Good Fathers In Bad Times

Bible Book: Ezra  8 : 21
Subject: Father's Day; Father, Men; Family
Introduction

A father sat in the waiting room at a hospital waiting for word on the birth of his baby. The nurse came out and said to him, "Sir, I am happy to report that you have twin daughters. They are perfect in every way." The man said, "That is amazing. I work for the Double Mint chewing gum company and I have two children born on the same day."

A few minutes later the nurse came out and spoke to another man in the waiting room, "Sir, you have three boys. Your wife has given birth to three perfectly healthy sons." The man replied with surprise, "How about that! I work for the 3 M Company and my wife had triplets!"

Just then, another man in the waiting room fainted and fell to the floor. They ran to him and finally brought him around. "Sir,” the nurse asked, "what happened to you? Why did you pass out?" The drowsy man said, "One man worked for Double Mint Gum and he had twins. This other man worked for 3M Company and he had triplets. Ma'am, I work for Seven Up!" The nurse said, "Well, just think how upset you would be if you worked for Century 21!"

Having children is not nearly as difficult as rearing them. The mother's pain in childbirth, and the father's agony in waiting soon pass, but the task of rearing children is an awesome task for which most parents are fully prepared. Today I want to address the subject of Good Fathers In Bad Times. We are going to specifically examine the role of the father in child-rearing.

“In 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit southern Florida, leaving behind an estimated $12 billion in damages, 50 people dead and thousands homeless. A TV news camera crew was filming this devastation when they came to neighborhood where all the homes were flattened except for one. The owner was outside cleaning up his yard, so the crew stopped and asked, ‘Sir, why is your house the only one still standing? How did you manage to escape the severe damage of the hurricane?’

‘I built the house myself,’ the man replied. ‘I also built it according to the Florida state building code. When the code called for 2' X 6' roof trusses, I used 2' X 6' roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did. I suppose no one else around here followed the code.’

No one would disagree that social, moral, ethical and spiritual hurricanes have swept across the homes and families in American life during the past thirty to forty years. For a home to withstand the blowing winds of destruction and change in our day, it must be built according the God's code.” (Is There A Man In The House, Woodrow Kroll, Back To The Bible, p. 22)

I want us to get a word from God today on the role of fathers. Look with me at Ezra 8:21. Ezra was in captivity in Babylon when he was given permission by Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. He left with 1,500 men and their families. He had millions of dollars of silver and gold with him at the time. He was a sitting duck for thieves and the journey he was about to take was over 1,000 miles long. Ezra did something that every man and father should do. He did not trust his own strength or that of soldiers. In fact, he did not even take a contingency of troops with him on the journey. He called for prayer and fasting – he was trusting the protection and guidance of God. Note carefully that he told them to pray specifically for the “little ones.” He was extremely concerned for the children that would come along on the long and arduous journey.

These were bad times, but Ezra knew that good men and good fathers could make a difference in such times. Are we, as men and fathers, making a real difference in the bad times in which we live? I don't think any of us would argue that these aren't bad times in which to raise children.

Multiple news agencies are reporting this week that two twelve year old girls have been arrested in Waukesha, Wisconsin, for attempting to stab to death another middle school girl. The young girls have admitted that they were trying to kill the girl. When asked why, the girls told a story about a website they had been visiting that called for people to kill someone in order to join. Of course, the website was not speaking of actually killing a person but was rather speaking of killing someone in a computer program. The girls took the request literally and decided on the girl they would murder. Parents have no idea what their children are reading and seeing online these days. Being a parent has never been more difficult. The parents of the girls who attempted the murder sat in the courtroom in tears and shock.

Dad, do you know how to be a good father in these bad times. Let’s consider how we can do just that.

I. A Good Father's Power

Ezra knew that the task ahead required power which he and the others did not possess. To get to Jerusalem, the people would have to traverse over 1,000 difficult and dangerous miles. The greatest danger, however, did not lay in the miles or the enemies but within the people. You see, the important matter was for the men, the husbands and fathers, to be committed to the God who could empower them to guide their families correctly during these onerous days.

The word "father" speaks of our role to protect and nourish our family and children. The word "father" in Hebrew is "AB" and in Greek it is "PATER". These words mean, "Protector" or "Nourisher". We fathers need power that we do not possess naturally within ourselves so that we can carry out the role God has chosen for us in the home.

In a New Testament sense, there are two elements needed for a father to have the power to be a godly and good father. Look at Ephesians 6:4. Then look back at Ephesians 5:18.

A. The Indwelling Savior

A man will never be the father he could be or should be unless he has the Savior living in his heart.

