Fathers who lead

Dads, we’re either headed toward a spiritual stirring or we’re looking at becoming an endangered species. While most Americans have not bought into the ‘daddies are dinosaurs’ rhetoric, I think there is a growing ambivalence about the importance of fathers in our culture. We need to come back to a biblical theology of fatherhood. God very clearly says that dads are to be difference-makers by leading and loving their wives and kids. Fellow fathers, it’s my prayer that through our study of God’s Word together that we might experience a great awakening ­ in both our person and in our parenting!

Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

In the first century, when this passage was written, families were presided over by fathers who could do whatever they pleased in their homes. 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, 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. Seneca, a contemporary of the apostle Paul, described Roman policy with regard to unwanted animals: “We slaughter a fierce ox; we strangle a mad dog; we plunge a knife into a sick cow. Children born weak or deformed we drown.”

The Bible calls Christian fathers to a different standard. Just as it was revolutionary for dads to lovingly lead their kids in the first century, faithful fathers today who do not exasperate their kids are counter-cultural. Our kids are not property to own but image bearers of God who need to be managed and trained. Dads, we are called to provide a proper nurturing environment where our kids can grow up to love and serve Christ. Our primary responsibilities by which our fathering will be judged are set forth in Ephesians 6:4. I want you to notice the very first word of this verse: “Fathers.” I think Paul addresses just dads here because he knows that we especially need to hear this. He doesn’t say “parents” or “moms and dads.” He uses the word, “Fathers.” Most of us dads are sloppy in our fathering, not giving much thought to what we’re called to do. This verse brings us up short by calling us to some pretty high standards.In essence, Paul is challenging us to see the word “fathers” as a verb not just a noun. It’s biologically easy to become a father, but biblically challenging to actually “father” our children. The Bible very clearly challenges dads to become the point men in their homes because the ultimate responsibility for what a family becomes is the father’s. In this passage, we’re given 4 “Dad Duties.” One duty is something we should not do; the other three are what we are to do.

The first duty is negative ­ we are told to “not exasperate our children.” This is a caution or warning designed to put us on guard against stirring up anger in our kids either deliberately or through careless provocations. I think Paul started with a negative command because he knows that fathers, who are fallen creatures, are prone to abuse their authority in the home. The Greek word translated “exasperate” means “to rouse to anger” or “to enrage.” The present tense of the verb indicates that we are to stop doing something that is common and continuous. This warning is calling us dads to avoid anything that will eventually break the sprit of our children. Paul puts it this way in Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” When we exasperate our kids, they can become bitter and bummed out.

While there are times when kids become sinfully angry due to their own selfishness or immaturity, there are other times when dads are guilty of aggravating their kids. We can do that by deliberately goading them, by callously neglecting them or by any number of other intentional or careless means that exasperate them. When that happens, it is we dads who are sinning ­ and provoking our children to sin as well. Remember that our children are commanded by God to honor us. When we provoke them to wrath, we are causing them to sin against the Fifth Commandment. In such cases we are guilty before God for disobeying Ephesians 6:4 and also doubly guilty for causing our children to stumble.

The word “instead” shows a contrast between what we should not do and what we are to do. Here’s the first thing we are called to do: provide nurture. The NIV translates this verb as “bring them up.” This is the same phrase that is used in 5:29 referring to the husband’s role of “feeding and caring” for his wife. Men, we are called to nourish our wife and children by sharing love and encouragement in the Lord. Notice also that we are to “bring them up.” We are to bring our children up because they will not get there by themselves. Dads, we are to take an active role in shaping the character of our children. Proverbs 29:15 says, “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” John MacArthur puts it this way: “What ruins most children is not what their parents do to them, but what they do not do for them.” What strikes me here is that as a dad I am called to not just raise two sons; I’m called to raise two adults. I’m not just a dad of sons; I’m charged with providing a nurturing environment so that they grow up to become young men of God. The phrase, “bring them up” also carries with it the idea of “tutoring” and “instructing.” I’m a dad,  I’m also a tutor and teacher for my sons. In fact, my most important job is to disciple my kids and to leave a legacy of faithfulness for them.

