The Father's Chair
June 21, 2009 | Randy Smith
The Father's ChairDeuteronomy 6:1-9
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Pastor Randy Smith
What happens when no one is sitting in the father's chair?
In their study, Grimm and Wassil concluded, "Girls who have little contact with their fathers, especially during adolescence had great difficulties forming lasting relationships with men. Sadly these females either shy away from males altogether or become sexually aggressive."
According to Unicef, "The steep rise in solo-parent families began in the 1960s, and long-term studies are beginning to reveal the consequences. The most obvious result is a rise in mothers and children living in poverty. In the US, a child living in a solo-mother family is five times as likely to live below the national poverty line."
They go on to say, [Additionally, children raised only by only a mother are] associated with poorer school performance, greater risk of teen pregnancy, higher rates of delinquency, and a worsening of the mental health of both mothers and children."
In his book, Absent Fathers, Lost Sons, Guy Corneau argues that boys raised without a father lose the role model for developing proper masculinity and oftentimes struggle with psychological pain and developing wholeness in life.
Dr. Marilyn Heins stated, "We once thought that fathers were critical to the development of sons. True, but fathers are just as important to their daughters. Achievement levels, sense of mastery, and marital happiness of girls correlate with the presence of an involved father. Daddies matter to girls as well as boys."
In the Journal of Men's Studies I read, "Many adult sons abandoned by their fathers have difficulty developing and sustaining [self-worth], forming lasting emotional attachments, recognizing their feelings, or being expressive with their adult partners and children."
My friends, I can keep going. The sad statistics are overwhelmingly convincing that children raised without a father are put at a greater risk for suffering severe consequences. To the best of my knowledge these are all secular opinions. Even apart from God we cannot deny the fact that sons and daughters are dramatically affected when the father's chair is empty whether the father is out of the home or home and out of his responsibilities.
But rather than focus on the negative this morning on Father's Day, my desire is to show you how dads can best father their children. And for that instruction we do not turn to secular sources but rather to the Bible. I am convinced that we dads can do all that the experts of the world suggest and still be a deadbeat dad in the eyes of God. So from God's perspective, what are His expectations to fulfill our responsibilities in the father's chair? How does He expect us to raise our child in a way that honors Him and is best for our child's development?
This morning we will turn to the Old Testament in the book of Deuteronomy to answer that question.
Dad's, this message is for you. But single moms this information is necessary for you to seek the proper male role models for your kids. Young men, this is who you should inspire to be, and young women this is the man you should inspire to marry.
A little background: There was Moses. He was over a hundred years old and overlooking the banks of the Jordan - unable to go himself, watching the Israelites as they stood on the threshold of entering the Promised Land. What would arguably God's greatest human leader say to the people? How would he merge his farewell speech and his exhortation for their success as they departed from each other?
We must remember that it was 40 years since the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian captivity. We must remember that the initial generation, the disobedient generation was gone. This was a new group of Israelites that were not present at Sinai. This was a new group that needed clear instruction of God's law.
Moses' speech is the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is sometimes called, "The second giving of the Law" or "The book of remembrance." The theme is throughout the writing: "Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God" (Dt. 12:28). Moses knew that their success in the Promised Land would be directly related to their obedience to God. And a significant aspect of that obedience would be the way parents, especially fathers, instruct their children.
Our specific passage this morning is Deuteronomy 6. But before we get into some very practical aspects, I would like to point out to you a few key essentials from this text.
First of all notice that these commands are from God. And thus being from God we are not only wise to obey, but also as His creatures, expected to obey. Look at verse 1. "Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it." The same is repeated at the beginning of verse 3. "O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it." From the get-go, not suggestions from a man, but commands from God that we must and should obey.
Second, God has spoken to us. He loves us and knows what is best for our well-being. Consequences always result when we disobey His Word. Yet blessing comes when we do what He has instructed. So along with the specific commands are inherent rewards. Picking up the passage midway through verse 2, "Keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey" (Dt. 6:2-3). As we remind our kids, with obedience comes blessings.
