Since we have been thinking about fathers recently, Cheryl and I wanted to share a chapter from our upcoming book, Raising Kids for Tomorrow’s World: 12 Keys to Preserving the Faith. This book was written with small fellowship groups in mind. Each chapter includes questions for reflection and discussion. Anticipating a Fall 2021 release! Updates coming soon.
Chapter 19 The Gift of Fathers
When Paul stated in I Thessalonians 2 that he acted like a father with his children, he chose three different words to describe his fatherly instruction to the church. He said he exhorted, encouraged, and charged them. We recognize these characteristics since they are natural to a father. No one expects a father to be neglectful or indifferent to the upbringing of his children. Exhorting and encouraging and charging are what fathers are made to do.
“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God…” I Thessalonians 2:11-12
We also understand the wisdom needed by our children can only come from the source of wisdom, which is God himself. To supply this, fathers must make regular excursions to the source in order to bring wise and tender words to their children. In God’s plan for the family, He created fathers to guide, to watch over, to preserve and restore. Yet, this is not a burdensome task for the one who loves his children. He gladly expends himself for their sake. Sacrificial duty is its own fulfillment.
Paul first mentions exhortation, which includes instruction and teaching. Dads are good at this one, aren’t they? As we noted, it is natural. When giving exhortation, they have a destination or a character trait in mind for their children. Paul’s exhortation was given so the Thessalonians would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls them.
Yet, in our desire to shape our children and move them toward responsible adulthood, dads can easily exercise such a control over our sons and daughters that we exasperate them. This can occur even though our intent is to instruct them. In Colossians 3:21, Paul cautions, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” And, in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Paul encourages restraint—being under control, within limits, moderate. Immoderate harshness can cause children to be so disheartened, they may be incapable of receiving any honorable training. Our children need to be encouraged, thus Paul’s second word.
When we think of encouraging our children, we realize there are many times when a wise father understands his children’s need for assurance. They need to know Dad is listening to them. Our children often lack courage because they are growing up in a world increasingly hostile to them and their beliefs. Dads, the best way to encourage your children to walk the worthy walk is to be with them on their journey to spiritual maturity. “Hey, walk with me. We will do this together.”
“Hey, walk with me. We will do this together.”
If you have ever been assigned a task, you received a directive and were charged with completing a mission. Those in the military understand authority means having the ability to impose obligation. Paul charged the Thessalonians to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. But his was not a “go and do” directive. Paul offered himself as an example, and most importantly, offered to “go and do” with them. Here is the great opportunity given to fathers, to invite their children to walk with them. Going with them has much greater power for transforming lives than merely giving instructions. We have the opportunity to demonstrate and model our obedience and invite our children to join us.
We may think we have more power as drivers of our children, but we have more power as draw-ers of our children. Few people shape our character and our personality more than our father. Fathers are not to indulge and spoil their children nor are they to humiliate and suppress them. The challenge in fatherhood is to get this right. “A righteous man who walks in his integrity–How blessed are his sons [and daughters] after him” (Proverbs 20:7).
The challenge in fatherhood is to get this right.
Further Reading for Dads:
Ten Ways to Exasperate Your Children