Let's start by looking at some statistics in order to gain a better perspective. Many are surprised by the research results which show a connection between father absence and an increase in social problems in America including poverty, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, physical abuse, suicide, substance, and alcohol abuse and a host of other troubling social problems. The sad fact is that not only does father absence hurt children, fathers suffer as well.
Developing positive relationships with their children encourages and motivates fathers to lead more constructive lives, even in the most difficult of circumstances. For instance, the simple act of regularly writing to their children from prison improves outcomes for incarcerated fathers, including increasing their odds of training for, finding, and keeping a job once they re-enter society. Evidence shows that fathers who write to their children once a week have a lower risk of violence in prison and recidivism when released. These positive outcomes are multiplied when we study the impact on the children of inmates, and how father contact can change the trend of their children’s lives - even while the father is still incarcerated. (source)
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America -- one out of every three -- live in biological father-absent homes. Nine in ten American parents agree this is a “crisis.” (source)
The Positive Impact of Father Involvement
In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers. (source)
Father Factor in Child Abuse
A study using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study revealed that in many cases the absence of a biological father contributes to increased risk of child maltreatment. The results suggest that Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies have some justification in viewing the presence of a social father as increasing children’s risk of abuse and neglect. It is believed that in families with a non-biological (social) father figure, there is a higher risk of abuse and neglect to children, despite the social father living in the household or only dating the mother. (Source: “CPS Involvement in Families with Social Fathers.” Fragile Families Research Brief No.46. Princeton, NJ and New York, NY: Bendheim-Thomas Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and Social Indicators Survey Center, 2010.)
On this post, I will be addressing mostly men, especially fathers. But I do not wish for anyone to feel left out. I believe that we as a community must take upon ourselves the responsibility to properly influence, as far possible, the men in our lives and I pray and hope that the biblical principles we will study on this post will help all in our community better understand what God has called us to do, and to hold in high regard the special calling to men and fathers.
This is not to downplay the calling for women in any way. Women and mothers also play a vital role in life, but since Father’s day is just around the corner I thought it appropriate to address the men on this post.
One more thing, this message will likely make many of us uncomfortable. This is not intended to throw stones at anyone and please do not use the material of this sermon as ammunition to attack men who have let you down. Rather may this message not only challenge us but also motivate all of us to support and encourage the fathers in our lives, be they your father, grandfather, husband, uncle or friend.
Father’s day is here, and it seems like father’s day is nowhere near as popular as mother’s day. Could it be that so many fathers fall short that this holiday sometimes feels rather awkward?
There is definitely a problem here. Not only with fathers but with gender identity in general. I know there are also issues regarding motherhood and womanhood, but as a man and a father, it is easier for me to write about men and fathers.
If there is a man I admire in the Bible, besides Jesus of course, it is David. He went from shepherd to king. He played the harp and cared for sheep. He also killed lions and bears. While a teenager he slew a giant that war veterans dared not face. David was a military genius, a fearless warrior, and a poet. And let me remind you that this was during a time that you didn’t shoot a gun or drop a bomb, wars were fought at a closer range.
David was a manly man, a natural leader, a gifted and fearless warrior, the closest thing the ancient world had to a sharpshooter, he was also an intellectual, a poet, a theologian and a prophet. He played the harp well enough to be summoned by the king to play in his presence, not only that, David also sang and wrote his own music.
We marvel when a musician manages to be famous and remain relevant for a decade, David still has people singing his songs today, that's roughly three thousand years after he first wrote his songs or Psalms. The melody may not have survived but the lyrics we hold close to our hearts to this day.
David was by no means perfect. He committed murder and adultery. (2 Samuel 11) One of his own sons led a rebellion or 'coup' against him. (2 Samuel 13-19) David was responsible for so much bloodshed that God did not allow him to build the temple. (1 Chronicles 28:3)
But despite David’s sins, flaws, and shortcomings Acts 13:22 describes him as a man after God’s own heart.
Be a man!
"I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man.
1 Kings 2:2 NLT
Here we have King David, on his deathbed, and his final words to his son are, “be a man”
What does it mean to be a man?
Is it the ability to build things?
To take things apart?
To fix things?
Is it the ability to read a map?
To grow a beard?
To win arguments?
Is manliness related to the ability to lift weights, wrestle, and shoot a gun?
Is it about knowing how to use and sharpen a knife?
The be ability to shave with a straight razor?
Know how to tie a necktie?
Or is manhood related to one's ability to woo women and sweep them off their feet?
Imagine David asking his son, "Solomon, do you know how to fix a chariot? Have you wrestled a bear or killed a lion?"
Can you imagine having to follow up after David? By the time he was a teenager he already had people singing about him (1 Samuel 18), he was going to marry a princess and he and his father’s house would never have to pay taxes. (1 Samuel 17)
Imagine someone like that saying to you, “be a man.”
There is even a website and a phone app dedicated to the "Art of Manliness"
It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of context. I could go off on my merry way speculating on what David meant or just injecting my understanding of what it means to be a man into the biblical text, but King David is fairly clear when we read his words to his son Solomon.
Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
1 Kings 2:1-4 NKJ
When David told Solomon to be a man he meant for Solomon to:
keep the charge of the Lord your God:
to walk in His ways,
to keep His statutes,
and His testimonies,
as it is written in the Law of Moses,
that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn;
According to David, being a man is closely related to following the will of God. God created us and we become who He wants us to be by following His will.
