It is hard to overstate the significance of a father’s role in the life of his family. By God’s design fathers are meant to function as the chief familial example of Jesus Christ to their children. Although we will never be able to perfectly display the character of Christ, we are undeniably called to be a picture of Christ for our little ones to see. We are called to be a consistent example of his kindness, mercy, righteousness and love. I think almost all christian men accept this as it pertains to their personal conduct, but there is more to displaying Christ to our kids than simply being a good example, we are also called to be teachers.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”
What exactly should we be training our children in? What should we be teaching them? Many fathers never get around to even asking these questions, and many others may ask but they leave the questions inadequately answered. They never stop to think, consider, ponder, or meditate upon the incredibly significant position of influence God has given them. They don’t take time to digest the responsibility upon their shoulders not only to provide food, clothing and shelter, but to provide consistent and gracious personal instruction for their children’s soul. I don’t intend to unpack the depths of these verses in this blog, nor to offer an over-simplified cookie-cutter answer. What I mean to do is provoke you to step up to the plate and offer a few pointers on how to swing for the fences by faith.
The Discipline of the Lord
“Fathers… bring them up in the discipline… of the Lord.”
What we do know about the Lord’s discipline that might help us rightly digest this verse? We know that the Lord’s discipline is always rooted in love. And we know that the Lord’s discipline is always rooted in his commandments. But how do these apply to your role as an earthly father?
Discipline rooted in love is the opposite of discipline rooted in anger, impatience, frustration or annoyance. It is not a discipline that seeks personal preference but a discipline that seeks the greatest good of the child. This means there will be times when you need to step up and speak boldly (even when you might feel tired and tempted to be passive), and there will also be times when you need to keep quiet because you aren’t actually frustrated with a sinful attitude or behavior, you are frustrated because your children’s development and needs are interfering with your preferences and plans.
Discipline rooted in God’s commandments is predictable. It is not based on how your day goes, how tired you might feel, or whether the circumstances of your life happen to be favorable. God’s discipline is not dependent on his mood, it is dependent on the clearly defined expectations he has set forth in his Word. It is a very sad thing for children to grow up in a home where they never know what to expect from their parents because their parent’s parenting is based on their ever-fluctuating circumstances and emotions. God is not like this. He does not deal harshly with us some days and kindly with us on others based on his disposition, and neither should we. Fathers are called to be consistent in their loving discipline and offer their children clearly defined expectations so that the child knows how to walk in obedience and please them. Without this, the child lives in a constant state of uneasiness and unrest.
The Instruction of the Lord
“Fathers… bring them up in the… instruction of the Lord.”
Where do we receive the Lord’s instruction? The answer is the Bible. Fathers, you are called to train your children to the best of your ability in the truths of God’s Word. This requires intentionality. No one accidentally holds regular devotions with his kids. No one accidentally spends time in prayer with his little ones. No one accidentally gathers his family to sing praise to Almighty God. These things come through driven effort, intentionality, planning, and diligence (all of which we have been empowered with through God’s Spirit living in us). Make no mistake dad, you are called to point your children to the truth of the gospel and help them understand the depths of the riches of God’s mercy found there. This isn’t a one-weekend retreat, it is a lifelong process of meeting each of your children right where they are and prayerfully investing your mind into their soul. You cannot lead someone where you have never been, which means part of being a good father is remembering that you yourself are a son under the great Father and sitting at his feet often to learn for yourself.
Take some time today and ask:
• How am I doing in this?
• What things am I really glad my dad taught me about the Lord?
• What things do I wish he would have taught me?
Whether they admit it or not, your children deeply crave the special loving attention of their daddy investing in them with all his heart. Set a time, set a place, and commit to “training up your children in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.”