Fatherhood

from Men's Retreat 2004

by Clyde White

Who are Dads?

As a parent, and a Christian parent at that, we are to train our children in the right way; not the same way we lived our lives as children. To be a teacher of the right way, we must start with the reality that there is a wrong way. And many of us lived our early lives (and sometime later lives) in the wrong way.

A survey of elementary children was taken a few years ago which indicated the eight most appreciated qualities for Dads. Please consider these responses.

  1. He takes time for me.
  2. He listens to me.
  3. He invites me to go places with him.
  4. He lets me help him.
  5. He treats my mother well.
  6. He’s nice to my friends.
  7. He only punishes me when I deserve it.

Please allow me to preface my major remarks with some stuff that will set the scene for what is to follow.

A Jr. High boy wrote a definition for fatherly love as: Love = Time.

A good thought to ponder for all of us. One hundred years from now, it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove. But the world will be different because you were important in the life of a child.

Dads are entrusted with the task of making memories. One evening a young son ask his dad to read him a book which was too long to read in one setting. After reading two chapters, he put it down and said, “Well, maybe later we can find out what happens.” Then his son said, “Oh, Mom’s already read me that book twice.”

What did the son really want? To hear a story, or to spend time with his dad? Kids crave and deserve our time and attention.

It’s been said “A child is an island of curiosity surrounded by a sea of question marks.” And sometimes it seems this is true! The average child will ask over 100,000 questions from the time they start talking to age 15. Answering those questions is only part of what we teach them. Much of what our kids learn is caught rather than taught. They learn from what they observe. Our lifestyle is the lesson they observe.

Some of you may not be biological fathers yet; some here may never have that privilege and responsibility. Some may have already fulfilled the first stage of child raising, but you will never cease to be a father. None the less, every one of us have a part in the instruction of children, by our lifestyle and words. So, even though you may not hold the title of father, as a member of the Body of Christ you are in a real sense nurturing children.

I could fill this page with statistics and cute saying, all of which would have some benefit. However, the Word of God has something to say that we should hear even more than these statistics and sayings. The Word of God lived out in our lives can even change those stats.

Children are a Heritage

Psalms 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is His reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They [children] shall not be ashamed [real self-image], But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Heritage
(Hebrew) something inherited; an heirloom; an endowment or estate belonging to a person or institution, but entrusted to another for care and profit

If we are going to properly do our job as fathers, then we had better know something about what our job is, and what is expected of us in the execution of that job. As parents, the two of you blended your bodies and physical life together to produce the body of your child. However, you had nothing to do with the production of the soul, the real life of that child.

Ezekiel 18:4 "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.

Your soul and the soul of your child came from God and belongs to God just as surely as the soul of Adam. The soul of your child came to you as a Heritage from God. That soul came to you as an endowment or an estate belonging to a person (God), and entrusted to you for care and profit.

There is a parallel example of this entrusted heritage found in the following passage.

Matthew 25:14 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered [surrendered, yielded up, entrusted] his goods to them. 15 "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. 19 "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' 21 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' 22 "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' 23 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
24 "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' 26 "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 'Therefore you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
28 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

I want us to see this passage only as an example of God’s attitude towards those things which are His but have been entrusted to others.

Notice several things:

  • God entrusts His things to others according to the ability of the one receiving it. God knows your ability before He gives his heritage. That ability may not be visible or active at the time the heritage is given. However, the ability is there, and we are to exercise it. God also knows what pitfalls are involved and what opportunities will be involved in taking care of His endowment.
  • God expects results, or increase, not status quo.
  • God does not expect the same increase from all, nor does He expect everyone to use the same method to produce that increase.
  • Each will be judged on our faithfulness not our success as we care for God’s heritage.

Forming Proper Arrows

Psalms 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is His reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They [children] shall not be ashamed [real self-image], But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Heritage
(Hebrew) Something inherited; An heirloom; An endowment or estate belonging to a person or institution, but entrusted to another for care and profit
Reward
(Hebrew) Payment of contract; Compensation

This Psalm is written in poetry form, therefore it is a little difficult to simply read it once and know its meaning. As with other poetry, this Psalm and the phrases in this Psalm can have multiple applications.

