What does it take to be a father? At its most basic level fatherhood is simply biological. Almost any physically mature male can father a child, but if this is where it stops, the man is not really a father, but simply a sperm donor.
Most people realize that fatherhood is more than just a biological relationship. The norm of society is to see the father's role as provider and protector. This role is certainly taught in the Scriptures:
1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV) But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
For a man not to provide for his family is to deny the Christian faith. Certainly we all understand that a man is to provide for his family. But is that all there is to fatherhood? As long as a man provides the material things that his family needs, is he fulfilling his role as a father?
Imagine for a minute that a man is hired to manage a professional baseball team--the New York Yankees, for example. But he doesn't go to all the games. He only shows up for the games that are played on the weekend; he even misses some of those. When he is at the ball park, he offers no direction to his players. For example, it's the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees are a run behind, there are runners on first and third. The team needs to know what to do. Should we use a pinch-hitter? Should we bunt to advance the runners? Should we try to steal a base? Should we go for a sacrifice fly? The players look to the manager for leadership, but he sits in the dugout, watching cable TV. "Do whatever you think is best," he tells his players. "My job is to see that you have plenty of bats and baseballs; I make sure that the lawn here at the park looks good, that the team bus is running, and that you have brand new uniforms to wear. I've done my job, now go out there and win." Needless to say, his team doesn't stand a chance. When they finish the year with a losing record, the manager bursts into the owner's office and says, "This is all your fault! How could you let this happen to me? What have I ever done to you?" Can you imagine a manager of a major league team doing his job this way?
The sad truth is, this is the way most men in America manage their team--their family. Men, by and large, have not lived up to their responsibility to their families, and as a result, their families are falling apart. The Bible makes it clear that the man is to be the spiritual leader of his family. That doesn't mean he's a bully, or dictator, or despot. He is to be spiritual, and he is to be a leader.
Have you seen the McDonald's commercial in which the man has stayed up all night with the restless baby while the mother sleeps? She wakes up and he tells her "We played Lion King...we watched cartoons...we read books" - or something to that effect, indicating that it had been a long night. The wife says, "I'll bet you would like some breakfast." The husband says, "Yes." And she throws the car keys at him and says, "Better hurry, then, to McDonalds." As the man goes out the door, the Mom says to the child, "We're training him well, aren't we?" (Imagine, if the roles in this commercial were reversed, and the man tossed the car keys to his wife who has just stayed up all night, McDonald's would have been blasted by everybody.)
This kind of ad is indicative of the disrespectful attitude that is directed towards men in society today. It's hard for them to know exactly what is expected of them. In most sitcoms, the Dad is the butt of the jokes--the inept, clueless father has become a comedy staple. The family spends his money but they never consider taking him seriously. It is important that husbands and fathers realize that God takes their role seriously, and they do, in fact, have much more to contribute to their family than just physical provision.
So, being a father is more than biological, it is more than just providing for their physical needs. Being a father means that you are to be the spiritual leader of the home.
The family in our society is being destroyed, and men must take the leadership for building strong families. It doesn't take a degree in sociology to recognize that America is no longer a "Leave It To Beaver" society. In the last 35 years the family in our society has taken some hard knocks. Church attendance has dropped steadily since 1960. Let me tell you what else has happened since 1960: there has been a 400% increase in the divorce rate and a 200% increase in the number of children who are raised in single-parent homes. Today 70% of pre-school age children have mothers who work outside the home, and 80% of school-age children come home each day to an empty house. Needless to say, these numbers were significantly less in 1960.
A couple of years ago, Newsweek printed an article on the 21st century family, and began by saying, "The traditional American family does not exist. Rather, we're creating new American families of diverse style and shapes in unprecedented numbers." Here's a statistic that might surprise you. We normally refer to the "traditional family" as one Mom, one dad, one marriage, children from that marriage only. However, today only 1 out of 6 people in America fit into that category. The other 83% come from a variety of other situations. The traditional American family is no longer the typical American family. As I said, it doesn't take a social psychologist to recognize that the deterioration of the traditional family has taken its toll on the emotional well being of millions of children.
We must return to the Bible and its instructions for the family. God created the family and he gave us an instruction book on how it was to function. And in that instruction book he says that the father is to be the spiritual leader of the family.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (NKJV) "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
Moses was talking essentially to parents here. First and foremost was to be their own relationship with the living God. Verse 5 here is repeated by Jesus when he is asked which is the greatest commandment in the law.
Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
This is the heart of Christianity, we are to love God and love our neighbor. Notice verse 6 of Deuteronomy 6. Fathers, this is where it all starts. These truths must be in our hearts. So, the first step in being a spiritual leader is to:
1. Take a Spiritual Inventory of our own lives. Every man must ask himself, "Where do I stand spiritually? What is my relationship with God?" Many parents send their children to church because they think that the kids will learn good moral lessons there--and of course they will--but the lessons will lose their impact if the children don't see evidence of the parents' own spirituality.
Recently, at the National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington, D.C., Senator Connie Mack spoke to the group. He admitted that he had always found it difficult to ask his wife to pray with him. He said, "There was a void in my life--a part of me that I was not dealing with." In search of something more, he began attending the weekly Senate prayer breakfast. Then, on October 26, 1995, he moved his chair to the center of the room where his colleagues surrounded him, laid their hands on his shoulders, and prayed for him. He said, "On that day I began the process--began the process--of turning my life over to God."
Spiritual leadership begins with taking a personal spiritual inventory, and beginning the process of letting God have control of your life.
Moses told the fathers that the truths of the Word of God need to be in their hearts and then he went on to say:
Deuteronomy 6:7-9 (NKJV) "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
2.Teach your children the Word of God. 4000 years ago, God said to Moses..."You shall teach them diligently to your children..."
You can't build a spiritually strong family by just coming to church one hour a week. It's a start, but it's not enough. It takes a day-in-day-out commitment. You've got to talk to your kids as you go about your daily lives. If you want to build a strong family, then your children need to see on-going evidence that God is a daily part of your life. They get that message when they have the chance to talk to you about spiritual things.
Moses said, "Talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." The idea here is that all of life is a blackboard that you use to teach your children the truths of God.
This is not talking about sitting down and having a family devotion, that is fine, but what he is saying is that we are to take every opportunity to teach our children the truths of God's Word. Fathers, in order to do this you must:
Spend Time With Your Children.
A recent survey revealed that the average five year old spends only 25 minutes per week with his father. That equals less than three weeks total time together in 18 years! On the other hand, the average child watches TV for 25 hours per week, and will listen to 11,000 rock songs during his/her teenage years. No wonder we can't influence our kids!
Charles Francis Adams, a 19th century political figure, kept a diary. One day he entered, "Went fishing with my son today-a day wasted." His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary which is still in existence. On that same day Brook Adams made this entry, "Went fishing with my dad today-it was the most wonderful day of my life!"
One thousand teenage boys were asked what they wanted most from their parents. The number one answer was to spend more time with them. And Dads, spending the evening at home with the family watching TV in separate rooms isn't considered spending time together. Obviously, this won't build strong families. This is how the Bible says to do it...
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. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
It takes more than 31/2 minutes a day to make a positive impact on someone's life. Great dads spend time with their children. Spending time requires effort; it is an investment. When you give your children your time, you are giving them your heart.
When Billy Crystal's daughter turned 11, Billy was in New York filming a movie. He called her, apologized for his work schedule, and said a package would be delivered soon. He then flew from NY to LA. Later that day when Lindsay opened the front door, a six foot high carton greeted her and she began ripping it open on the spot. Dad was inside the carton. Billy said, "She hugged me for five minutes. It was unbelievable." He went on to say, "I missed 25 birthdays with my dad. I'm not going to let that happen with my girls." Billy was 15 when his father died of a heart attack.
Spending time with your children, whether it be quality or quantity time, is a great thing. Obviously, a father's relationship with his children depends on time. But quality or quantity time spent with children is not the goal - only a mens of achieving the goal. Some fathers will take their son or daughter to the play ground and feel they have fulfilled their fatherly obligation for the week. However, it is not the play ground time itself but what comes out of the play ground time that is important. It is a valuable use of time only if it deepens the father-child relationship. Time is not the goal - relationship is.
Dads, we are to be an example:
Dads, a very important thing for us to realize is that we teach our children more through our example than we do with our words. I think the words of the apostle Paul to the Philippians should be memorized and put into practice by every father:
Philippians 4:9 (NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
This should be our moto, dads, "Do as I do. Watch me, children, and whatever you see me do, you do the same thing." Does it scare you to say that to your children? It shouldn't if you are living in obedience to the Word of God.
The surprising truth about kids is that they really want to be close to their parents. Careers and Colleges Magazine conducted a survey of teenagers, asking them "Whom do you admire?" Among the males, 73% picked their fathers above everyone else. (Others who received first place votes were Denzel Washington, Bill Clinton and Charles Barkley.) Each father needs to take advantage of this built-in tendency to hero-worship, and develop a strong relationship with his children.
