How Much More
Reflections of A Father’s Heart
June 15, 2003
Start with a little Father’s Day humor...
I’ve heard this story about Jim Grinnell. Soon after his first child, Abby, was born, one day, Laura needed to go out to get some groceries, so Jim stayed home alone with Abby for the first time. After all, he was a proud papa, and knew he could handle it. Well, soon after Laura left, Abby began to fuss. Jim knew she’d just been fed, so that wasn’t her problem. As the minutes went by, she got fussier and cried more. Jim got so concerned that he took her to the doctor immediately.
He said, “doctor, I don’t know what’s wrong with her... why won’t she quit crying?” The doc began to examine little baby Abby Grinnell, starting with the eyes, ears, then listened to her heartbeat, and then opened her diaper to check her out.
“Here’s your problem,” said the doctor, looking at the full diaper. “She needs to be changed.”
Jim looked confused – kind of like he looks now hearing this story for the first time. He said to the doctor, “but I don’t understand.... the diaper box said they were good for up to ten pounds.”
That’s what’s known as an apocryphal story.
1. of doubtful authorship or authenticity.
2. false; spurious: He told an apocryphal story, but the truth was later revealed.
Father’s Day is sometimes a difficult day to preach. Mother’s Day is tougher still, but both these days are difficult for several reasons. Talking about parents is tough for some of us, because all of us didn’t have great fathers or mothers, and the very mention of parents can sometimes bring painful memories.
Yet, in the case of both mothers and fathers, scripture, in places, paints a picture of comparison, between some aspect of earthly parenting and our heavenly father. This means there are things we can learn about God from the comparison.
In the case of fathers, two passages immediately come to mind where the Word specifically compares God to earthly fathers in a “how much more” sense... showing an aspect of human fatherhood, and comparing God the Father’s perspective on these things, as being so much greater than what we see in human fathers.
These two passages compare God’s love for us in two areas:
- in the fatherly giving of good things
- and in discipline.
Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Hebrews 12:9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
In both these verses we see this phrase, how much more...
Especially with the Matthew passage, there’s even a recognition that the comparison isn’t entirely adequate – after all, it says of us as human fathers, we’re evil.
But the comparison magnifies the character of God in the process. How much more! How much more God is able to give good gifts,
Life Application commentary on this passage says:
Jesus is showing us the heart of God the Father. God is not selfish, begrudging, or stingy, and we don’t have to beg or grovel as we come with our requests. He is a loving Father who understands, cares, and comforts. If humans can be kind, imagine how kind God, the Creator of kindness, can be.
Jesus used the expression “If you, then, though you are evil” to contrast sinful and fallible human beings with the holy and perfect God.
By way of comparison, we have this phrase. That’s the title of this morning’s message, How Much More, and the subtitle could be, “Reflections of a Father’s Heart” because as we reflect on many aspects of what we feel and what we do as earthly fathers, it helps us catch a glimpse of our heavenly Father.
It helps us to see in a way we can understand and relate to, how much more our heavenly Father cares for us, yes, how He feels about us, at least as much as our finite minds can grasp what we would classify as feelings, and what that means in His dealings with us.
Though this is far from an exhaustive list, I’d like to reflect briefly on five areas in which good earthly fathers can help us see God’s perspective in some ways. These are five things earthly fathers feel about their children, and scripture is clear that God feels and does the same things, in a “How Much More” sense.
The things a father feels toward his children:
1. Joy and pleasure
2. Grief and sorrow
5. love – and all of the above are rooted in His love for us.
Let’s start with joy and pleasure...
Zeph. 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
For me, this started with the birth of my first daughter, Lisa. Lisa was born c-section, but I was there in the operating room when the doctor pulled her out. I remember the feeling of seeing her little foot, the first of her I saw. I remember the doctor handing her to me to carry to the exam table. I remember after they wrapped her up in a blanket, carrying her from the O.R. to the nursery – I was her first ride. I stopped in the waiting room to introduce Lisa to her grandparents. They told me later that I was beaming like they’d never seen me smile before.
I was delighting in my very own daughter. She had a loud cry – and when she cried, her little lower lip kind of quivered. I first noted this just minutes after she was born. It just melted me. And I’m glad that she couldn’t understand me and hold me to my emotional outburst then, because I told her, upon seeing that delightful little quiver in her lip for the very first time, that yes, she could have a Porsche.
She’s tried the quivering lip to manipulate me since then, but it doesn’t seem to have the same impact as it did that Christmas Eve, 1987, when she was born.
I felt such incredibly intense emotion about her. I love my wife like no one else on earth, and there’s definitely an intense emotional component in my love for Barb, but there’s something so intense about my love for my daughters, it’s almost impossible to describe....yet, I’m guessing you fathers know exactly what I mean.
Yes, my love for Lisa and Laura is an agape love, which doesn’t rely on emotions....which can shift and change. It’s a decision, it’s a commitment.... it’s solid.
