What Makes a Godly, Fatherly Role Model?
Old Testament Reading- Proverbs 4
New Testament Reading- 1 John 3:1-3
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -June 19, 2022, Father’s Day
Listen to the words from Proverbs 3, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. Do not accuse anyone for no reason—when they have done you no harm. Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence. The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.”
Doesn’t this just sound like a father giving his child a lesson? (At least it should.) Unfortunately, not all fathers are like this, and many can’t see past their own wants and needs to help anyone with anything, let alone their own children. The Bible gives us a glimpse into how to really be a good father, mother, and child. We all have a responsibility for our own actions and in our relationships in this life. The Bible just happens to be the place to go to find these types of instructions.
I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I am in having a great father, many do not have a great earthly father, but I do think that most of us have a sense of what we think a great father is like, what qualities they possess, and how they should act. It is not coincidence that many people all across the world, in different countries, and with differing cultures, if asked to write down the qualities of a good father, then to compare each different account, we would find that each would be very similar in their descriptions. Is it the work of the heightened levels of testosterone found in men or is it how they are raised, nature or nurture, as they say, I do not know, maybe it was just how we were made? Generally speaking, many good fathers seem similar in their ways and their means.
What do we associate with fathers, besides tools and beer, not that those are bad things, but let’s dig a little deeper? Good fathers ‘Provide.’ Not that they are the sole providers, but we often associate providing to fathers. They provide for their families the food on their tables and the roofs over their heads. They provide clothing and footwear, as well as money for some of the fun things in life like differing forms of sports or entertainment.
Good fathers ‘Protect.’ We all need to be protected in some way, or we at least need to feel safe to be able to live and learn in life. I have read that in countries around the world, where constant warfare or totalitarian governments exist, children do not excel in school. If we feel unsafe, our basic instincts will only focus on survival mode and everything else will take a back seat. This is no way to live, and we look to our fathers to help in this regard.
Good fathers ‘Teach and Guide.’ Here’s to all the ‘Mr. Fix Its’ out there, teaching their children how to fix things or to build things is often something we equate with fathers. Guidance is also something Dad is known for. A Good Father would never lead his children astray but would go to great ends to guide them themselves or find the best guidance for them.
Good fathers ‘Encourage.’ Most people don’t think of fathers as cheerleaders, but they are, or at least they should be. Children look to their fathers for validation in all that they do and when those children do a great job, good fathers will give them some praise and encourage their children to continue on to the next stage. A child that gets no encouragement from their father is often bound for failure because they feel that if they can’t impress Dad, they won’t impress anyone.
Good fathers, ‘Discipline.’ This doesn’t mean to beat children into submission, but to realize that all children need some form of discipline if they are to succeed in life. The world is a rough place, and you won’t be able to protect your children forever, at some point they must jump in with both feet to sink or swim. It is your job to teach them how to swim, and to swim right so that they have the confidence to jump in the first place. Also, it is your job to prepare your children how to interact with others socially. How they play will be how they work, if they cannot play well with others, they are in for a hard life. Discipline them from an early age, teaching them that they cannot always have what they want, so that they learn to work with others and to share responsibly.
Good fathers, ‘Love.’ I am not sure that there is anything more important than love. A good father loves their children, period. If your children learn from an early age that they are loved unconditionally and are taught how to respect other’s feelings so that they will not take advantage of that special kind of love, then they will be unstoppable in this life.
Lastly, Good fathers, ‘Model.’ This is probably the only one that is more important than love, because it encompasses all the others. If we tell our children how to live, but we model a completely different way, we are found to be a hypocrite and they will not respect us. Remember the old saying, ‘Monkey see, monkey do?’ Well, what fathers’ model, the child does, because you are their role model, in fact, a father is probably the biggest role model in a boy or girl’s life. How fathers’ model all the things we just talked about will be a huge factor in their children’s lives. No pressure, right? Wrong, but God equips us as parents just as He equips us in other areas of our lives. Never be too proud to ask our heavenly Father for help in parenting, hey, it’s a tough job.
There is one more thing that goes along with ‘Model,’ and that is how we act in our faith life. I said before that fathers are a huge role model, bigger than any sports figure, superhero, or other famous person, the first person children want to be like is their fathers. Whether it’s a girl or a boy, Dad is the first superman in every child’s life. When children see their fathers praying to God, attending church functions, living their life like what they are learning in Sunday School, then they learn to love and respect God too. There is no better gift you could give your children than the best steps toward their faith, talk about the gift that keeps on giving, this one lasts for eternity.
We have been talking about the qualities of a good father, but if we know what good is, then we must have a source. The Bible gives us that knowledge. God the Father, our heavenly Father, is that source and is truly the only Father that is completely good. Let’s take a look at His Word. How does God provide for us, Matthew 6:31-33 says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” God provides like no other, He provides us with what we need and if we ask with right motives, also what we want.
God protects us and I can find no other example as good as the one found in Psalm 91:1-7, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”
I am certain that there is no other protection to be found that is better than that.
God teaches us through Scripture. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise,” and in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” God also guides us through Jesus Christ, John 14:6 tells us, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
God encourages us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” He sustains us even in our lowest moments, like the words from Psalm 23: 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
God disciplines us, Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us, “My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” More is found in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” and the famous lines from Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” I always like to follow this Scripture with the following from Hebrews 12:4-11, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 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 spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
God loves us, Paul writes in his letter to the Church, Romans 8:31-39, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Lastly, God is our role model. He is the Father that we all look up to as the one who provides for us, protects us, encourages us, teaches us, guides us, disciplines us, and loves us. We have no greater role model than that, God is our model for all things perfect and good. It is the Almighty, our Creator whom we imitate in our lives, struggling to live up to His ways, yet knowing that He encourages us, His children, every step of the way. On this Father’s Day I thank all fathers for all that you have done and are actively doing to make your children’s lives better now and, in the years, to come, and I thank our heavenly Father for being our role model and for showing us the kind of love that we cannot live without. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.