Like it or not, your kids will be like you. They might insist that they will never turn out like their parents, but the fact is, they will. How many of you have heard yourself saying something in the exact tone of voice and in the exact way that your parents said it you to 25 or 30 years ago? All of us! And for how many of you, was it something that you vowed you would never say that your kids? It happens to everyone. Children sometimes make exterior changes so that their lives don't resemble the parents', on the surface, but for the most part, they cannot escape the fact that the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree. They're going to be like you in many ways. This is good, of course, because it means that you can pass your strengths from one generation to the next.
Fathers, if we are going to be the spiritual leaders in our homes, we must first make sure that our relationship with the Lord is right. Then we must teach our children the Word of God. We do this by being a godly example and spending time with them. We cannot influence them if we don't spend time with them. Now, let me give you four things that a father can do to build a strong relationship with his children.
1. GIVE THEM A SENSE OF FAMILY IDENTITY
In the movie Vacation, Chevy Chase inspires his family to continue in the face of setbacks because "we're Griswolds, and Griswolds don't quit." Even though he's not exactly the ideal father, and the Griswolds are not the ideal family, Chevy Chase is able to instill pride in the Griswold name-and he gives his son a sense of identity.
God does this through out the Bible, He gives Christians a strong sense of identity:
1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
The process of building a relationship with your children starts by cultivating attitudes that lead to a strong sense of family identity, which is the mutual acceptance of who you are as a team.
2. A FATHER MUST DEMONSTRATE AN ONGOING LOVE FOR HIS WIFE.
The marriage relationship is a stage upon which the performance of relationship is acted out before an audience of watching eyes. Children thrive on the demonstration of love between parents. They want the confidence that Dad is tremendously in love with their mon. A father can be wonderfully active with his children - taking them to the play ground, fishing, skating, taking walks, and helping with homework. But he will nullify all his efforts if he does not continually cultivate a love relationship with his wife. Loving you wife is a prerequisite to building a strong relationship with your children.
One of the greatest emotional needs a child has is the need to know that Dad and Mom love each other. Fathers, the best thing you can give your children is a loving demonstration before their little eyes of how much you love their Mom. The Word of God puts it this way:
Ephesians 5:25-33 (NKJV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 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.
The love of a husband to his wife is to be a picture of how Christ loves the church. Husbands, your relationship with your wives is to provide a picture of Christ's love for the church. If someone were to say, "Exactly how does Christ love me," I should be able to point to your marriage and say, "See how he loves his wife; that is how Jesus loves the church."This is the great illustration that God himself has chosen. We should be communicating to the world by our lives, the invisible ways Christ loves the church. What kind of picture are you giving your children?
3. A FATHER MUST KEEP HIS PROMISES.
What kind of relationship can you have with your children if you don't keep your promises to them? Do they see you as a man of his word? If a father is not trustworthy, if he doesn't keep his word, what will his children's view of God be?
4. A FATHER MUST ROUTINELY EMBRACE HIS CHILDREN.
Fathers who fail to communicate love through touch leave behind yearning hearts that can be taken captive by anyone willing to give them attention. And often, it's the wrong person.
What is a hug? Author Paul Planet puts it this way:
Hugging is very healthy. It helps the body's immune system. It keeps you healthier. It cures depression and reduces stresses. It induces sleep. It is invigorating. It is rejuvenating. It has no unpleasant side affects. Hugging is nothing less than a miracle drug. Hugging is all natural. It is organic and naturally sweet. It contains no pesticides, preservatives, or artificial ingredients, and it is 100% wholesome.
Hugging is practically perfect. There are no movable parts, no batteries to wear out, no periodic check-ups, no monthly payments, no insurance requirements. It offers no energy consumption and returns a high-energy yield while being inflation-proof, nonfattening, theft-proof, nontaxable, non-polluting, and fully returnable.
We all want to manage a winning team, right? Every father wants to have a positive influence on his family. That goes without saying. Understand: you cannot be a positive influence without being a spiritual leader. And being a spiritual leader involves being a godly example and teaching your children the Word of God.
You are called to be the spiritual leader of your family; that means you've got to be spiritual. For some of you that means, like Senator Connie Mack, you need to bow your head in prayer and begin the process of turning your life over to God. For some of you, that means that you need to begin to show your family an example of obedience. For some of you, that means you need to make some changes in the way you treat your wife. For all of us today, it means that we must answer the challenge to lead our families by our example. You've been given a team to manage. You can have a winning team, if you're willing to be the example they need for you to be.