But I have to admit that my emotions are a significant component of my love for my daughters – I do delight in them.... even to this day. One thing that I considered in relating this to God...I delighted in them before they ever did anything to “earn” my delight. I delighted in them before they ever accomplished anything at all. But consider this...If we fathers take pleasure, if we delight in our children just because they’re our children, how much more do we delight in our children when they accomplish something?
And if God takes pleasure in us, He delights in us, His children, just because we’re His creation, just because we’re His children, how much more must He take pleasure in our accomplishments for Him, our revealing our love for Him in word and in deed, our glorifying of Him with our talents.
I can remember delighting in Lisa through the years, not just because she’s my daughter, though I do and have delighted in her for that reason alone. But there have been times I’ve delighted in her, because she’s my daughter and she was accomplishing something.
I remember watching her dance with her dance class at Rooster Days when she was little. I remember her getting the lead in her school production of Candy Cane Lane, and singing and acting...absolutely the best kid on stage.
And then I remember Laura getting the same role in the same musical a few years later, absolutely the best kid, the most talented kid, on stage.
I remember Lisa being the lead in her one-act play in 8th grade. Some of you, her BASIC friends, saw her in this. She was great! And that’s a completely unbiased opinion.
In the vernacular, I might say I was so incredibly proud of her performance...- my buttons were busting with pride...
In a more biblical sense, I took tremendous pleasure in her using her talent so well. I delighted in her.
And when I see my girls exhibiting a fruit of the spirit, when I see my girls serving the Lord in some seemingly small way... when I see Lisa going on a missions trip, when I see Laura giving to someone sacrificially, I take tremendous delight in them.
Now, let’s imagine for a minute God watching each of us in our comings and goings, in our daily lives. Is it too much to think that the kind of delight He has in you, or the kind of pleasure He feels when you accomplish something, or the kind of delight he has in your service for His Kingdom, is anything similar to what a father feels when his child does something good?
Or maybe we should think of it this way. If earthly fathers delight in their children, How much more must our heavenly Father, the One who created each of us, delight in us.
Next, we have the seeming opposite of delighting in our children, but still rooted in how very much God loves us, and we love our children. We feel grief and sorrow when our children make bad or wrong choices.
Is. 63:10 says of the children of Israel, “they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.”
Psalm 78:40 How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland!
Ezekiel 6:9 Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me--how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices.
On the way into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, Jesus wept, not just a quiet weeping, but a loud boo-hooing. Why? Because He saw these people of Jerusalem, the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, and He knew they would reject Him as their Messiah. The thought brought Him such grief he cried out loud. I won’t embarrass my girls by telling personal stories illustrating this point, but parents, can’t we agree that there’s no grief, there’s no more consuming sorrow in our lives, than when our children are not walking with God? When our children are rebelling, or making self-destructive choices? When our kids are in sin, or are not pursuing the Lord with their whole hearts, it brings great grief to us, great sorrow.
Karl Eason has told me that when his children or grandchildren ask him what he wants for Father’s Day, his birthday, Christmas, he says that all he wants is to see them serving the Lord, devoted to Jesus with their whole hearts.
That’s what all Christian parents want for their kids, more than anything else. More than I want Lisa and Laura to be successful in school, in marriage, in any career they might have, in their future families, I want to see them serving the Lord, with undivided hearts.
And no thought brings me more pain, more grief, more sorrow, than to imagine them living their lives away from the love of God. Rejecting the love of our Lord.
If that’s true of me, as their earthly Christian father, how much more must that be so with God, who gave His only begotten Son, only to have people reject the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Not only do fathers grieve over or sorrow over bad choices, but they grieve over life’s circumstances impacting their children, over which no one has control.
This is different from the wrong choices our children make. This is life hitting them in the face. And as fathers, we feel powerless to do anything. Now, God isn’t powerless, so the analogy breaks down here, but God does bear our burdens, share our sorrows, grieves with us and for us....when life’s circumstances are trying.
In fact, the Word of God, in 2 Cor. 1, calls Him The Father of Compassion, and the God of all comfort.
Luke 7:12-13 Now as He approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. 13And when the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep."
The word for compassion here means: to have the bowels yearn, i.e. (figurative) feel sympathy, to pity :- have (be moved with) compassion.
How many times have you fathers said with compassion in your voice to your children... “don’t cry.” Here’s Jesus exhibiting a characteristic of God, feeling compassion and bringing comfort.
The truth is, as dads, we hurt when our kids hurt.
Just a few weeks ago, Laura’s dog Roxie got out and ran off. We discovered it shortly after she got out, but the dog was nowhere to be found. I went all over the neighborhood for the better part of three hours, not because I care so deeply for the dog, but because I knew it would break Laura’s heart if her dog ran off and we never found her.
We did find her, and I delighted in Laura’s joy at seeing her dog again.
When Lisa was about a year and a half old, she was in a little rocking chair, unfortunately set a bit too close to the fireplace. For some unknown reason, she was sitting in it backwards, got rocking too fast, and fell over, trying to take a bite out of the fireplace.
Well, the fireplace won that encounter, and Lisa had a couple of teeth pushed straight back, blood everywhere, and screaming like crazy.
