For Fathers: A Warning, an Example and a Challenge
It is no secret that the family unit is under great attack today! As a middle aged father I sometimes wonder, ‘How can we possibly make it in today’s world as Christian family?’ According to the word of God, this attack is nothing new. The need is for fathers to make firm decision for the Lord and then live it out by example in his family.
Joshua was one father who made such a decision for his family when he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh.24:15). Let’s look at three other families in the Bible-the first as a warning, the second as an example and the third as a challenge for the Christian home today.
A Warning from the Past.
The enemy of a Christian home is also the enemy of Christ, Satan himself. He was successful in his attack on the very first family, Adam and Eve, because they failed to make a decision to follow God (Gen.3). Not listening to the Word of God always affects us personally and as a family. Genesis 3 gives three consequences for not listening God.
First, Adam and Eve didn’t listen to the voice of God, and as a result listened to the wrong voice. When the serpent came to them, he caused them to doubt God’s love. Things are no different today. If we are not determined to listen to the voice of the Lord through His Word, we will hear other voices that will cause us to doubt Him and His love for us.
Secondly, as a result of listening to the wrong voice, they acted independently of God. Each family needs to decide whether or not it will depend entirely on the Word of God or act independently of it. When we trust ourselves instead of God, we hear other voices and miss God’s best for our family.
Thirdly, when a family acts independently of God, it is easy to begin excusing failure. This is what happened in the first family: they began blaming each other for their failure. When we are not right with God, it is so easy to start comparing ourselves with other families or to let the imperfections in one another divide us. This impacts on everyone involved and has long lasting effects as well (Gen:4).
This warning should cause fathers to ask, “Has my family been listening to the right voice?” In our busy life, it is so easy to go through each day independently of God. As a father, I need to bring my family together each day to hear from the Lord by reading His Word, and to teach them to express dependence on Him through prayer.
An Example for the Present.
One man who did this was Abram (Gen:12). We see him obeying God and putting all that he had at God’s disposal. And he doesn’t do it alone. His family, including his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, moved out in faith. They might not understood all that was happening, but Abram didn’t keep them in dark as to what God was doing in his life. As he made progress in his walk with God, he brought his family along because it affected them too.
This is an important principle husbands and fathers to put into practice. As we make spiritual progress with the Lord, are we making sure our wives and children are progressing as well? Are we taking the time to see that they too are growing in the Lord? This is what Abram does. We see him and his family together between Shechem and Moreh. Shechem means shoulder Moreh means instructor. Abram placed himself and his family between the shoulder (a place of strength and rest) and the instructor. This is where Christian families need to be today, leaning on the Lord in the dependency of prayer and being instructed by the Word. The shoulder also speaks of the responsibility, and each husband and father should take up the responsibility of instructing his family for spiritual growth.
As his family looked on, Abram built an altar to worship the Lord. At an early age our children can learn the importance of worship. It’s good to have some set time for family to give thanks to the Lord together. It doesn’t have to be long and tiring. Instead, it can be a time that includes singing and praising the Lord which the whole family enters into. It is important to teach them to “remember their Creator in the days of their youth”.
Abram not only built an altar, but his family also saw him put up there tent there. In doing this, his family learned that they were not home yet, because the tent is the temporary dwelling. We too need to remind our families, by example, that we are not home yet, that there is more than just living for this life! Abram lived for what was to come (Heb:11:10). It is so easy to lose sight of our eternal destiny. Abram’s example encourages us to teach our families what it is to “call on the name of the Lord” (Gen:12:8) to live daily in His presence with a pilgrim attitude.
A Challenge for the Future.
In Luke 1 we are introduced to Zacharias and Elizabeth, a couple who lived in the presence of the Lord daily and whose lives are marked with faith and obedience. Together they have decided to follow the Word of God. Their family is the only family in the New Testament where each member is said have been filled with the Holy Spirit.
While Zacharias was fulfilling his priestly duties, a real work of God began to take place in his family. He was told that his son John would be the forerunner of Lord Jesus and that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit (luke:1:15). At this point, John didn’t see his father serving the Lord in the temple; however, I believe there is a challenge here for each father. Does my family hear me pray and give thanks publicly? Do they see me “offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” as a believer priest? (1Pet:2:5, Heb:13:15).
At the end of the chapter, we see that Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke openly of the Lord to his son. What a Godly example to his child, as he speaks with thanks giving of who God is. In the hearing of his son, he speaks of seven things that touched his heart concerning his God: (1) He is the Redeemer; (2) He is Strong; (3) He is Sovereign God; (4) He is the Deliverer; (5) He is Merciful; (6) He is the promise keeper; (7) He is Holy and Righteous (Luke:1:68-73).
Think of what would happen if Christian fathers spoke often of God like this in the hearing of their children. This is part of “training up a child in the way he should go” (Pro:22:6).
Zacharias goes on to instruct his son John as to his future, his responsibilities, and his privileges before God. We are to give the same type of instruction to our children today: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph: 6:4).
May the Lord grant each of us as husbands and fathers to be warned by the failures of Adam, to be encourages to lead our families by faith like Abram, and to bbe an example to our children as Zacharias was. As we do, may God be glorified and our families strengthened.