It’s Father’s Day time, and pastors are getting their sermons ready for that special day. Pastors are looking for a creative way to dress men down. We have to whip out the old thesaurus to find synonyms for worthless dirtbags and, thankfully, the English language provides no shortage of terms to make men feel bad about themselves. I think there’s probably something to the way men seek to inspire men: men tend to respond to being charged, to being challenged (maybe?). The truth is that there are plenty of deadbeats out there to lambaste and ridicule, but there are also lots of men trying their hardest.
Paul teaches us in 1 Thessalonians
that we’re supposed to approach different categories of people in different ways (e.g. warning the unruly, comforting the fainthearted, upholding the weak). On Father’s Day, the status quo is to yell at everybody and an unintended consequence is that the fainthearted become more fainthearted and the weak get weaker.
I want to tell you that there are a lot of fathers out there on the right track. I want to point out what dads are doing right, encourage them to continue in doing right, and tell them how they can get better (I just can’t help myself).
1. Kudos to the dads that are there – It’s sad that our society has got to the point where we congratulate fathers for staying in their children’s lives. However, dad, if you’re in your child’s life you are off to a good start. My mother-in-law’s father was a drunk, but she told me something I’ll never forget she said, “I always knew where he was.” In a weird way she received comfort from knowing her dad was around. If you’re still around that means you haven’t quit yet and we live in a world where it’s becoming easier and easier and more accepted to give up.
Charge – Dads, your children need you. Being there physically is a wonderful thing. Now you must learn to be there emotionally, mentally and spiritually. They know they can find you on your EZ chair or in your shop, but how about you go and find them? Pray with your children; find out what interests them and join them in it.
2. Way to have a job – There are a lot of dads in my neighborhood, and every day every one of them minus one gets up and goes to work. They provide for their families. That’s commendable. Their kids understand that people are supposed to work.
Charge – Tell them why. Talk about the kind of work you do and the reason you do it. Explain to them why it’s important for people to work hard. Bring them to work with you some day–I don’t care if you have the most boring job in the world, a kid will appreciate the attention you’re showing to them. Also, don’t work too much. I know that sometimes circumstances are such that you have to work long hours, but that’s not what I’m talking about. The Bible cautions us against laziness, but it also cautions us against overworking:
Proverbs 23:4-5 Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
We shouldn’t work to get rich, to buy toys, or to chase fantasies. We should know enough to know when to quit. Work your 40-50 hours but give your best time to your family.
3. Way to throw that ball, coach that team, yell at the ref, etc. – Dads are good at playing catch. A lot of dads get sports; it’s something we understand. When you play with your kids you’re helping your house become “the fun house.” Kids like to hang out and come back to a fun house. If your children enjoy their home, they’re more likely to want to be there and that helps them stay out of trouble.
Charge – Not every kid is a ball tosser. You might have to become a tea partier (no, not that kind). Get involved in your kids’ hobbies no matter how crazy stupid they are (I’m looking at you, Yugi-oh and Pokemon). Also, put sports in their proper place with your children. So many children nowadays miss church because of sports, and their parents are doing that for them because they love their kids. Love them enough to teach them about the Lord. What gain is it if you can shoot 50% from three and forfeit your own soul? Scripture is more important than soccer. When your kid practices 5 times a week, they’re getting parented by people that aren’t their parents. That’s potentially a recipe for disaster. Get your priorities in order.
Being a dad is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Too often I ignore my kids, yell at my kids, and tell them “no” when they’re asking to be with me. I genuinely fear that there may come a day when they don’t want to be with me anymore. I have a ton of excuses for not having all the right parental tools in my toolbox. Some of those excuses are even legitimate, but I/we have to overcome them for the sake of our children. The greatest job, the coolest toys, and the neatest experiences will be tragically hollow if they cost you your family.
The gospel has an incredible knack to both comfort us and jar us out of complacency. There is nothing that makes me feel more inadequate than being a parent. However, I know a perfect one died for me. I know that my shortcomings, failures, and inadequacies are forgiven and I’m counted righteous. I am inadequate, but my Savior is not. That grace is free, but it isn’t cheap. If you are forgiven much, you should love much. Grace is not opposed to effort; grace produces effort. (I think Dallas Willard said something along those lines.)
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
God’s grace toward you is not in vain. Being a dad is a glorious calling. When you get knocked down, get right back up. Try, try, and try again.