OPEN: A writer named Donald Ogden Stewart, had a son away at prep school. When his son reached the age of 14, Stewart wrote him the following letter: "Dear son, now that you have reached the magic age of fourteen, the time has come to tell you about the flowers and the bees. There is a male and a female bee, although I haven’t the slightest idea which is which. As for the flowers - we get ours from the Plaza Florist. Well, that takes care of that.
Write soon, Affectionately, Father.
APPLY: Last week we talked about the significant influence women have on their children and grandchildren. This week, I want to talk about Fathers. What role do they play in raising their children.
I. Actually, in our society, you wouldn’t think men played much of a role at all in the family
Over the past 40 years or so:
– Divorce has become increasingly common, so much so that many children have been raised without a father.
– Feminism has gradually succeeded in questioned the value of men in marriage.
– In vitro fertilization has allowed women to have babies without a man.
– And now, science has even succeeded in producing a baby mouse – the offspring of two female mice… no daddy required at all.
Essentially – in our society - dads have become a throw away commodity
BY CONTRAST, the Bible repeatedly stresses the value of both mother and father in the home
· The book of Proverbs opens with these words:
"Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck." Proverbs 1:8-9
· And again, Solomon tells his son:
"My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching." Proverbs 6:20
Paul tells the early church that mother AND father are important to the upbringing of children, even when the husband is a non-believer.
“… if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 1 Corinthians 7:13-14
What in the world does this all mean? What it means is:
– God has placed a high value on BOTH a mother and a father being in the home..
– It means, that God believes - BOTH men and women have a valuable impact on - children’s lives
Biblically, Fathers ARE important in the home… more important than many people even realize
According to one study - children from a fatherless home are:
5 times more likely to commit suicide;
32 times more likely to run away;
20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders;
14 times more likely to commit rape;
9 times more likely to drop out of high school;
10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances;
and 9 times more likely to end up in state-operated institutions
ILLUS: In addition, reports of child neglect and abuse have skyrocketed since 1976. What caused that? Well, 1976 was about 10 to 15 yrs. after our nation embraced no-fault divorces. And, one of the greatest risk factors in child abuse, investigations found, is family disruption, especially living in a female headed, single parent household. It’s dangerous NOT HAVING a father in the home.
II. But, when the father is in the home… there are significant advantages
ILLUS: According to Prof. David Popenoe, professor of sociology at Rutgers University (1999)having a father in the house is extremely important. “Two adults can support and spell each other. They can offset each other’s deficiencies and build on each other’s strengths."
Daughters learn from their fathers, in ways they cannot from their mothers, how to relate to men. They learn from their fathers about heterosexual trust, intimacy and difference. They learn to appreciate their own femininity from THE one male who is most special in their lives. Most important, through loving and being loved by their fathers, they learn that they are love worthy.
Also, Prof. Popenoe writes: “We know that a fathers’ involvement seems to be linked to improved verbal and problem solving skills and higher academic achievement." A father’s presence appears to increase a son’s and a daughter’s skills at math and reading.
In addition, Prof. Popenoe notes that one significant area of a father’s influence in his child’s life is in the area of play. He writes that “From their children’s birth through adolescence, fathers tend to emphasize play more than caretaking. The father’s style of play is likely to be both more physically stimulating and exciting than the mother’s. With older children, it involves more teamwork.
This fatherly playing with children is particularly important in promoting self-control. According to one expert, "children who roughhouse with their fathers quickly learn that biting, kicking and other forms of physical violence aren’t acceptable." They learn when to "shut it down."
This isn’t to say that kids should be kept in an home where the father molests or physically abuses the children. However, if there is NO physical danger to children, a father’s place in the home is significant. And it’s obvious that God designed fathers to form and shape the lives of kids in very powerful ways.
III. In fact, Christian fathers have a significant advantage over non-Christian dads.
Now, that would seem obvious. A Christian father is more likely (because he belongs to Christ) to honor God in his behavior.
He’s more likely to keep pornography out of the home and respect women in general.
More likely to be careful what language he uses and what kind of jokes he tells.
More likely to be forgiving and self-less in how he deals with others.
AND - because he is a Christian - such a father will look on his child as belonging - NOT TO HIMSELF - but to God. He’ll realize that he is responsible to God for how he treats that child
So, just on the surface of things, a Christian father is likely to have significant advantages over a man who isn’t Christian.
ILLUS: But, in addition to these strengths, a researcher by the name of W. Bradford Wilcox found … that the homes of conservative religious parents were “characterized both by strict discipline and an unusually warm and expressive style of parent-child interaction.”