Children are likened to arrows in the hand of a warrior. An arrow in the hand is not meant to remain there. A warrior never intends for the arrow to be in his hand very long. The arrow would be in his hand for only a few reasons: for development, to balance it, to admire it, to test it before launch, or to place it on the bow for launching.

Before we try to further illuminate the sense of the passage, let’s put another factor in the mix. This arrow is not in the hand of just anybody, it is in the hand of a warrior.

Warrior
(Hebrew) Powerful one; Valiant one; One who has prevailed in battle; A warrior

This was not a new recruit, or even simply a good solider. This was a warrior. One who had been tested and had prevailed. One who had shown valor in battle. This warrior knew his stuff, had his stuff tested and he had perfected his stuff.

Sad to say, most fathers were not battle worn and battle smart when they became fathers. For most men, the battle (child raising) was never thought of as a skill before starting, nor has it become as skill since. As a matter of fact, most didn’t know there was any skill involved in child raising until the doctor placed that new born baby and the bill for services rendered in his sweaty palm.

It is an easy task to make a baby (arrow shaft), compared to properly sending that child (completed and balanced arrow) to its intended mark.

We have a problem understanding the lingo of this passage, because we are not expert archers. Not many of us have made our own arrows nor have we ever had to balance an arrow for perfect flight. Fewer still have ever had to make sure the arrow hits it mark or face certain death.

If you were to make an arrow upon which our life depended, how would you go about it? I’m sure you would buy the best wooden dowel or fiberglass shaft you could find. That would be good, but even if you had the best dowel or shaft money could buy, that is just the start of balancing that arrow, so it will hit the mark.

You see, the warrior did not have the luxury of buying a dowel or shaft. He had to start with a raw imperfect piece of wood, and with expert hands and mind he fashioned that imperfect piece of wood into a near perfectly balanced shaft. Likewise fathers, we don’t start with perfect children, but it is our job to fashion that imperfect little depraved human into one who is properly balanced, and when it is time to place the arrow (child) on the string and launch it on its own. We need to make sure that it will fly straight to the bulls eye; his life (or her) depends on it.

Don’t fail yourself, your child, and God.

Strong Moral Character

Where does strong character come from? It is formed in the home. It happens in the everyday run of life, and the father should be a major influence. Tragically in our Christian society, many mothers have had to assume the role of the moral compass, because the father is absent or lacks the moral stamina to so. Each child has a volition (freedom to choose) and can choose to go astray. That decision is influenced by many factors but that fact does not lessen the Father’s responsibility. Let’s go back to our two foundation passages and fill in some of the blanks, we haven’t already covered.

Psalms 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is His reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They (children) shall not be ashamed (real self-image), But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Heritage
(Hebrew) Something inherited; An heirloom; An endowment or estate belonging to a person or institution, but entrusted to another for care and profit
Reward
(Hebrew) Payment of contract; Compensation

The psalmist is using a very familiar scene to the people of his time, but one that is a little strange to our modern ears. However, it is one of the best pictures of the proper father-child relationship. Almost every father has some kind of a relationship with his children, but many of those relationships will not produce the proper effect in the child.

From the world’s standard, many fathers have an excellent relationship with thier children. Some father spend all their spare time (and some that is not spare) either driving their children to and from events, or sitting and watching the events. I respect such dedication, and there are many benefits from such activity. But let me ask:

  • How much moral character are you, as a father, building into your child through those activities?
  • What type of moral attitude do you have when coming, going and watching?
  • How much moral fiber is being gained by your child through these activities

Let me present another family activity: TV watching and video games. We could add to that list many other family activities. We could even include kid programs at church. We need to step back and ask the question, what moral fiber is being established by these activities?

