Tomorrow is Father’s Day. One of the greatest joys in my life is being a dad to my kids. Over the years, I’ve learned many lessons about being a dad, but one of the most important is that in order to be a good dad, you must be a good Christian.
By being a good Christian, you develop a relationship with your heavenly Father, the perfect Dad, that informs everything you do as a dad. And by cultivating a deep understanding of the Scriptures, you grow in wisdom, grace, and ability to raise your kids well and to the glory of God.
To pursue that goal, we must worship God first by repenting of sin and coming to him by faith for grace to love him, as an example and pattern for our kids and, God willing, grandkids. As we daily commit ourselves to his ways and being his sons, we’re instructed on how to care for our children and lead them to worship God with us.
Here are some practical ways to love your kids like God, our Father, loves us:
1. Delight in your kids before discipline.
In Proverbs 3:11–12 the father says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Before any father disciplines his children, he is commanded to delight in them. Practically, this means that most of a father’s time is spent enjoying his children, encouraging his children, laughing with his children, being affectionate with his children, and enjoying his children so that there is a deep bond of love and joy between the children and their dad.
“A godly father models submission to authority and the welcoming of correction by repenting of his own sin.”
Part of that love includes a father disciplining his children as needed to keep them on a path of wisdom and righteousness. This pattern is to be modeled by the father who has God as his Father and gladly receives instruction and correction from God the Father and other authorities God has placed over him (e.g., church elders and other leaders).
Therefore, a godly father models submission to authority and the welcoming of correction by repenting of his own sin, receiving forgiveness, and walking in restored intimacy with God the Father by empowering grace. All of this is the essence of love, as sin leads to death and hell, and discipline leads to repentance, which points us back to life and God. Practically, this means that a good father lives out the gospel every day in fellowship with God and his child, and that he knows what to do about sin in the life of his child because he’s been dealing with his own sin in his own life first.
2. Protect your kids by fearing God.
Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Sadly, our world is not a very safe place for children, as the statistics on neglect, abuse, molestation, fornication, and rape indicate. But God says that the safest place for children is with a man who fears the Lord.
Men who fear God take God’s wisdom and use their masculine strength to create a fortress of protection and provision around their homes so that their wives and children can live freely and happily under their care. Practically, this means that a godly father does not allow his children to be unsupervised at the homes of people he does not know, is very careful to oversee any dating done by his daughters, and goes to great lengths to ensure that safety is pursued in everything from where the family lives to who they are in close friendship with and who is welcomed into their home.
3. Be a man for your kids and live righteously.
Proverbs 20:7 says, “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” Similarly, Paul tells the Corinthians that when he was a boy he acted like one, but when he became a man he put childish ways behind him (1 Cor. 13:11). It is imperative that Christian fathers repent of their childish ways (i.e., laziness, lust, whining, drunkenness, juvenile antics, neglecting family in the pursuit of hobbies, foolish spending, and so on) because their sins impinge upon the lives of their children and grandchildren. A Christian father should aspire to live in such a way as to be a righteous example to his children, which produces a path of blessing that flows to the children from the faithfulness of their father as they follow his loving leadership.
4. Work hard for your kids.
Lazy fathers are disobedient to God but want to have children who are obedient to them. Such fathers may speak good wisdom, but it is overshadowed by the loudness of the foolish hypocrisy in their lives. Proverbs 26:7 stands as a warning to such men, saying, “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.”
Wisdom is not merely what a father says, but also his lifestyle and the degree of congruence between his words and his actions. Foolish fathers say things such as, “Well, don’t do as I do, do as I say.” What they mean is, “I’m a complete hypocrite, but do what I tell you to do anyways.” Proverbs says that these men speak with no authority and so their children ignore them or mock them as funny and foolish hypocrites. Tragically, these children often face the most devastating teen years because they have no wise father to turn to in a culture of folly, and themselves fall prey to many sins and pains.
5. Create a legacy for your kids.
While fools are consumed with the present, wisdom looks to the future. Proverbs 17:6 leans us into the future, saying, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.”
The point God is teaching here is that young men should be thinking about what kind of grandfather they aspire to be before they even take a wife, because they have a lot of work to do to get there. Godly men aspire to be both good fathers and good grandfathers, like Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian, who prayed each day for five generations of his offspring in hopes of being a patriarch like Abraham. Wisdom enables a father to see that the way he lives affects the kind of children he raises, which affects the kind of children they raise, and so on.
The above image is from a recent Leadership Coaching video Pastor Mark did with his son Gideon.
This post is adapted from Pastor Mark’s book, Pastor Dad: Scriptural Insights On Fatherhood. Download a free PDF version of the entire book here.