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Reflections : The Way Forward for Fathers
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The Way Forward for Fathers

By Dr. Kieran Beville, Pastor of Lee Valley Bible Church, Ballincollig, Ireland
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Christian fathers have privileged responsibilities and the greatest of these is to model the fatherhood of God. But what is He like?

A father is not merely a man who has begotten a child. Unfortunately in many situations it is nothing more than the title of a male parent, a name on a birth certificate. Fathers have obligations to guide and influence the spiritual, intellectual and emotional development of their children. In fact they have the right and authority to do this.

The father-image we project onto the first person of the Trinity is often influenced by our childhood experience of paternity. Unfaithful (adulterous) fathers have abandoned children. Indifferent fathers have ignored their offspring. Callous fathers have compared their children unfavourably with others. Uncaring fathers have made their children feel unwanted. Brutish and alcoholic fathers have beaten and abused their little ones. Domineering fathers have controlled their progeny. Doting fathers have pampered and spoiled children who needed not to be indulged but disciplined. But the pain and problems caused by these evils must not eclipse the biblical portrait of our Father in heaven.

It is crucial, therefore, that as Christian fathers we portray the biblical characteristics of the heavenly archetype. When we consider the paternal aspects of Godhood we realise what a tremendous responsibility it is to model the exemplary fatherhood of God. Fathers may feel discouraged in the face of such a daunting challenge. We are frail, feeble and flawed whereas He is fantastic!

Our heavenly Father is not aloof or unapproachable. Rather He is alert to our needs and accessible. “...since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place... let us draw near to God” (Hebrews 10:19-22). He is not preoccupied and He will not be perplexed by our concerns. He is interested in us and cares enough to listen. We should, therefore, have that childlike “cheek” that is fearless in the confidence of love.

He is a faithful Father who will never reject us. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5). We have that constant companionship that inspires confidence in His presence. Even when we are disloyal He remains constant because it is His nature. “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself”’ (2 Timothy 2:13). In Revelation 19:11 we see how fidelity in name and nature are inextricably linked. “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.” This same point is emphasised in Exodus 34:5-6: “Then the Lord came down...and proclaimed His name...The Lord ... the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

What a beautiful image of God this presents to us! Anger is not a knee-jerk reaction with God. He does not have an anger hair-trigger. His wrath is only aroused after His vast patience has been exhausted and even then His response has the best interest of His children at heart.

Our heavenly Father is fair. A sense of grievance has been engendered in many children not because their fathers punished them, but because discipline was administered unfairly. He disciplines in love. Hebrews 12:5-11 outlines God’s purpose in discipline. It is not to satiate His anger but to strengthen His adopted sons: “...the Lord disciplines those He loves... for our good, that we may share in His holiness.”

Love is always the context in which He chastises those whom He cherishes. He is not a disciplinarian and neither is He reluctant to reprimand where appropriate. In the words of the hymn “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven,” we can truly sing that He is “slow to chide and swift to bless.” In fact He does not chide. He corrects. He does not nag. He negotiates, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18). Thus punishment is part of our heavenly Father’s provision for our perfection.

If we really want to know what our heavenly father is like, we have to look to Jesus because “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

The attributes of God that are spoken of in abstract terms in Scripture are animated in the person and work of Christ. As Christians we bear that noble name! The family likeness should be evident in our character and conduct and fathers should strive to ensure that the family honour is maintained.

He provides for all our needs. As Barnabas and Paul proclaimed to the crowds in Acts 14:17, “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Such generosity! He spared nothing. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). His provision is gracious beyond comparison.

His presence guarantees our protection. “He who 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” (Psalm 91:1-3). He is our defender and deliverer.

Our heavenly Father freely gives advice: “You guide me with your counsel” (Psalm 73:24). And He comforts us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

This brief sketch points the way forward for fathers. We should be to others, especially our children, what He is to us as a Father.

Kieran Beville is pastor of Lee Valley Bible Church (Baptist), Ballincollig, Co. Cork, Ireland.


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