And lastly, we need to note the specific commands. Verse 2, "So that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments." Verses 4 and 5, "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." All that the Lord has commanded us can be wrapped up in those commands to fear God and love Him with all of our heart.
Now the heart of the sermon. How do dads occupy the father's chair and put these principles into action for themselves and their children? Just two points this morning. "A Child of the Father" and "The Father of a Child." We as parents are both.
1. A CHILD OF THE FATHER
First of all dads you must remember that before you are a father, you are a child. More than anything in life you must be a good child of God. As a matter of fact, until you are a faithful child of God who walks in the Spirit, you will always fail as a parent. Nothing will happen through us until it first happens to us!
"A Christian lady in a certain community had taken it as her ministry to periodically visit the men incarcerated in the city's prison. One day an inmate asked her, 'Can you get a Mother's Day card for me so I can send it to my mom?' Word passed throughout the prison system and in no time, all of the prisoners were making the same request. In order to oblige them, she made a deal with a card company and got a big shipment of Mother's Day cards. Every single card was procured by the prisoners and sent to their moms. Not a single one was left. So, being a farsighted person, and knowing that Father's Day was just around the corner, the woman reasoned that it would be wise to order the same quantity of Father's Day cards. Three years later, not one card had even been requested by any of the prisoners" (Article, P.H., June 1997).
Are we to assume that each one of these prisoners was abandoned by his father at birth? I doubt it. I would assume many even had fathers in the home that would profess to love their children dearly. So, what made the difference? I believe it is fathers who are there but they are not really there. Words without example are cheap. Despite what we might think, children know hypocrisy, and they can detect it from a mile away.
In verse 6 of our passage this morning, God said, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart." Whose heart? The father's heart! Before we ever instruct it is necessary that we practice what we preach. Think about it, how can you teach what you don't know? And moreover, if it is so important for your kid, why aren't you doing it yourself?
Kids have little patience for hypocrites. God seems to have less. More than simply instructing your kids about fearing God and loving Him with all of your heart, are you doing these things yourself? What do you children observe from you on a daily basis that shows these ultimate commands are present in your life?
Is it seen in the way you treat their mother? Is it seen in the way you read the Bible and pray? Is it seen in the way you communicate to them? Is it seen in the way you discipline them? Is it seen in the way you seek their forgiveness? Is it seen in the way you demonstrate a gentle, kind and tender attitude? Is it seen in the way you prioritize church attendance and serving in the church? Is it seen in the way you choose television shows and movies to watch? Is it seen in the way you respect them and show them affection and listen to them and love them unconditionally? Is it seen in the way you imitate Christ? Without your words can your children say, "My dad loves God with all of his heart?"
My friends, the most loving thing we can do for our children is teach them this ultimate command as a life priority. But before we teach them, God wants us to practice it in our own lives first. We cannot teach it until we are doing it ourselves. And when we do, then our teaching comes from the overflow of our lives by example in a way that is powerful and genuine and honoring to the Lord.
Our greatest fears as parents all come as a result of our children not obeying the Lord. Think about it. If they obey the Scriptures we would never deal with premarital pregnancy or drug abuse or the choice of poor friends or unwholesome language or rebellion. So what ensures that our children will follow God's Word? Simple, Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (Jn. 14:15). Loving God is at the heart of our children's success. That is why Moses commanded it to fathers and that is why we as fathers must be careful to model it.
God in His sovereignty gave you the specific children you have. He expects you - not the school or the youth group or the day care center or the friends or television - to be their primary spiritual instructor. Send your kids off to learn their biology and their algebra. But when it comes to their walk with God, you have been chosen to be their primary catalyst. You have been chosen to be the spiritual specialist. Therefore it is essential, fathers, that as a foundation you have a strong walk with God that loves Him with all of your heart. Then you are most qualified and effective to begin instructing your children.
2. THE FATHER OF A CHILD
Let's go to the second point which I am calling, "The Father of a Child." So from "A Child of the Father," let's examine our responsibilities as "The Father of a Child."
In verse 6 we see the transition: "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. (Transition).You shall teach them diligently to your sons" (stop right there).
