By Jack Wilkie
As a newly-minted father, life has been a bit overwhelming recently. Anyone who’s had a child knows all of the life adjustments and new skills you have to learn in those early days, and yet I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the learning that’s going to come over the years.
But out of everything, the one aspect of being a father that weighs heaviest on me is the realization that my wife and I now have this child’s soul in our hands for the next couple of decades. Lord willing, I will be there to teach this little girl how to love God and serve Him. Once again, though, it’s a process I’m going to have to learn. And as I look for resources on how to be a good father, the fact remains that there will never be a better father than the Father we have in heaven. He is the perfect example of the love and commitment a Father should have for His children. So, here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from our heavenly Father.
Our Father has given us perfect guidance through His Word, and the perfect example in Jesus Christ. His Word is profitable for “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16, ESV). That about sums it up – He’s shown us what to believe, how to live, and how to overcome our sins. In all of this He’s made it abundantly clear how we are to live, and that’s what a good Father does – He made sure we had the instruction and guidance we need for life.
Likewise, a good earthly father guides his children by directing their hearts toward God, “training them up in the way they should go” (Prov. 22:16). Kids need dads who will regularly sit down with them and have the kind of conversations that will form their thinking and behavior, because if the dads don’t do it, someone (or something) else will. The church’s next generation will be raised up by such fathers who make a daily commitment to guiding their children in the right way.
God provides in two ways. First, He supplies everything we need both physically (Matt. 6:25-34) and spiritually (2 Pet. 1:3-4). He knows our needs and He fulfills them. Second, He provides for our wants according to His perfect wisdom. Sometimes He grants our requests, sometimes He says no, and sometimes He makes us wait. Regardless of His answer, we can be confident that He is providing what is best for us. Even when we think what He’s given us is wrong, He always gives good gifts (Matt. 7:9-11).
A good earthly father does the same. To the best of his ability, and by God’s good grace, he provides for his family’s needs (1 Tim. 5:8). But he also must weigh his children’s wants and give with wisdom. We live in a time where children often rule the home, getting whatever they want whenever they want it. From time to time, a good father will tell his children “no,” teaching them to be content and that happiness does not come from getting whatever they want.
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12). That proverb and the Hebrews section that adds commentary to it (Hebrews 12:5-11) both depict God as a Father who is intent on providing His children the discipline (alternately “training”) that we need. It is because He loves us that He puts us through this kind of training, whatever various forms it may take.
Unfortunately, in our culture the very idea of “discipline” is often frowned upon with justifications like “We don’t want to break the kids’ spirits!” Any Christian father knows that a child will not find their way on their own. They need training and correction when they go astray. Discipline does not come from a place of anger but from a love for the child that refuses to let them persist in bad behavior. Don’t let the culture fool you. A good father disciplines his children.
Equal and opposite to God’s discipline for His children is His comfort for them. When we are walking with Him, we know we can turn to Him with whatever concern is on our hearts. We “cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us” (1 Pet. 5:7 paraphrased). He does not guarantee us easy lives. He guarantees that He will walk with us through anything, giving us the strength we need to persist.
As much as we might want to, earthly fathers can’t guarantee their children perfect, pain-free lives either. Knees will be scraped, bones may be broken, feelings will be hurt, and disappointments will happen. But a good father emulates God in that he will always be their in his children’s time of need.
The most obvious entry in this list, but also the most foundational. It is God’s self-sacrificial love that sent the Son (John 3:16). It is His Fatherly love that calls us His sons (1 John 3:1). Love is the very essence of God’s being, and that love is evident every day of our lives.
Though we’ll never love as perfectly as the heavenly Father, our job as fathers here is to love to the very best of our ability, to embrace self-sacrifice and showing our families love by serving them. Our culture has an epidemic of fatherlessness, and millions of children suffer the consequences.
Even worse, many homes in which the father is present deal with a more metaphorical fatherlessness. I recently read a complaint posted by a mother who said her husband refused to spend any time with the children unless it involved something that interested him. He had his video games and other hobbies, and he didn’t have time for anything else. In this Peter Pan culture of extended adolescence and boys who refuse to be men, Christian men must lead the way in loving our families. God has placed the task on our shoulders to lead our homes and guide the hearts of our children toward Him (Eph. 6:4).
So, as we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, I want to thank all of those fathers who are striving to go above and beyond. Thank you for setting the example. Thank you for being there. Thank you for making it your life’s mission to guide your families to love God and walk with Him always. We will never be perfect like our Father in heaven, but we can do our best to emulate His perfect example.
What makes a great father
By Jack Wilkie