One day as Gypsy Smith walked along in a Scottish village, a little girl came up to him. Smith was surrounded by people due to the fact that he was in the area preaching and hundreds had come out to hear him. Wherever he went people followed him in great numbers. The little girl was persistent and finally got the great evangelist’s attention. "Here is a gift for you," she said, as she held up in her dirty hand a piece of candy wrapped in a dirty cloth.

"Why have you brought Gypsy Smith a piece of candy?" he asked.

"Sir, my daddy used to beat my mommy. He used to come home drunk. He yelled at me and we were afraid all the time. But my daddy got saved and Jesus lives in his heart. Now I have a new daddy at my house and I wanted to bring you my only piece of candy because you told my daddy about Jesus."

Gypsy Smith picked the little girl up and held her high above the crowd shouting, "Look, ladies and gentlemen, here is a little girl with a new daddy at her house."

Oh, how many boys and girls need and deserve a new daddy in their homes. But they will never have one unless Jesus comes in to take up residence. Friend, it will not be the courts or laws that will straighten out the absent daddy problem; this can only happen due to a spiritual revival in the hearts of dads.

B. The Infilling Spirit

Even a dad who knows Jesus still needs power. This power is given through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Fathers all over this church today need a new surge of power to help them be the fathers they ought to be, and that surge of power is available only through the infilling of God's Spirit. In order to experience that infilling power, you must be willing to submit yourself to God. You must humble yourself. You must admit your need. Many men have a problem admitting they have a need. We are taught as boys to stand up for ourselves. But, when it comes to God, you either admit your need or do without His power. Living without God's strength is the greatest problem among Christian fathers today!

II. A Good Father's Patience

The trip the people were taking in the day of Ezra covered arduous miles over difficult terrain. There were no autobahns or interstate highways. They had no hotels in which to spend the night. There were no restaurants where they could sit down and enjoy a relaxing meal. It was a long a difficult trip.

Note, again, that the prayer Ezra called for involved asking God to protect the children. The Lord teaches us in His Word that the long journey of getting your children to adulthood requires great patience. Look at that passage in Ephesians, chapter 6, again. Note that fathers are told not to exasperate their children, but to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

A. The Temperament Matter

You need an even temperament. Many fathers get mad at their children, not because of the situation at home but because of the situation in their own lives. If things are going well for dad, he might not be angry. If he has had a bad day, he just might explode on his children at home. Children need to see an even temperament in us as fathers.

An even temperament comes when you, as a dad, are at peace with God in all circumstances. Spending time with the Lord daily is necessary for us as men to keep our aggressive male nature in check. Children who have fathers who burst into angry rages at random events never learn true discipline. For your children to learn to trust God and have peace in their hearts, they need fathers who trust God and reveal peace through their temperament.

B. The Time Matter

Someone did a study revealing that fathers spend an average of 7 1/2 minutes in eye-to-eye conversation with their children each week. Imagine that - 7 1/2 minutes a WEEK! A father must take time with his children. With the advent of mobile devices, it is easy for us to become detached from our children. I read somewhere a couple of weeks ago that some parents are spending twelve hours a day attached to a mobile device. Dad, turn that think off and look into the eyes of your children. Time matters! Your children are spending their time connecting with people, and it is likely they those people may not be best for them. Often they are learning about life through the computer. I urge you to sit down with your children every day and talk.

Jesus spent time with His disciples. It was said of them on one occasion that the people perceived that they had been WITH Jesus. It does not simply say that they knew Him, but that they had been WITH Him. Indeed, Jesus spent time with His disciples. If we are going to teach our children, we must spend time with them. Your children will tend to follow the person and influences that give attention to them.

A Harvard University study found that 6 of every 10 juvenile delinquents had fathers who drank to excess; many had mothers who did the same; 3 out of 4 lacked parental interest or discipline; and 4 out of 5 had parents who took no interest in their friends or amusements. Many wayward children came from broken homes, and few had religious training of any kind. That doesn't mean that all children who go astray as teenagers or adults came from broken or bad homes. Some dads and moms live for God, spend time in prayer and do the best they can to lead their children in a godly manner; but a child in that family may well grow up and go astray. The percentages, however, of those who become delinquents come from homes where fathers are absent and/or live ungodly lives.

"A nun who worked in a men's prison was asked by one of the inmates if she would buy him a Mother's Day card to send to his mom. She agreed, and word traveled fast; soon hundreds of inmates were asking for cards. Resourcefully, the nun contacted a greeting card manufacturer, who sent crates of Mother's Day cards, all of which she passed out. Soon afterward, she realized that Father's Day was approaching and, thinking ahead, she again called the card manufacturer, who responded quickly with crates of Father's Day cards. Years later, the nun said she still had every one of those cards. Not one prisoner requested a card for his father. Clearly, most men in prison lack fathers" [Father and Son by Gordon Dalby. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992. Page 7.]

