under the umbrella of God’s authority, God’s delegated leadership of the home, you have two options. One is you can refuse to get married. Nowhere does the Bible say, “Women, submit to men.” When Deborah was Judge over Israel, the men of Israel were to be submissive to her leadership. If you don’t want a man having any leadership in the home, don’t get married so you’re not ordered to submit.
The second option is, just don’t have a biblical marriage. The world has a different mindset. The people of the world establish their own rules. You have a right to choose the counsel of the world or the counsel of the Word of God. But I want to tell you that there are thousands and there are millions of Christian husbands and wives who’ll tell you that when you honor God’s Word, it works.
I’ve been married for twenty-three years next month and both my wife and I try to live under the umbrella of God’s authority. Now Lori is no wimp. I mean, she is strong-willed and intelligent and a capable leader. And I’m not a wimp either, and we sometimes disagree. And I would have to say that most of the time when we disagree, she gets her way. But there have been sometimes when I insist—not very many of them—and she will finally say, “Okay, we’ll do it your way.” And she just waits to say, “I told you so.”
I’m here to tell you when you honor God’s Word and live under the umbrella of his authority, you delight in it. It works. If the husband and the father and the mother and the wife and the children honor God’s Word, then there’s joy.
II. PROVIDES HIS FAMILY’S SECURITY
A second responsibility of a godly father is to provide security for those under his care. Verses 3 and 4, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” In other words, he is dependable year in and year out. “Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”
Now one of the most important needs of children is a sense of stability in the home. Our world is so unstable…but the home should be a shelter in a time of storm. Let me suggest four important ways that fathers can provide security for their children. Number one, fathers, you provide security by consistently supplying the physical needs of your family without complaint. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So, fathers, you have a responsibility to provide the necessities for your home. That doesn’t mean you have to be an executive in a Fortune 500 company or you’ve got to be a millionaire; but if you earn your money honestly and you manage your money wisely and you share your money generously, you will provide security to that home.
How many times have you heard people of the past generation say, “You know, we grew up poor but we didn’t know it”? Why? Because there was a dad who just without complaint provided the basic needs. And let me say, dads, if you have a wife who doesn’t want to work outside the home, and she would rather stay at home and be with the children, don’t you try to force her out. It’s your job biblically to provide for your family.
Secondly, you provide security by consistent behavior. 1 Timothy 4:16 says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” In other words, make sure there’s a consistency between your walk and your talk.
Some of you can remember a time when you discovered that there was a part of your dad’s life that was contrary to what he said he believed, and it was unsettling to you. In an uncertain world, children need the security of fathers who are like a tree planted by the water, who bring forth its fruit every season.
You provide security, thirdly, by consistent, reasonable discipline. Ted Engstrom defines integrity as “doing what you say you’re gonna do.” That means when you tell your toddler in church, “You keep kicking the seat in front of you, I’m going to take you out and spank you.” You know what? There’s a certain security out of discovering Dad does what he says he’s gonna do. You tell your little girl, “You’re not going to be able to date until you’re sixteen.” She’s fifteen and somebody really impressive comes along. There’s a certain security in knowing that Dad does what he says he’s gonna do. You’re disciplining, you’re training your children to mature.
Terry Paulson, the President of the National Speakers Association, said that he just couldn’t get his young son to save any money from his allowance, from what he earned mowing grass; but when his son turned sixteen, he asked his dad to buy him a car. Since he had not saved a dime, Terry told him “no”. His son said, “Dad! Everyone has a car.” And his dad said, “That’s not true. If it were, it would be everyone but you. You’d be a leader. You’d be the designated rider.” His son said that he didn’t see much humor in that, and he shook his head as if to say, “Of all the fathers in the world I had to pick you.” His son asked, “Will you give me some money toward a car?” His dad said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll match what your friends give you.” That didn’t set well either, so he said, “Look. Why don’t you go get a job, go to work and save the money toward the car?” And the son said, “Dad, I can’t do that!” “Bingo!”, the dad said. “That’s the point. Son, you invested in the wrong CDs.”
Paulson goes on to talk about the parents’ responsibility to train children, to discipline them to handle money. He said, “You hope that your kids will become well enough off to leave; but unless we train them, they won’t know how to handle it.” Children need the security of knowing that they are maturing, they’re getting more and more capable of living on their own, and it’s dad’s responsibility to give consistent training to see that that’s so.
Fourthly, most importantly, you provide security by unconditional love. The child’s coach may love him when he wins. The child’s teacher loves him when he excels. The child’s peers love him when he’s funny or attractive. But as a father you love them on the bench or in the game, A’s or D’s, beautiful or ordinary, poised or awkward.
In a newspaper article not long ago, Boomer Esiason, former quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, said he wanted everybody to know how much he loved his little boy who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, a disease which affects about 30,000 Americans. Without a cure, most patients die young of lung failure. Esiason sent his seven-year-old son, who he calls Gunner or G-Man, a Father’s Day letter. It read:
Not only are you a joy and a treasure, you’re also the bravest little boy that I know. With all you’ve been through—the needles, X-rays, physical therapy and nagging coughs—you’ve found a way to play and flourish in school and ice hockey. You’re a terrific student. And I’m as proud of you as any dad could possibly be.
