2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
With Father’s day coming soon I felt inspired to share something that happened with my daughter that got me thinking about how important a father’s words and love is to a child.
Recently my daughter came up to me and asked if she was a good singer. I replied “ I guess so.” I had not really given it much thought before. I have heard her sing numerous times. She said, “ Dad, it’s a Yes or No answer.” Of course I told her yes. It does not matter if she is or is not a good singer, but that she sang for me. What was important to her was that I thought she was good.
How often do you as an adult act as a child before the Lord our Father? Do you ask if He liked what you did? We all want to be like our fathers and imitate them in some way. We want our fathers to smile upon us when we look over, and know they saw us do our best. The acknowledgement from that smile can drive us to do anything. We should all strive in our day to day lives to perform some action that would make our Father smile upon us.
By saying yes I hope that I have encouraged her to always try her best at everything even if you’re not good at something. I do not want them to ever just give up just because they feel they are not good enough to continue. We all want our fathers to look upon us with pride and acceptance. It is what motivates us to keep going no matter how difficult the task at hand is. I often tell my children that I love them unconditionally, and always will no matter what. I love you for who you are, not what you are.
I think George Strait said best in the song “A Father’s Love.” “You see daddies don’t just love their children every now and then. Its a love without end, amen, it’s a love without end, amen.”
“As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.” – Psalm 103:13
“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4
“Because I said so.” I waited my whole child and teenage life for the day when I would finally be able to say those words. “But Dad, why can’t I do this” or “Why do I have to do that”? “Because I said so.” As a kid, I would dream of the day when I would have the authority to command my children with no explanation other than my own order and direction.
Now, though, I find myself reading Psalm 103 and Ephesians 4 and asking, “But why do I say so?” What does it mean to have compassion for my children? Perhaps it is understanding that the authority I have not only as a parent but as an adult and role model for a younger generation is an authority that is to be used not for the sake of wielding power but for the sake of discipling a future generation.
I think that the words in Ephesians are not a restriction against ever doing anything to make our children mad. There are things we have to do and say that our children won’t like but we know we have to do for their protection and proper development. I think what Ephesians 6:4 reminds us is the authority we have been given over our children is not to be used simply to show them who is boss. That use of power, whether in the home or in a community group or in a nation state, will always provoke anger and revolt. As Peter Parker learned, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Our authority as adults and parents is given to us by God that we might instruct and guide our children to grow in wisdom and stature so that they can become disciples of and ambassadors for God’s kingdom. We are given authority not to prove we are better, but to help our children become better. When we put authority to use for the sake of others rather than for our own sake, then we begin to develop the compassion that Psalm 103 speaks about.
Who are the children that God has put in your life and given you authority or influence over? How can you work with God to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”?
In 2 Corinthians 4:1, the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” Interesting that Paul has so much hope about “this ministry”, because it certainly involved much frustration and pain. As a matter of fact, Paul writes this very letter to try to make amends with the church at Corinth, a congregation with whom he seemed to endure a rather strained relationship with. These type of situations are often the ones that cause us to lose heart and hope, questioning whether or not we understood God’s voice correctly. Yet Paul views his struggles with the congregation at Corinth not as an invalidation of his ministry but as a real opportunity to reflect on the truth of the gospel and discover hope.
Too many times we see struggles and frustrations as evidence that God is not working in a particular way. Perhaps we should question this assumption and ask instead if such trying times are an invitation to claim the hope that comes from God’s mercy.
Is there a place in your life where you have an opportunity to hope because of God’s mercy rather than surrender because of frustration?
Often when we think of children and prayer, we think about praying at meals or saying prayers at bedtime. Most of these prayers are poems or songs that express thanks to God for food, family, or (in the case of some children) everything in the whole world. These prayers and these times are crucial moments of spiritual formation for our children and blessings to share and remember as parents. Recently, though, I have started realizing the importance of helping our children expand their prayer life.
My youngest son, of his own volition, started praying regularly for an elderly woman in our church who had to move into an assisted living facility in another town. When he says his bedtime prayers or when we pray together at our corporate prayer time at the church, he always asks God to “help Ms. Anne”. I recently had a chance to visit with Ms. Anne, and she told me that several folks had told her about my son’s prayers. She asked me to tell my son how touched and how blessed she felt knowing that my son was constantly praying for her.
As I left her room, I realized that my son was growing in Christ, moving from praying only for how God works in his life to praying for God to reveal himself in the lives of others. As a parent, I am proud of him for taking this step in his spiritual growth and I am made aware of how infrequently we specifically ask our children to pray for the needs and worries of adults.
Jesus invited his disciples to come to him “as a child” (Mark 10:13-15), yet we still sometimes reserve so much of our interaction with Christ as “big people talk”. Who better to speak honestly and plainly to God about a situation than a child who is not worrying about the “right” thing to say and who will come into God’s presence with no reservations about God’s power and presence!
As parents and as churches, we can encourage our children’s continued spiritual growth by actively engaging them in praying for the specific needs of their family, their friends, and their church. It is a great way for them to learn that prayer is not only communication but mission and ministry. What prayer requests can you share with the children in your life?