Dads and dads to be, we must carefully evaluate how we spend our time and how we spend our time with our children. Activities in and of themselves are neither moral nor immoral, although sometimes experiences within those activates can be immoral or moral. Morality is passed down by personal observation and taught through personal experience. Morality is not taught by flow charts. Morality is a personal relationship with humans or God. Every situation of life is a laboratory in which the moral fiber of a person is either strengthen or destroyed. The Word of God clearly warns that we are to be very careful which one of these testing laboratories we allow ourselves to enter.

2 Timothy 2:20-22 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Passage after passage in the Bible that us that we need to evaluate which activities will help produce Spirituality and morality, and which ones will destroy morality or have no value at all. We are to embrace those things that enhance Spirituality and morality and run from those that don’t.

There are some activities that are intrinsically evil enhancers, these we are to avoid. That fact should be a no-brainer. There are some activities that encourage morality, these we are to pursue. We should attempt to fill our lives with these morality builders. Most activities are neutral from a moral standpoint. However, these neutral activities, if they are left to themselves, will tend towards immorality, if for no other reason than they are natural and human.

Psalms 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is His reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They (children) shall not be ashamed (real self-image), But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

It is here that the illustration of our warrior of Psalms 127 will help our understanding. The warrior holds that raw piece of wood in his hand. He plans what that piece of wood can be and should be. He trims (disciplines) that piece of wood in such a way that it will be properly balanced. That may involve trimming, shaping and/or molding. He finishes it with a point designed for its ultimate purpose, and with a guidance system such as feathers. An arrow does not need a guidance system while it is in the hand; The arrow needs the guidance system when it is sent towards the target.

Men, good arrows or proper children don’t just happen. A man who has his quiver full of properly trained children is truly a happy person. Over and over again, the Scriptures state that an unruly or disrespectful child brings anything but happiness.

The Quiver

The quiver has many implications. I’ll only mention a few of them now. Quivers come in many varieties and sizes. Some quivers hold only one or two arrows while other are large and hold enough arrow for a major battle. This is certainly not a passage telling us to have as many children as possible. Instead, the happiness come from the quality of the arrow (child) that is in the quiver. The more good quality arrows, the happier the warrior. The study of the quiver is interesting, but what we need to see now is the results of the arrow in the hand of a warrior.

The Arrow

The purpose of the arrow, shaped by the warrior, is that it will be launched towards it target. In a similar manner, the purpose of developing children is that when they are launched, they too will hit their target. Dads are you training your child to leave your care or is you effort directed only to get through the next crisis?

Psalm 127:3–5 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Notice the last part of verse 5: These children will have a proper self-image, a proper understanding of themselves, God and the purpose of life. Therefore, there will be no shame produced by immorality that must covered by hypocrisy. They will be equipped to meet their enemies head on and win.

Dads, this is why God has given us His heritage. He expects us to properly equip them for life and eternity. If you can use the many activities of today to enhance God’s heritage entrusted to your care, then by all means, use those activities. If those activities do not lend themselves to increasing morality, you had better flee them. Remember, those children are a heritage from God, and you are responsible to God for them, and you will be judged on the basis of their increase.

Biblical Fatherhood

Time magazine gave some encouraging statistics a few years ago. The report said that in the past 25 years, the number of dads present at their children’ birth has increased 27%, to about 90%. These were married dads in a stable marriage. Seventy-five percent or more of men say they would trade rapid career advancement for more time with their families. Very few, however, carry through on such a trade

It seem that guys really want to be good dads more than ever. However, most are not making the needed changes to be good dads. When we look at what is happening in the realm of fatherhood in the United States, it seems that fatherhood is poised for either a great awakening or a gory collapse.

I’m sure that most of you have not bought into the common rhetoric of today that daddies are not needed. None the less, there an ambivalence as to the importance of fathers, especially Biblical fathers, in our culture, and there is certainly a desperate lack of knowledge as to what a Biblical father really is.