Boomer Esiason knows his son is never gonna play in the NFL but he loves him unconditionally. Dads, the Bible says, “Love always protects, love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” You love your children like that, there’s security in the home.
Now if you have a husband or a father who provides that kind of security, you be supportive. Don’t compare him up to other dads who make more money and complain. Don’t gripe about the discipline that’s trying to help you mature. Don’t ridicule him because his straight life is boring. Don’t pull away from his expressions of love or laugh that he’s sentimental. Maybe once in awhile you ought to say, “You know what, Dad? You’re like a tree planted by the water. You’re dependable. Boy, do I appreciate that.”
III. PREPARES HIS FAMILY FOR ETERNITY
The third responsibility of fathers is to prepare the family for eternity. Verses 5 and 6, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Dads, our greatest responsibility is not to teach them “Don’t get in a car with strangers. Read the fine print. Buy insurance. Avoid excesses. Build up your confidence.” Godly fathers recognize their primary responsibility is to prepare their children for that day when they stand before God in judgment. Will your children meet you on the other side and say, “Thank you for introducing me to Jesus Christ. Thank you for showing the way to heaven”? Or will they think, “You know, my dad prepared me for everything in life except for the ultimate contingency, which is to die”? Jesus said, “What should it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”
Recently, two sociologists from the University of Southern California, Drs. Bengston and Acock, completed one of the most extensive studies on the family ever undertaken. They found that it’s the father, not the mother, that most influences religious beliefs, church attendance and moral values. Dr. Bengston wrote, “We found to our surprise that in almost every area except religion—feelings about work, politics, marriage, economics—young people’s attitudes most closely matched those of their mother, but in the area of religion the father’s attitude prevailed.” That’s why in the wisdom of Scripture almost every time when it talks about training children to know the Lord, it’ll say, “Now you fathers, you talk about these things when you walk along the way. You fathers, you bring your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Man! That’s a sobering fact: the eternal destiny of our children is largely entrusted to us.
That’s why Bob Benson wrote, “The family is just about the place I want to succeed the most. In fact, if I can succeed here it will somehow atone for all the other failures of my whole life.” Benson said, “I love to sing the song that goes, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.’” He said, “I like the second stanza, which is ‘Take this whole world, but give me Jesus. No turning back.’” But he said, “When it comes to the third stanza of that song I have to drop out. I can’t sing it because it says, ‘Though none go with me I still will follow. No turning back.’” He said, “I can’t sing it. If I live my life in such a way that I must go by myself than I think I’d feel like Moses must have felt when he told the Lord, ‘If the children don’t get to go to Canaan, then blot my name out of the book too.’” You fathers, your greatest responsibility is to teach your children to know the Lord Jesus Christ that they might know him for eternity.
Now if you have a husband and father trying to prepare you for eternity, be appreciative. Don’t complain, “Do we have to go to church again?” You cooperate. Wives, don’t roll your eyes and say behind your husband’s back, “Well, I try to appease him. He’s just on this religious kick right now.” You honor the values and example of your husband.
Now it’s not just mothers and children who need to reinforce godly dads; older parents need to be encouraging spiritual values too. Those of us who are grandparents have a tendency to just second-guess or maybe ignore what our grown children are doing, and we forget how important our approval, our encouragement can be as our children get older. Isn’t it amazing how we still want the approval of our parents no matter how old we are?
Dave Kennedy, tells the story about an elderly man who lived in a nursing home because he had Alzheimer’s. Every Sunday afternoon, his daughter and son-in-law would bring the grandchildren over, and he’d meet them in the courtyard of the nursing home and have a Sunday afternoon with them. The longer they did this, the feebler his mind became until he got the names confused and he couldn’t find his way back to the room. But every Sunday afternoon when they came, there was Grandpa in the courtyard waiting for them. One Sunday his daughter said, “Dad, do you know what day of the week this is?” He didn’t know. She said, “Dad, if you don’t know it’s Sunday, how’d you know to meet us out here today?” He said, “I just come out here every day and wait for you.”
You know, a godly father loves the company of his family. So much so that when he’s young he may travel across the country and then waits in a cardboard box to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. So much so that when he’s old and senile he may be waiting in a courtyard of a nursing home every day hoping for a visit. But a godly father loves so much that, most importantly, one day when he dies he’ll be standing just inside the gate waiting for every member of his family to be reunited with him for eternity.
I suppose off all the things that I might desire as a father, when the day comes and the Lord is through with me, I desire that my every one of my children will be devoted followers of Christ, and their faith will be a part of the legacy I leave behind for them. That I will have been for them some sort of role model . . . not perfect . . . but a role model that they knew their dad truly loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. Will you make that kind of a decision today, as we stand and as we sing . . .