Summary: God demonstrates his fatherhood by defending us, disciplining us, and being devoted to us.
Note: The title of this sermon came from a series by Rick Warren; however, the content is original.
This morning, we conclude a nine week series, in which we’ve been examining how God meets our fundamental human needs – our needs for things like hope and healing, for peace and power. We’ve considered how we can strengthen our trust in God to meet those needs, regardless of what our circumstances may be. This morning, we’re going to be looking at this question: "What kind of father is God?" Why is that question important? And why is it especially important to this issue of how God meets our deepest needs?
First of all, God’s identity as a father – as our father – is important because it’s how he chose to characterize his relationship to us. It’s not just a description that was dreamed up by preachers or theologians. I could stand up here this morning, and say, for example, "God is like a favorite uncle". Perhaps I could use that "uncle-nephew" analogy to highlight some important truths about God. It might even turn into pretty good sermon. But likening God to an uncle would still be just a human comparison. Because the Bible never refers to him in that way. The Lord’s Prayer, for example, doesn’t begin with the words, "Our uncle in heaven, hallowed be your name," but rather "Our Father in heaven." No, among all the human relationships he could have chosen as a metaphor for his relationship with us, he chose this one, "Father". There was something significant that God wanted to communicate by his choice of this title.
In fact, I’ll go even farther. God purposely designed human fatherhood to be an illustration of his relationship to us. The whole reason that God even created something called "fathers" was so that we could better understand who he is. In other words, it wasn’t as if God looked around at all the different kinds of human relationships he had created – father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin – and finally settled on this one as being the most similar to his relationship with his people. No. It goes back farther than that. In the very beginning, God fashioned the family, and the role of the father in the family, to serve as a living picture of who he is. Therefore, when he refers to himself as our "father," it is not arbitrary or unimportant. It is highly intentional. It has great significance. And by the way, that’s why contemporary assaults on the Biblical view of the family are so destructive. Not just because they harm the people involved, who usually find that alternative forms of family structure don’t work very well. But also because they obscure the picture of God that human fatherhood was intended to reveal. They make it harder for people to understand what God is like.
Let’s look at just a few of the instances in which the Scriptures refer to God as our Father. First, in the Old Testament we see the prophets referring to God as our Father:
"[Y]ou, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. " – Isaiah 63:16
". . . O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." – Isaiah 64:8
In the New Testament, we see Christ repeatedly referring to God as both his Father and ours:
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" – Matthew 6:26
"For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." – John 6:40
The apostles also refer to God as our Father. For example, Paul usually begins his letters with a greeting similar to this one:
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." – 2 Corinthians 1:2
The New Testament refers to God as a father over 250 times, and that’s enough by itself to make it significant. That’s how God chooses to identify himself. But that’s not all – it’s important because it affects how we relate to him. We’ve seen in the past few weeks that God can meet our deepest needs. But our ability to receive those blessings depends on what kind of father we think he is. If we view him as a wise, and loving, and kind father, one who keeps his promises and always has our best interests in mind, then we’ll be able to trust him. We’ll be able to follow and obey; even when we don’t understand what He’s doing in our lives. On the other hand, if we see him as an unreliable, or uncaring, or perhaps even abusive father, then it will be much harder for us to trust him.