To The Dads

By Steve Orth, SBC Elder

Do you want to be a great dad? I know that I did way back 35 years ago when I was privileged/blessed to have my first child (my daughter) delivered on Father’s Day in 1987.  Connie and I had some difficulty conceiving and so we were in our early 30’s when God blessed us with our first child (we also had a son two years later). We had both of our children dedicated to the Lord in their first year and I tried my best to be a Godly father…..but like all of us, life gets going and it can be challenging to keep God at the center of our family life. Fortunately we serve a God who lavishes us with his love, grace, and forgiveness and thankfully, when I fell short, God made up the difference between the dad I was and the dad He wanted me to be.
Emily Turner has asked me to reflect on what it means to be a father especially in light of being a child that's been adopted by a Perfect Heavenly Father. I am by no means an expert on this subject but will share a few thoughts/tips that I have picked up along the way that might be useful for dads (new and old), dads to be, and any man that wants to have a positive impact on a child’s life. So here we go.

Affirm and love your children. God the Father declared to Jesus at his baptism, And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:11). He provided this critical affirmation of his son, modeling a father who not only loves but also affirms his son. It’s so important to our self-identity to know we’re loved and accepted by our father. Above all, a father loves his children, reflecting God’s own love for his children. Tell your children, out loud, that you love them, early and often. They cannot hear it too much. Look them in the eye and tell them you love them as often as possible. This should happen forever. There is no expiration date and they never grow too old to hear this from their dad.
Give them your attention. Look at them, watch them, see them. It is not sufficient to merely be present with them at home or at some event if you are glued to your cell phone. They need to see that you are watching them. You need to be their biggest cheerleader, so act like it. Show you love them by your actions. Whatever they develop an interest in should become of great interest to you too. One-on-one time is essential in one form or another, so make it happen. I challenge you to change your schedule to be an integral part of your child’s life.

Make sure that your children know you love God. Dad, you be the one to introduce them to Jesus! Go to church as a family together. Your family should open the Bible and read it together. Give your child the gift of being able to say that they have been a part of a church their entire lives. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9). Don't just be a hearer of the word but be a doer!

Pray for and with your children on a regular basis. Let your children hear you pray as often as possible so that they know Jesus is the one that you depend on! Teach them to pray and pray with them. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”  (John 10:27-28). Pray, pray, and then pray some more!

Guide and set an example. Children are like sheep, and their parents are their natural shepherds. They naturally look to them for guidance and example, even when it seems they don’t want it. “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice”. (John 10: 3-5) You need to help establish the guard rails for your children and to be firm with them.

Fathers provide Christ led leadership and initiative. As Joshua said in his role as father: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”. (Joshua 24:15) My wife and I have had the same wall plaque with this quote on our wall in our living room throughout our marriage. Let Him lead and you be willing to follow!

Dads never give up on their kids! The story of “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:20-24) is the story of a father who never gives up hope and is ready to receive his child back with open arms. We can discipline, we can hold accountable, but we must never give up. We never stop being a father!

If I am truthful, as I look back on the quality of father that I was for my children, I so wish I would have done a  better job. It’s a challenge to nail the “super dad” award every day. Please know this, as a dad, you are likely the primary role model for your child. You are modeling for your daughter the type of man she may marry someday. You are for sure shaping your son into the type of man he will become. Don't shy away from these responsibilities! Trust and lean on Him to mold you into the father he wants you to become!

I want to encourage you as fathers to not become discouraged or lose hope. Look to, follow, and trust the greatest Father, the Father of all fathers, our heavenly Father. He gives us the ultimate picture of what true fatherhood looks like. When your parenting falls short, as it certainly will, you can look to God who does all things well. You can depend on Him to do what you can’t do and to give you wisdom when you don’t have any. Look to God and depend on Him in the days ahead.

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