We took her to the ER in BA, and they sent us to a pediatric dentist, but I remember all but yelling at the nurses....“give her something for the pain!”
This was my little girl, and she was hurting, and I wanted it to stop!
A few years later, Laura swallowed a nickel. Now, most kids will just pass it after several days, but not Laura. After several weeks, several Xrays later, the doctor determined since it hadn’t passed, they needed to go in and get it. We found out later that the nickel had actually embedded itself in the wall of her stomach, and it eventually would have perforated her stomach if we hadn’t done something.
But to get the nickel, they had to put a scope down her esophagus, into her stomach, and find the nickel, then pull it out. I remember going into the room with her after the ordeal of putting in an IV so they could sedate her. That wasn’t fun for her, but it was probably harder on us.
Then, as the sedative was taking effect, I sang the blessing lullaby to her that I’d sung to her and to Lisa at bedtime. And I was so emotional, I could hardly sing.
My little girl was hurting, and I wanted it to stop. Well, we have that nickel today, we call it our $1,000 nickel, because that’s how much it cost us to get it out of Laura’s stomach.
Now, we parents know that feeling doesn’t change when our kids get older. Twice in the last year, I’ve sat with Laura as they put her under anesthesia.
Last August for this heart condition she has, when she had a special surgery that didn’t work...and just a few days ago when she had oral surgery. It was relatively simple, and we were in and out in less than 90 minutes, and she’s just fine now.
But I have to tell you, those old emotions were still very strong when I walked out of the room after they’d just put her to sleep for this. I’d have rather gone through it myself. In fact, a few weeks ago, I did, when I had surgery myself, but I’ll tell you the truth, I’d rather have gone through it again myself than see my daughter hurting.
Isn’t that a picture of how God feels about our hurts, our pains? How much more that’s true of Him than us. And the idea that we’d rather go through the pain ourselves than watch our children hurt, is but a glimpse of the heart of God, who, knowing the suffering our sin would bring us when this life ends, chose instead to bear the consequences of our sin Himself, rather than allow us to feel the full weight ourselves.
Fourth, another aspect of this is God’s patience with us. For the sake of time, just let me read a few passages of scripture and make a few comments on this.
Exodus 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
Neh. 9:17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,
Jeremiah 15:15 You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering--do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
This last passage reminds me of two stories:
A small boy is sent to bed by his father. Five minutes later:
"I’m thirsty. Can you bring me a drink of water?" "No. You had your chance. Lights out."
Five minutes later: "Da-aaaad..."
"I’m THIRSTY...Can I have a drink of water??" "I told you NO! If you ask again I’ll have to spank you!!"
Five minutes later... "Daaaa-aaaad..."
"When you come in to spank me, can you bring me a drink of water?"
Then, there’s the story of the little boy who was acting up in church, and after a warning that he would be taken out of the service and spanked if he didn’t behave, he finally went one step too far. As the dad took the young boy out of the service, the boy hollered out loud, “pray for me!”
The truth is, this aspect of God is one that most fathers, myself included, often don’t live up to very well. God is so much more patient with us than we are with each other. So when we exhibit patience with our children, it’s easy to say, how much more patient is God with us, in our sin, in our rebellion, in our wandering from Him.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
That brings us to our last but not least. God’s love for us, and fathers’ love for their children. It’s clear that it’s this love that undergirds all the other things we’ve mentioned thus far.
Since my girls were old enough to understand what I was saying to them, I have told them that there’s nothing they can ever do to make me not love them.
In some of the worst moments we’ve had, when they were least happy with me, and I was least happy with them, I have repeated that.
The truth is, I loved them before they could return my love, and even though it grieves me when they don’t return my love, and seem to reject me, I love them still. I want them to know that I loved them when our relationship was very different than it is today. There was a day when I changed their dirty diapers. There was a day when I held Lisa up while playing with her and she vomited in my face.
My love, from day one, is not based on anything they do, it’s based on who they are.
They are my children, and I love them. The Word says, we love because He first loved us. Isn’t that true of good earthly fathers, too? Don’t we learn to love because our parents first love us?
And if that’s true of earthly parents, How much more is that true of our heavenly Father?
Brennan Manning wrote:
If we take all the goodness, wisdom and compassion of the best mothers and fathers who have ever lived, they would be only a faint shadow of the love and mercy in the heart of the redeeming God.
We can rest in, delight in, revel in, the Father’s love this morning/
On this Father’s Day, we can remember that the best earthly fathers, are not interested primarily in our service, or our sacrifice, though those things do please us dads.
Fathers want their children to know how much they are loved, in the hopes that their children will choose to love them in return. That’s what God’s wonderful, amazing grace is all about.
According to Wayne Jacobsen, that’s true of our heavenly Father, too.
“Understand that, and everything else about your life will fall into place. Miss that, and nothing else will make any difference.”
I pray that this morning, for you, and for me, it will make a difference. It will make a difference in our lives, in our relationships with our earthly fathers, and more importantly, in our relationship with our heavenly Father,
Who loves us so much more than we can imagine.