Sunday Sermon: ‘Dads’ (Father’s Day 2017)

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It’s good to be back home at Twin Oaks. Tammy and I had a wonderful vacation, but we missed our church family and thought about you often. Some of you ask, “Are you all rested and ready to go?” and my answer is “Yes!”

One of the things I like to do while on vacation is to read some good books. Before I left I chose three books from my library that, although I’ve read them before, I chose to re-read them because of the impact they’ve had upon my life. All three books are about the family and I chose these books because over the next few weeks I want to preach some messages about the family. Much of what I have learned about being a dad came from these three books.

The first book I read was actually the first book I ever read on the family. Tammy gave it to me on Father’s Day, 1991. The title of the book is “Always Daddy’s Girl” by Dr. Norman Wright. Unfortunately, it is no longer in print; however, if you are interested in getting it, you can find some used copies through Amazon.

When Tammy first gave me this book, Cindy was 7 and Amy was 2; therefore, we were right in the thick of parenting. I am so thankful that Tammy gave me this book because God used it to open my eyes to the importance of my role as a father. Before reading this book, I thought that my responsibility was primarily to put food on the table and to protect my family from danger. I had no idea the influence I as a dad had upon my children, especially my two daughters. I didn’t have a sister growing up. For the most part, my world was a man’s world. Although I was thrilled that God had given us two special little girls, I was intimidated by them. What did I know about raising daughters?

If I had to select one detail from the book to summarize its message it would be this. A study was done with children playing a game with both their mom and dad participating. After the play time, the children were questioned about which of the two parents they preferred the most as their playmate. 70% of the children preferred their dad.[1] Now moms, don’t get offended. Your children love you. But dads, consider what this is saying. 7 out of 10 the children studied preferred their dad to be their playmate. Why?

There are a number of reasons why children might prefer their dads as their primary playmate. For one thing, dads tend to be a little more animated during playtime and therefore cause laughter and excitement. Most children love it when the pretend monster gets them. Another reason is because of the importance fathers hold in the lives of their children. As one author put it, “Dads are more than a second adult in the house.” Dads have a very important and distinct role to play in the family.

One of the greatest truths found in all the Bible is that salvation puts us in a relationship with God, whereby we are able to know Him as our ‘Abba’ Father. This is so important that Paul stated it twice in his New Testament writings. (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:16) When Jesus was in the garden, praying to His Father, He addressed Him as ‘Abba, Father.’ (Mark 14:36) What does the term ‘Abba’ mean? Literally it means ‘Daddy.’ I’ve not only had an earthly father in life; I now have a heavenly Father who knows and loves me more than anyone else ever has. He has promised to always be with me. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. And He is always aware of every minute detail of my life and He continually invites me to draw close to Him and to share with Him every detail of my life.

I have not even come close to being the kind of daddy to my daughters that God has been to me, but I am so thankful that early in my years as a dad, God began to reveal to me that He was in this with us as Tammy and I attempted to raise our two daughters and that He would help me, if I would seek Him. I am a slow learner sometimes and I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but God was always with me and constantly trying to reveal to me the things I needed to know and learn.

With that thought in mind, please look with me at a verse of scripture found in the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Although this is only one verse of scripture, it says so much that it will take us a couple of weeks to unpack it.

As I have studied over this verse, I’ve noticed two very important details:

1) Paul is speaking directly to fathers. “And, ye fathers…”

2) Paul gives two commands to fathers. In this one verse, Paul is summarizing much of what it means to be a dad. One command Paul gives addresses what we as dads are not to do, and the other command addresses what we are to do.

I. Fathers, Don’t Do Things That Will Discourage Your Children

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…           

A. Why Fathers and Not Also Mothers?

Why does Paul address fathers and not also mothers? Can a mother do things that might discourage her children? Of course she can if she is not being led by God. Yet Paul speaks directly to the dads in this verse. I believe that there are at least a couple of reasons why Paul does this.

1. Paul Was in the Process of Changing a Cultural Mindset  

Christianity has had a huge impact upon culture. For one thing, Christianity has changed the way we view women. Before Christianity, women were viewed in many cultures as being little more than slaves. Christianity helped changed that. Christianity also changed the relationship between husbands and wives. The New Testament teaches men to love their wives as Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He loved it sacrificially and laid down his life for the church. Christ is the model for the Christian husband. Christianity also helped to bring about the abolishment of slavery. Christianity elevates the sacredness of life and takes the strongest stand against things like abortion and euthanasia. And in this passage of scripture, we see that Christianity also helped to change the way dads view their children.

Paul says, “Fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath…”

A child asked her mother one day, “How are babies born?” The mother told her daughter that God made Adam and Eve and they had babies which grew up to be adults and they had babies and so on and so on. The child went to her father and asked him the same question and the father told her that we came from apes. The child rushed back to her mother and said, “You lied to me. Daddy says that we came from the apes.” The mother replied, “Oh honey, your father was talking about his side of the family.”

In order to fully understand what Paul was saying, we need to realize that he was speaking to men who at one time acted like animals. Warren Wiersbe gives some very important details about the average Roman father during Paul’s day.

