This month we celebrate Father’s Day, first observed in the United States on June 19, 1910, in Spokane Washington. It was Mrs. John Dodd who in 1909 wanted to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran who raised six children alone after his wife died in childbirth. To be sure, Mrs. Dodd understood the biblical mandate to “Honor your father” (Exodus 20:12), which appears throughout the Bible and includes mother as well. Perhaps we did not have a father like William Smart who seemed to be more than worthy of honor. But the Commandment does not tell us to honor our father if he is honorable. Rather, we are commanded by God to honor . . . period.
Now all of us fathers know by way of personal experience there are times when we have been less than honorable. We have said things we should not have said and done things we should not have done. We are all flawed fathers. We find a number of examples throughout sacred scripture of godly men who were flawed fathers. Jacob favored Joseph over his other sons, causing them to hate their brother and eventually sell him into slavery. David neglected his responsibilities as a father, and it is said of his son Adonijah, David never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” (1 Kings 1:6). No one can deny how both men pursued God with all their heart. Yet, both were flawed fathers. And the same is true for all of us dads today.
My dad went to be with Jesus on Christmas Day 1995. But if he were here today, as far from perfect as he was, I would tell him how much I loved and appreciated him for the difference he made in my life. So, to all of you who still have dads on this side of eternity, take a moment to honor him this Father’s Day. And to all of you who are dads, here are four marks that I pray will encourage you and strengthen your resolve to be, by God’s grace, a difference-making dad.
- Keep Leaning
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The difference-making dad leans on his Lord. As often as we think we have it all right, we frequently have much of it wrong. Just ask mom (or the children as they grow into adulthood). And that is why we must be willing to lean not on our own understanding but rather on the wisdom of God.
- Keep Listening
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning” Proverbs 1:5.
The difference-making dad listens to his Lord. Have you ever wondered why we have two ears and only one mouth? Perhaps it is God’s way to tell us to listen twice as much as we speak. James puts a sharp point on this biblical truth when he instructs us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).
- Keep Leading
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
The difference-making dad leads his children to the Lord. Dads are to be thermostats who set the temperature in the home not thermometers who simply record it. The biblical definition of leading – serving the Lord and serving others – is the foundation upon which a godly home is built and the pathway that leads to the Lord.
- Keep Loving
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
The difference-making dad loves his wife as Christ loves His church. Of all the marks, leaning, listening, and leading, loving mom is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to our children. I believe this is something every dad knows, but knowing and doing are two different things. Let me share something personal with you here – back on March 6th, Kim and I renewed our vows for our Silver Anniversary. Since planting The Cross six years ago, we have been so busy in ministry, I was neglecting my most important ministry of all – my beloved wife. Nothing major, but we had drifted into living as best friends rather than husband and wife. Through the encouragement of some very dear friends, including the persistent personal “pushing” of Gesner and Nicole Joseph, the arrangements were made to go back to the place we got engaged and had our honeymoon, Disney World, to renew our vows. Only this time, 25 years later, our four children would be with us. Our eldest son Brock (21) officiated, our eldest daughter Jenna (18) spoke, and our two youngest, Katie (15) & Tank (14) were the ring bearers. Later that night here is what Brock said to me: “Dad, that was awesome, and it was as much for us as your children as it was for you and mom. Thanks!”
In closing, these are just four of the many marks of the difference-making dad. And I know what some of you are thinking: “Man, I have been messing it up big time!” My response to you is, “Me too!” We all mess this up every day, and that is why we so desperately need the truths of the gospel each day. We are great sinners in need of an even greater Savior moment by moment. Remember, we not only have a father in heaven who loves us unconditionally, He also forgives us completely. The difference-making dad must be committed to learning from the past, looking forward to the promised future, while living in the present, not in his own strength, but in the strength of his Savior. Happy Father’s Day!
This is the gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that . . . Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.