“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”
This past Father’s Day, I had the privilege to preach in our church. As a young father this felt sort of like a daunting task. To be honest on many occasions I have bluntly stated to my wife that, “I have no idea what I am doing”. I am trusting that God knew what he was doing the day he entrusted me with this amazing responsibility. What follows in this post is the basics of the message I preached. I hope it may be of some help to you.
November 24, 2014, is a day I will never forget. That is the date my oldest son was born and for all intensive purposes the day I became a father. I remember standing in the hallway of the little hospital and wearing that stupid looking paper gown. As they prepared my wife for the delivery, I paced the empty OR hallway. I was praying and begging God. I was of course concerned for my wife’s safety and the healthy birth of my son, but even more than that, one thought consumed me, “O God, please don’t let me mess this up.” I was entering fatherhood with great fear and trepidation. Why? Well, the answer is simple. The society we live in has spent decades telling us that Dad is incompetent. If you think I am wrong about this, start paying attention to the dads on your favorite TV shows. To be blunt, Dad is often either a total moron or a hate filled cynic who neglects his children. What are we supposed to do in the face of such brain washing? For the Christian father, the Bible offers some general principles and a few direct commands. Ephesians 6:4 is one of those few commands that we are directly given as dads. The verse is a plea for us to invest in in the spiritual well-being of our children. Below are some investments we ought to be making.
Invest in Hope
What does it mean to invest in the hope of our children? Eph. 6:4 clearly indicates that fathers have a tendency to provoke their children to anger. Paul’s warning in that verse is the main drive and intent of the verse itself, but consider the end result of such provocation. In Colossians 3:21, Paul takes the same command a step further. It reads, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Father’s must have a deep set awareness that they have the capacity to greatly discourage their children. So, we must then ask what the opposite of discouragement is, and the answers as you have probably guessed already is hope. As a father you have the ability to either discourage or encourage your children and this power is not to be taken lightly. This is not to say we do not discipline our children. Numerous Scriptures speak to the importance and necessity of disciplining our children, especially in the book of Proverbs. Paul is not speaking to a temporary discouragement, but rather a permanent one; a deep disheartening. Children lose hope when nothing they do seems to please their parents, when good behavior is not recognized, or when they are ignored despite pleas for attention. Provocation and discouragement is the opposite of the way of the Gospel. It is the opposite of the way that our Heavenly Father cares for us. A quote from the book Give Them Grace sums this thought up well.
“At the deepest level of what we do as parents, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, grace-giving Father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters. If this is not the message that your children hear from you, if the message that you send them on a daily basis is about being good so that you won’t be disappointed, then the gospel needs to transform your parenting.”
We must ask ourselves if the message we are sending our children is a hopeless one or one founded on God’s example of grace.
Invest in Integrity
Ephesians 6:4 goes on to tell us that we should be “bringing them up”. Please notice the difference in language here. The provoking causes the child to be brought down, but the godly father is to bring him up. Instead of treading our children under foot, the aim of fatherhood should be to train and to encourage with the hope that our children’s lives may become of great spiritual value.
One of the ways that we bring our children up is by being fathers of integrity. Proverbs 20:7 says, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” If we are men of integrity, our children will be blessed as a result of that. Proverbs 10:9 gives us a better idea of what integrity is when it says, “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” Integrity is not just about telling the truth verbally (although that is certainly part of it). Integrity is about living an honest life. Those who have integrity don’t have to fear being found out. Fathers should practice openness with their children. Often we are so focused on being Super Dad that we forget that are children need to see that we are human. One of the most damaging things we can do as fathers is to teach our children self-reliance. The danger is that the damage of self-reliance is not immediately noticeable. It takes root in our children’s heart and tells them that they must be perfect and that they cannot ask for help. We need to let our children see our hearts. Let them see your struggles sometimes. Let them see real integrity and not just a manufactured façade. Instead of self-reliance we should be teaching our children a reliance on God. Your son and daughter will never come to you with a problem if they think you don’t have any and they don’t see you going to your Heavenly Father when you are struggling.
Invest in Nurturing
Ephesians 6:4 tells us to bring up our children “in the nurture of the Lord”. What does that mean? Well, thankfully the Scriptures give us a wonderful example of the “nurturing of the Lord.” Luke 18:15-17 tells the familiar story of parents bringing their children to Jesus in the hope that he would simply touch them. The disciples thought he was much to busy and much too important to be dealing with children. Yet, Jesus sets them straight and conveys to them his nurturing heart when he says, “suffer the little children to come unto me.” The question is not if God has a nurturing heart, but whether we as parents even come close to nurturing our own children in the same way. Do you suffer your children to come unto you? Do you invest in your role as a father with loving tender care toward your children or are you much too busy and important for that.
In 1968, Ray Stevens released a song called “Mr. Businessman.” The song dealt with the moral breakdown of business culture and focused on a man who is consumed with his work, with himself, and who is forgetting everything important. One verse of the song describes his neglect of his children.
“Did you see your children growing up today? And did you hear the music of their laughter as they set about to play?”
Equally piercing is the chorus which calls him to change his ways.
“You better take care of business Mr. Businessman. What’s your plan? Get down to business Mr. Businessman if you can, before it’s too late and you throw your life away.”
Is your role as a father just another thing in your life or is it a priority? If not, it is time for you to take care of business. Invest in the nurturing of your children. For far too long fathers have been crippled by the stereotype that to show affection to our children is to show weakness. Your children need your hugs, smiles, and kind words just as much as they need their mother’s. History has told us that nurturing is the job of only the woman, but a father is not only to nurture his children, but to make their nurturing a priority. We need simply to look to Christ to see this.
Invest in Godly Instruction
The final instructions of Ephesians 6:4 is to bring up our children in the “admonition of the Lord”. The meaning of “admonition” here is rebuke or reproof, but ultimately speaks to overall godly instruction of children. We must ask ourselves some important questions.
Where do my children learn about God?
Where do they learn right and wrong?
Where do they learn that God loves them so much that he sent his son to die for them?
If you are not the primary answer to these questions, then you are neglecting your duties as the spiritual leader in your home. Church is a wonderful thing, but it is not enough. Don’t excuse yourself from your duties as a godly father, by using the excuse that your children attend Sunday School or Church. The role of those settings is to reinforce what you are already teaching them in the home. Imagine the power of the gospel when it is presented by a father. After all the gospel story is one of a father sending his only son to die for the sins of man. Don’t you think that has a lot more impact when you tell it to your son or daughter? Never forget that your primary responsibility as a father is to admonish your children in the things of the Lord.
It is no coincidence that the Devil has made it a priority to systematically tear down and denigrate the role of fathers in the home. Unfortunately most of us are neglecting our responsibilities in one way or another. We are not living up to the plan God has set forth for fatherhood. Never forget that God’s desire for fathers is that they reflect the Heavenly Father to their children. We should take up the charge of fatherhood so that we may raise up hopeful children.
-Hopeful in the love of the Lord
-Hopeful in our own love and nurturing
-Driven to hope by the example of our integrity
If you prefer listening and want to hear this sermon, you can access it at the link below.