In Paul’s day, the father had supreme authority over the family. When a baby was born into a Roman family, for example, it was brought out and laid before the father. If he picked it up, it meant he was accepting it into the home. But if he did not pick it up, it meant the child was rejected. It could be sold, given away, or even killed by exposure.” [2]

Today we recognize that this kind of behavior is barbaric. Yet this was the mindset of the average father in Paul’s day. Though the Christian fathers might not leave their newborn children to die, no doubt many of these dads still had a hard edge on them. Therefore, Paul commanded them, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…”  

a. Don’t Provoke Your Children to Wrath

Many of your translations says, “Do not provoke your children to anger.” Does that mean that we should never tell little Johnny ‘no’ or else he might get upset and throw a temper tantrum? Does that mean that parents should let their children express themselves however the child pleases, or else we might damage the child’s ego?

As we will see in next week’s study, that is not what Paul is saying. Actually, Paul is going to teach us that boundaries and discipline are an important part of raising a child to know and love God.

What then is Paul saying? Paul is telling these Christian fathers to not treat their children in such a way that it might cause their child to lose heart and give up. I like the way Paul expressed this same principle in his letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. NIV

Causing a child to become embitter goes beyond a child getting upset because the parent said ‘no.’ It is creating a deep-seated resentment that causes the child to close their spirit.

Paul says that the child can become ‘discouraged.’ Literally the words he used means that the child will lose their passion for life. They will become disheartened and give up. They’ll close down and quit.

The Amplified Version of the Bible gives an interesting slant on this.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive…”

How can a parent discourage their child and cause them to become bitter? By making demands of the child that are trivial, unreasonable, humiliating, or abusive. Literally beating the child down to the point where the child gives up.

As I studied this passage, my mind went to a father in the Bible whose name was Jacob. Jacob raised twelve sons and ten of those twelve sons hated their father. Why did these ten sons hate their father? They did so because their father failed to properly love them. Jacob withheld his love and affection from these sons and there are passages of scripture where we can see that Jacob often spoke to them in a condescending manner. Therefore, the boys responded with anger. As many of you know, they vented their hatred towards their younger brother named Joseph and sold him into slavery. Some of the brothers actually wanted to kill Joseph.

b. But Bring Them Up in the Fear and Admonition of the Lord

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The term ‘bring them up’ literally means – “nourish them up.” Rather than being harsh to your children, tenderly nourish them up in the things of God.

When do you envision when you hear the term ‘nourish?’ If a woman had a flower that was about to die and she nourished it back to health, what would she do? She would give the plant some tender loving care. She would water it and perhaps put Miracle Grow on it and she maybe she might even talk to it. She would make huge investments in the well-being of the plant and as a result, the plant would flourish.

B. Paul Was Emphasizing the Importance of Fatherhood

No one will question the power of a godly mother’s influence, yet many often overlook the power of the father’s influence. In another passage Paul said,

1 Thessalonians 2:11 …we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God…

Godly fathers bring encouragement their children. Godly fathers bring assurance to their children. Godly fathers inspire their children to live for God. 

II. Fathers, Encourage Your Children

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

A. Moms and Dads Parent Differently

How many times have you heard a single parent say, “It’s hard to be both mom and dad”? Many parents have to do that and we as the body of Christ should do all we can to help them.

The reason it is hard to be both mom and dad is because moms and dads parent differently. Moms and dads parent differently because God created men and women to be different. We think differently. We react to certain situations differently. We parent differently. I read the other day that sometimes on the playground, the mom is primarily concerned with the child not being hurt, while the dad is pushing the swing higher.

Children need a parent to protect them, and they also need a parent that will challenge them to become all that they can be. Maybe that’s one of the reasons children prefer dads to be their playmate. Maybe the dad brings some challenge and adventure into the playtime.

B. Dads and Their Children  

Here are a few things that I read about dads and their children: 

“Children tend to take their cues about home life from mom… while their view of the outside world often comes from dad” [3]

“Fathers play a primary role in teaching their children the truth about reality.” [4]

“It is the father who is essential for sending his children forth with a biblical view of reality and a faith in Jesus Christ that is rooted in solid understanding.” [5]

C. Charles Stanley – A Man’s Touch    

One of the books I have in my library on parenting was written by Charles Stanley. He entitled one chapter in his book, “Man of Steel and Velvet.” Dads have to be both velvet and steel.

Here are five traits that he listed in regards to the strength a dad brings to his home:

1) Commitment

2) Conviction

3) Courage

4) Character

5) Confidence

Application:

Dads, we play an important role in the lives of our children. Norman Wright teaches us that our influence is not only while our children are young and still in the home, but throughout the rest of our children’s lives.

Therefore, I would like to have a prayer of commitment over our dads present here today. My prayer is that God will bless you and empower you to be the kind of dad that can help your children know and love God.

_____________________________________

[1] William Woolfolk and Donna W. Cross, Daddy’s Little Girl (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982) adapted from page 20, quoted in H. Norman Wright, Always Daddy’s Girl (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1989) 120.

[2] Warren Wiersbe, Be Rich [Victor Books], p. 153

[3] adapted from: http://www.christianpost.com/news/fathers-key-to-their-childrens-faith-51331/#f1cmTP5kIjmYsWKg.99

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

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