Listen carefully! A child's heart often spells L-O-V-E with the letters T-I-M-E. If you don't spend time with your children, they will spend it with others. Whoever gives them time will have a great influence on their future. It needs to be a godly, good father who gives the time and attention to the child.

III. A Good Father's Practice

A. Discipline

A father must not leave the discipline to the mother. The father has an important role to play at this point. Some fathers do discipline the children, but that is basically all they do with their children. They step in when discipline is needed, but otherwise they spend little time with the children. A father who does not take time with his children may be seen as nothing more than a mean- spirited tyrant. One little girl climbed up in her mother's lap one day when dad was yelling and said, "Mom, we made a bad mistake when we married daddy, didn't we!"

Note only must a father dole out discipline in a fair and even manner, but he must be disciplined in his own life. If your habits reveal a lack of discipline, all you say to your children will be useless.

Dad needs to know how to administer disciple in a way that is firm but loving. He needs to reflect the spirit which God the Father shows toward us when he disciplines us in our lives. And, he needs to live a disciplined life in front of his children.

B. Direction

Genesis 18:19 states concerning Abraham, "For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."

A father should teach his children. This involves everything from how to ride a bike to how to read the Bible! You should teach your children. Today, most children get their education from Television, modern music, peers, the computer and from public school. Now, ask yourself is you think TV, modern rap music, friends who may not be carefully chosen, the internet world and the public school is likely to lead your children the way you know is best. Father, you better teach your children - both in word and deed! Look into the eyes of your child. Love your child. Hug your child. Discipline your child. Talk to your child!

J.C. Penny worked at a grocery store as a boy. He came home one day bragging about how the owner made some extra money. He explained to his father that the store owner mixed regular coffee with an expensive blend and sold it at the expensive price, thus making extra profit. The father asked J.C. Penny how the store owner would feel if someone were doing that to him. Penny replied that he would not like it. The lad quit the job immediately. Later, when he started his own business, he had a hard and fast rule - everything he sold would be just as he advertised it. He had a great success and tithed on all his income, giving millions to missions. J.C. Penny's father was instrumental in the business success that his boy experienced. He had taken time to give his boy proper direction.

Joshua 4:21-22 states, He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.'"

A father should give his child Biblical answers to life's questions. That is what J.C. Penny's father did for him. That is what all children need. Part of discipline for children is to give them direction before they make a mistake. And, it is to give a biblical explanation of correct living.

IV. A Good Father's Purpose

A. To Be Right With God

The concern of Ezra in our text today was that the men, the husbands and fathers, would be right with God. This should be our supreme purpose. Our children should see us as we humbly bow before God. They should hear us admit our need of God. This will make us sweet and precious to our children.

One little girl said of her daddy, "My daddy is so sweet I think when he was a little boy he was really a little girl." It would be wonderful if the child of every Christian father could see the sweetness of Jesus in that dad.

I have a lot of memories of my own father. He was a Christian, a Sunday School teacher and a deacon when I was growing up in North Carolina. But one memory I will never forget is my dad down on his knees praying with me. It thought me a great lesson. You see, like most boys, I thought my dad could do anything. He was big and strong! When he knelt down with me and placed his arm of my shoulder and prayed with me, it spoke volumes. It revealed to me that my dad needed God, and made me realize how much more did I need God. When I heard my dad ask for forgiveness, it taught me to humble myself before God. Trust me, dad, your children know you are not perfect. When they see you admit that, it helps them realize how important it is to take their sins to the Savior. Give you children a memory of a praying daddy. They will never - never - never - forget it!

B. To See His Children Right With God

Above every desire a father has for his children is the prayer that each one will come to God through Jesus. And not only that, but that each one will follow God’s plan, purpose and will for his or her life. No greater success can be known to a father than this, that his children are prepared for eternity and live a life that reveals it!

Conclusion

Dad, how are you doing in this matter? Today, the call is for fathers to come to know Christ, and for those who know Him to recommit your lives and ways to Him. Let us bow down today as they did in Ezra's day. Let us pray for our life and walk to honor God before our children. Let us pray for a safe journey for the "little ones".

Some of you have grown children, and they you are concerned for them. You have done all you can, but you still see spiritual needs in their lives. Bring that grown child to God in prayer today. Bow here at the front of this church and call on the Lord in behalf of your children. It may be too late for us to have the influence we had when they were small and under our control, but it is never too late to bring your child before God in prayer!