Ephesians 5:31-6:4 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Before we tear this passage apart, I would like to give some background. In the first century, when this passage was written, Rome had a law called patria potestas, which meant the father’s power.

Men who were Roman citizens were given absolute property rights over their families. By law, the children and the wife were regarded as the patriarch’s personal chattel, and he could do with them what he wished. A displeased father could disown his children, sell them into slavery, or even kill them if he wished. When a child was born in an elite family, the baby was placed between the father’s feet. If the father picked up the baby, the child stayed in the home. If he turned and walked away, the child was either left to die or sold at auction.

A contemporary of the apostle Paul, defended the Roman policy by saying it was the same as getting rid of unwanted animals: “We slaughter a fierce ox. We strangle a mad dog. We plunge a knife into a sick cow. Children born weak, deformed or unwanted we drown.” (Seneca)

I would like to think that our society has advanced far above such a heathenistic mind set, but I’m not sure that we have me have moved very far away from the den of those heathenistic beasts. Millions of unwanted babies are aborted each year. Children have become a disposable commodity in our society, as was the case in ancient Rome. Many Christian parents spend more time learning all the fine features of their cars and computers than how to properly raise their children

Two Shall Become One

Ephesians 5:31-6:4 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

A proper Biblical relationship between husband and wife is not only helpful in child raising, but absolutely essential. If your children do not see proper Biblical attitudes and actions in you and your spouse, It will be miracle if your child develops a proper Biblical attitude and action in those areas. If you and your wife are not demonstrating Christ and the Church in your marriage relationship, then the best you can hope for is that your child will follow your very poor example.

That does not mean God cannot work beyond your poor example. However, when God does work beyond our poor example, it is called a miracle. If your example is wrong, and God does His thing, don’t be so bold to as to claim credit for yourself. When God pulls off a miracle in the life of your child, then it has nothing to do with your teaching or child raising. And if you claim such success as yours, you will be stealing what belongs to God.

Honor and Obey

Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

In Ephesians 6:1-3 Children are commanded to: Obey and honor parents. However, in the language of our modern lingo that is an oxymoron. Because of the old sin nature, children will naturally only obey themselves. Every child has, deep in their soul, the desire to obey their parents. However, the pull of the old sin nature is so strong that they cannot do what they desire.

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

This is the dilemma in which every child finds themselves. God has given the parents the awesome privilege and responsibility of showing, teaching, and personally guiding that child to do that which the old sin nature has robbed them.

Men hear me well: If we do not set the example, teach, and guide our children to obey and honor, we are harming our children. We could spend the rest of our time to together looking at passage after passage that brings out this point. Time is not that kind to us, so we will just look at the passage before us.

Ephesians 6.2-3 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

One of the reasons for obeying and honoring parents is so “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

Live long
(Greek) To have full length; Complete; Long timed

I don’t know many parents who do not want their children to have a complete life lived to it full length -except, of course, on those occasions when the Report Cards come home with the little squares filled with improper notations. At that point, that child’s longevity is a thing of the past.

The child should obey and honor the parents so "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." Therefore, we must conclude that if the child does not obey and honor then it will not be well with them, and time on this earth will be shorter lived or not lived to its fullest.

We have already established that the child can’t obey and honor, even though they want to. Therefore, it is the parents responsibility to teach, train, help and be an example so the child can have a well and long life. If the father does not do his job of training, teaching and being an example to his child, that father is guilty of establishing a non-well life for his child, and one that cannot be lived to its full extent. Fathers, that is abuse of the worst kind.

Do Not Provoke

That brings us to the method or the means we are to use to care for this heritage from God

Ephesians 5:31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

We already looked at the first part of this passage. We saw the importance of a proper relationship between husband and wife, in the matter of bringing up children for the Lord. We looked briefly at two areas that are very important in the matter of child rearing. Those areas were obedience to and honor of parents, and are a must for the well-being of the child.

These are some of the main objects of Fatherhood. We pointed out that if we fail in these two areas, we cause harm because they will not have a life filled with wholeness and they will not be able to live their life to the fullest.