The greatest want of the world
There is a great quote by Ellen G White found in the book Education which says,
The greatest want of the world is the want of men-- men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.
- Education page 57
It is not enough to simply be male, there is a higher calling for men. We ought to strive to be Men of God.
A Man of God
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
- 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NKJV
According to Paul, Timothy, as a man of God, ought to flee from certain things (the desire to be rich, etc. mentioned in verses 1-10) and pursue other things, such as:
Righteousness - a life in conformity to a known standard or law. A right standing before God's law.
Godliness - the reverent awareness of God's sovereignty over every aspect of life, and the attendant determination to honor him in all one's conduct.
Faith - trusting God and His word and allowing it to shape every aspect of your life.
Love – love for God, your wife, and your children. Men who are reading this post, do you love? Real men love, love is probably the hardest thing to do in this world. To love the way God calls us to love. How will we ever be able to love our enemies if we can’t even love our family?
Fathers, for the love of God, literally, love your children. The way you treat them will have a greater influence on their understanding of who God is then the sermons they hear at church.
Let your children know and be comforted by the knowledge that their father loves them and would never abandon them. They need that.
Husbands, love your wives, let them know they are loved despite their imperfections. Let them feel secure in your arms and love.
It takes a real man, who really loves God to love one woman for his entire life.
It is so much easier to save up and get a nice car, a couple of nice outfits, work on a few lines and pick up different women. That’s not that hard.
Keeping the same woman, on the other hand, takes a lot more work. She knows your flaws, she has heard your jokes and excuses, you need to constantly find ways to make her fall in love with you again.
I love the challenge, how can I make my wife fall in love with me again? Especially after I say or do something really dumb, or forget a really special date. Now here is the real challenge. It is easy to be smooth and prince charming for one evening, but can you pull it off for a year? 10? 50?
Now there is a man I want to talk to and take notes.
How did you keep your wife from leaving you all those years?
How did you make her fall in love with you again and again?
Men will often brag about their abilities to pick up women, I rather hear about a man’s ability to keep a woman.
You made her fall in love with you correct?
Can you do it again?
You made a vow before her and God correct?
Be a man and keep that vow, not only that, make her the happiest woman on this planet, because she married a man of God.
It is sad that relatively few men are up to this challenge. Young men, let me tell you. When you are a man of God, you are a blessing to all who are around you, it is not about how many women you can get, but rather about finding the one who you want to bless for the rest of your life.
Perseverance – Love and perseverance go hand in hand. If you love you don’t quit. Fathers, never quit on your children. Husbands, never quit on your wives. Fellow believers, never quit on God. God will never quit on any of us. We must persevere. God provides all that we need. He works the miracles, our part is not giving up.
Even if you messed up in the past, the key is not giving up. You will always have plenty of people and circumstances to blame for why things went wrong or why things are so difficult. Your part is to not give up. Figure it out. Give it to God. Giving up on God and on His plan will not help, it will only create brand new problems.
Gentleness - Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.
You must be really strong and confident to be gentle. It takes a great man to be gentle, to be kind and sensitive.
David was a warrior, a sharpshooter, a military genius who was feared by all the surrounding nations, yet he wrote beautiful poetry. He was in touch with his emotions and feelings and rather than making him weak, that made him stronger. I am not saying we should be easily swayed by our emotions, or to allow our emotions to get the best of us. I am saying that it is okay to be gentle with your child, especially with your daughter, with your wife, with the one who is suffering.
Men, you do not have to be tough all the time. Its ok to be gentle. It is recommended.
The supreme exemplar of gentleness is Israel's God. He cares tenderly for the flock under his care, and "gently leads those that have young" ( Isa 40:11 ). He discloses himself not just in wind and earthquake and fire, but in "a gentle whisper" ( 1 Kings 19:11-13 ). His consolations are spoken gently ( Job 15:11 ). As God’s representative, the messianic king comes in humility and gentleness ( Zec 9:9 ). (source)
Fleeing while Pursuing
The man of God flees from certain things and pursues others.
Flee desire to be rich and the love of money. Pursue character.
Don’t accumulate things, develop self.
Don’t use people to get things, use things to bless people.
Never sacrifice your family and especially not your God for any type of material gain, all the wealth of the world is not worth it.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
The Bible, inspired by God Himself is to be used to equip the man of God for every Good work. A man of God is a doer of good works, but not only that.
I find it interesting that the expression "man of God" is used 73 times in the Bible and out of all of those only two are found in the NT.
In the OT it is first used in Deuteronomy 33:1 in reference to Moses. In the book of Judges it is used with reference to the messenger that came to announce the birth of Samson (Judges 13:6,8). The other cases vary, but one thing remains constant, a man of God is a man who has a message from God.
Finally, we should feel motivated to be a man of God for our salvation and the salvation of those who hear us depends on it.
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
- 1 Timothy 4:16 NKJV
Jesus died to save those around us. Fathers, that means your children, husbands, that means your wives, men, that means those within your sphere of influence.
My prayer is that the men who are reading this blog, myself included, that we may be known, wherever we go, and whatever we do, as men of God. That especially our wives and our children will know us to be men of God. I know it would take a miracle, but our God happens to specialize in miracles.