According to a 50-year study of Christian and non-Christian families, most young adults who follow Christ either come from non-Christian homes or from homes where they grew up in love with Jesus because mom and dad were in love with Jesus. Their parent’s passion for Christ permeated their lives and passed through their pores to their kids. Sadly, very few believers came from homes where there was a kind of indifferent, apathetic commitment to Christ. It is sobering to suggest that the chances are better for a child growing up in a non-Christian home to become a sold-out believer than for a child growing up in a spiritually lukewarm environment.

Dads, how are you doing on this one? Are you modeling authentic faith? Are you providing a nurturing atmosphere in your home in which your children can grow up to love and serve Christ? Are you looking for ways to teach and tutor your kids or are you leaving this for mom to handle? One of the best ways to parent your children is to live authentically yourself. As someone has said, “One way to correct your children is to correct the example you’re setting for them.”

Proverbs 13:24 in the New King James Version provides a strong challenge to us dads: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: “If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them.” You may hesitate to discipline because you think that you’re being unkind to your kids. Actually, when you don’t discipline, you’re being more than unkind ­ you’re not loving them. If we love our kids, then we must admonish, rebuke, and discipline them.Listen carefully. I’m not advocating that you beat your kids. What I am saying is this: children need to be disciplined by their dads. Our kids not only need correction, they want it. If we don’t give it to them, we’re failing them and may cause them to fall away from the faith. Hebrews 12:11 speaks of God’s loving discipline in our lives by showing how beneficial it really is: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”It’s important to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty and focuses on the past. The purpose of discipline is to promote growth by looking to the future. Dads, our kids are looking for us to train them and love them by disciplining them.

And so dads, we are to avoid making our kids angry if at all possible and we’re to provide nurture and discipline. There’s one last thing that we’re called to do in this verse: we’re to provide instruction. Notice that this instruction is to be “in the Lord.”“Lord” is an extremely exalted title as Paul uses it in the New Testament. To say that Jesus is Lord means that He is the rightful king of the universe, He is ruler over the entire world, He is commander of all the armies of heaven, He is triumphant over sin and death and pain and Satan and hell, and He will one day establish His kingdom in righteousness.

Dads, we are to bring up our children to hope in the triumph of God. There are at least three ways that we can do this:

—Bring them up to find their place in the triumphant cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.
—Bring them up to see everything in relation to the victory of God. Do whatever it takes to make all of life God-saturated for your kids.
—Bring them up to know that the path of sin is a dead end street because righteousness will prevail in the end.

Dads, you are the point man in your home. You are the coach of your team. You are the captain and your barracks is boot camp for training young soldiers for the greatest combat in the world. Your residence is a launching pad for missiles of missionary zeal aimed at the unreached peoples of the world. Our goal is not merely to get our kids to outwardly conform to a list of rules. Our mandate is to develop children who seek to glorify God with their lives. It is not enough to teach them to do good things; our job is to teach our children how to develop a lifestyle of kingdom servanthood. One of the best ways to make your family God-saturated is by having a regular time of family devotions. Dads, you’re the leader. Lead on! Your kids are waiting for you to step up to the plate!

Let’s be honest about something. We have a problem, don’t we? My trouble, more often than not, is that I’m not engaged as a dad. I’m not always fully present. My heart is not always in the job.Dads, you don’t have to make all these changes on your own. In the very last verse of the Old Testament, in Malachi 4:6, the prophet looks ahead to the ministry of John the Baptist and writes this: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”I know for me it’s really a heart issue. If my heart is fully focused on my kids, then I will do a pretty good job of fathering. Dads, if you sense that your heart is not really into parenting, and you sense that your kids don’t have much to do with you, then make this verse your personal prayer. Ask God to turn your heart to your children and ask Him to turn their hearts to you. He will be glad to answer a prayer like this.

let me remind you of 3 things:
1. There are no perfect fathers, except our Heavenly Father.
2. We can all be better dads if we will work at it.
3. We do not father alone. That’s why we need to pray daily for our kids.

The bible commands us to be the spiritual leaders of our familes. It is full of ways we are to lead our children. If you haven’t seen the movie Courageous you should but, follow in up by reading the book The Resoulation of Men. Seek the word and the wisdom of God to be the man and leader you were called to be. Get involved in your childs life, lead them but, most importantly be a shining example.


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