Wilcox said that, rather than having an “authoritarian” unreasonable parenting style, most conservative religious parents were “authoritative,” which Wilcox described as having “consistent & firm discipline and high levels of warmth and parental responsiveness.”
Wilcox ALSO found evidence that “Catholic and conservative Protestant fathers are more involved with their children than secular and mainline Protestant fathers,” and that “the most important predictor of (a dad’s) involvement in the lives of children is church attendance.”
In other words: if a father takes his God/faith seriously, he’s more likely to be a good dad.
And this is why God stresses to us that we shouldn’t be "yoked together with unbelievers…." 2 Corinthians 6:14
A Christian SHOULD NOT marry a non-Christian.
Raising kids is hard enough without having a spouse that isn’t a believer.
IV. Now, in addition to the advantage that we’ve just mentioned there’s a spiritual benefit for fathers who are Christians. The children of Christian fathers receive a special protection from God. To prove this, let me back up a little…
In the 10 commandments, God told His people:
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6
In other words: a father who deliberately disobeys God creates problems for his children, and his
grandchildren, and his great grandchildren, and his great, great grandchildren. The pain of his sin has an effect on 3 to 4 generations.
But the promise in this 3rd commandment is that… even tho’ that is true… God PROMISES that
this deadly pattern can be broken by a Godly parent. God says: I’ll punish the children of sinful fathers for 3 to 4 generations, BUT… I’ll show love to 1000 generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
A godless father can leave a terrible legacy to their children, but if his child, or grand child… whoever down through the line of descendents… if they decide that they are going to humble themselves before God – they break the cycle of sin’s destructiveness. God WILL show mercy. He WILL show compassion. He WILL bring healing to their home. A Godly parent can bring God’s blessing and protection to a family that has been devastated by generations of sinfulness.
Open you Bibles with me and turn to I Kings 11:9-13
The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD (the God of Israel) who had appeared to him twice. Although He had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command.
So the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.
Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."
Solomon had disobeyed the Lord. He had angered God so much that God was going to punish him. BUT "for the sake of David” (who was Solomon’s father) God was going to delay the punishment until after Solomon died. AND EVEN THEN, God was going to and reduce the punishment (one tribe would be left to Solomon’s son)… again this was because of God’s “servant David.”
David’s relationship with God protected his son from the worst of God’s wrath. He was a man after God’s own heart, and because of that Solomon was shielded from the worst results of sin.
What that means to us is this: a man who belongs to God can act as a spiritual shield for his children. A man who is faithful to God can make life easier on his children… even if his children aren’t faithful to God themselves.
So… let’s review
· All fathers (even non-Christians) can have a good impact on their children
· But, Christian fathers can have an even greater influence in raising good children
· AND, Godly dads offer their children a special blessing… special spiritual protection
V. But… what if there is no father in the house??
What if he’s died
Or what if he’s left
Or what if he was abusive to the kids that the wife felt she had to remove them for their safety
Psalms 68:4-6 tells us: "Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds—his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…"
This passage tells me a couple of things:
1st - When there is no father in a Godly home… God IS willing to step in. God’s desire is to be a father of the fatherless, defender of the widow.
He’s willing to supply what has been lost for the sake of the mother and child that belong to Him.
One of the ways (I believe) God does this is by setting the lonely in families. (Psalm 68:6)
I believe God is willing to create situations where a man is inserted into the family… a man who can supply the male influence that has been lost.
· Perhaps a grandfather
· Perhaps an uncle
· Perhaps a male mentor who is willing to spend time with that son or daughter
But God has designed children to NEED a strong mother AND father role-models in their lives. It’s important their healthy development. But when that role-model is missing God wants to help supply that which has been lost.
CLOSE: What value is a father to children?
Much in every way… especially if they are Godly Christian fathers.
But, to a child, sometimes the most important father is one who is there…
James Dobson tells that when he was about three years of age, “we lived in a one-bedroom apartment. My little bed was located beside the bed of my parents. Dad said it was not uncommon during that time for him to awaken at night and hear a little voice whispering, "Daddy? Daddy?"
He would answer quietly, "What, Jimmy?"
Then I would reply, "Hold my hand!"
My dad would reach across the darkness and grope for my little hand, finally engulfing it in his. He said the instant he encompassed my hand, my arm would become limp and my breathing deep and regular. I had gone back to sleep. You see, I only wanted to know that he was there!