Again, notice carefully the progression. We are expected to apply this instruction ourselves and then faithfully teach this instruction to our children. How do we go about doing that? Is it just a token comment here and there? Is driving home after church and telling your kids, "Now you do what the preacher said!" Absolutely not!
But pastor, I feel guilty. My friend, then start doing the right thing now! But pastor, I was just recently saved and I don't know very much about the Bible. Start learning the Bible now through church attendance and personal reading. Listen men, all of us as dads can always learn more, but all of us as dads if we call ourselves Christians hopefully have something we can teach our kids about God! Blow a sigh of relief; you do not have to be an expert theologian. Just share with your children what God is presently teaching you in your life! You occupy the father's chair when you teach your children to love God.
How do I do it? Based on our text, I will provide for you four ways to do it.
Number one, and this ties into our first point, make God a priority in your own life. I cannot overstress this fact. As we read in verse 6. "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart." Verses 8 and 9, "You shall bind them [God's commands] as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on yourforehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Some later Jews even took these verses literally, but the point was simply that the Scriptures are always to be before God's people. A love for God's Word. A desire to meditate on God's Word. Applying the Word. Appropriating the Word for oneself. Fathers who instruct their children well are fathers who desire to live by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of our Lord (Mt. 4:4). Live it out and let them catch your heart!
Number two, verse 7 indicates that we are to teach our children "diligently." This conveys the idea of "penetrating." As the NIV put it, "Impress them on your children." This goes beyond creating a simple list of "do's and don'ts," but developing a set of convictions that your child will carry through his or her life. Teach your kids to honor the Word and allow it to shape their lives.
Number three, we are to teach God's Word continually. Verse 7 says we should "talk of [God's commands] when [we] sit in [our] house and when [we] walk by the way and when [we] lie down and when [we] rise up." This verse assumes we are spending time with our children. And this verse instructs that we should be teaching our children continually with the time we share together.
As parents our job is never done. Because we did a good job one day does not mean we may take the rest of the week off. We are to be relentless. Do you know why? Because the devil is relentless. If you fail to teach you child to love God, the devil will succeed in teaching your child to hate God. The wicked one is instructing your kid around the clock through certain billboards and commercials and music and magazines and liberal teachers and sin in the family and school mates. He is continually planting weeds in your child's heart. You must fight Him. You must win the battle for supremacy on the turf of your child's heart. And the only way to do this is by continually bringing your child to the Scriptures when you sit and walk and lie down and get up. Fight the enemy with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). For "greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world" (1 Jn. 4:4).
So personal example, deep impression, continual instruction and number four; be sure to teach your children creatively. Solely lecturing will bore your kids to death and most likely exasperate them to the things of God. Throughout the day God gives us a variety of teaching platforms, look for them and take advantage of them! When your kids blow it, and they will, take advantage of the opportunity. When you have to do something, involve a child in the project. Kids are more likely to open up when occupied with something else. Ask probing questions that demand specific feedback. And do what Jesus did (in His parables), take physical truths about nature and translate them into spiritual truths about the Christian life.
For example, when you weed the garden remind your kids that poor influences need to be "weeded" before they choke out their spiritual life. When raindrops are falling on the windshield like this morning teach them that the water is like our sin, but with God if we are in Christ Jesus, His grace is like the wipers that continually cleanses us. When you are pulling out dandelions, instruct them that sin needs to be removed from the root or it will immediately grow back. And when that barking dog next door is driving everybody nuts, inform them that people feel the same about us when we talk too much!
At times the lessons fail. At times the child is unwilling to learn. But keep at it and pray that you have the spiritual eyes to take advantage of the multiple teaching opportunities continually provided as verse 7 says when you are sitting and walking and lying down and rising up.
Dads, are you sitting in the father's chair? Are you fulfilling your God-given responsibilities to lovingly teach your children through word and example what it means to fear God and love Him with all your heart? As Moses closed out chapter 6, he said in verse 24, "So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today." How can we not want our child's good? How can we abandon the father's chair by failing in our most important responsibility?