Then in verse 4 we have some of the main responsibilities of the father in the child raising area. We are not to provoke to wrath or exasperation. The attitude of exasperation leads to bitterness about life and especially about the Christian life.

There are many ways in which this wrath or exasperation can be brought about:

  1. Overbearing - Father elevates himself to that of sovereign, rather than a steward of God over His possession.
  2. Overprotecting – Children need a little pressure and even make some mistakes. Then we can enter in as loving father and tutor.
  3. Overindulging - Excessively permissive fathers are as likely to stir their child’s wrath, as much as stifling them by overbearing or overprotecting. Studies have shown that too much freedom brings the feeling or insecurity and that of being unloved. We have a increasingly permissive society, and we are reaping the harvest of a whole generation of very angry young people (and some who are not so young).
  4. Yelling and nagging rather than communicating - Very seldom should we raise our voice above normal speech. Doing what is right should be as natural to us and them as breathing. If we use excessive voice intonation to get our point across, it will lose its effect and the child will know they can push until the pitch is just right.
  5. Favoritism - That does not mean that each child is treated the same. Each child is treated as the situation demands – this teaches what real life is like.
  6. Pie in the sky goals - Impossible goals bring a gigantic case of discouragement, frustration, defeat, and destroys the desire to try again.
  7. Rules and threats never carried out - Each time you threaten and do not carry through, you simply confirm in the child’s mind, that you are untrustworthy and a liar. When you threaten and don’t follow through, you teach your child to be a liar and a sneak.
  8. Ignoring or overlooking bad behavior - This is one that is high on the do list of many Christians. When you do not know what your kids are doing at church, you are setting a pattern and telling your child it is ok to do wrong until it bothers your social life.
  9. 9.And such the like – there are many other ways to exasperate our children. Take a little time to examine your habits with your family. Acknowledge these before God and determine to find better ways to interact with your children.

I want to give you another list of areas that fall within the realm of training and admonition of the Lord, These are qualities that are a must, if your arrow is to fly straight and to the goal.

  1. Obedience
  2. Respect
  3. Honesty
  4. Faithfulness
  5. Diligence
  6. Commitment
  7. Dedication

I chose these seven out of a list of about twenty that are presented in the Word of God and that should be evident in the life of Believers. I’m sure that if I had continued to look, I could have added to that list of 20 many more qualities that are a vital part of the Christian experience. None of these qualities will become a part of your child’s living without proper discipline, either personal or supervised or by the punishment of sin.

Discipline

I know there are many question about discipline. It is hard to do, and especially in this day and age. Some are not sure of its value, plus some feel that is better to have a good relationship with your child than to potentially turn them off though proper discipline. Hear me on this: children need a father far more than they need a compatible companion. There is a difference between brute punishment and proper Biblical discipline. Proper discipline will not turn you child against you.

Hebrews 12:5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

It is important that your child sees in you, a proper response to chastening when it comes to you.

Hebrews 12:6-9 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?

Far too often we fathers discipline out of anger or frustration rather than love. We attempt to punish rather than to bring correction. Most discipline does meet out punishment, but that should not be the end in itself. The purpose of discipline is to bring correction to the manner of living and attitudes.

Too often discipline is stopped when actions are changed, but the attitude remains the same. Attitudes are far more important than outward actions. Disciple is not all negative – but is usually starts with the negative. Use that negative to continue the conforming process.

Proverbs 23:6 Do not eat the bread of a miser, nor desire his delicacies; 7 for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

Don’t fall into the trap of directing the actions of your children so that you will be socially acceptable. What brings disaster to children is not so much what a parent did to them, but what the parent did not do for them. When a father disciplines consistently, lovingly and with purpose the child will not like the discipline, but they will respect the father. When the purpose of punishment is to inflict a penalty, the focuses is on the past. The purpose of discipline is to promote growth by looking to the future. As a father, you are not called to just raise children, you are required to raise children into healthy adults.

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