Today is Father’s Day. I want to take a moment to thank all of the men who have taken on the responsibility of being a father. You may have all kinds of titles attached to your name that reflect the respect you have earned in the community, but there is no title more honorable, more weighty, or more demanding than the title of “Dad.”
For many men today we have confused the temporal with the eternal. We give our best effort to that which will eventually go away and lag behind in our efforts at home. Many men are willing to lay down their lives for their job. They would never think of saying, “No” to any request made by the boss. No sacrifice is too great to gain that corner office, promotion, or end-of-year bonus, but when it comes to their home many men do not exhibit the same kind of commitment and willingness to sacrifice.
I believe there are many reasons why this is a reality for many men. For some of us, we didn’t have a dad to show us how to be a man, how a man interacts with his family, or the sacrifices that a man makes for his wife and children. With no model, no mentor, we are left to do the best we can do with what we’ve got to work with. For some other men, the workplace offers us a more controlled environment. We may be in a position of authority where we tell others what to do and they simply do it, we have people to assist us, and serve us, and we like that. At home, we’re not the “boss.” We ask our kids to clean their room and they look back at us like we’ve told them to find a cure for cancer. We bark out instructions like General Petraeus and instead of a salute, everyone within in the sound of our voice rolls their eyes. For some of us men playing golf, hanging out with the boys, and kicking up our heels is fun, carefree, and an escape from the hard work of being a husband and father. Being a dad can be challenging, frustrating at times, but it is the stuff of eternity. God has ordained us to be dads. He has called us to bless our children, teach them His Word, how to recognize His ways, and to press on through the difficulties and challenges with undying conviction and unyielding commitment.
Jim was overjoyed when he and Kathy had their first child. They named him Tommy and Jim made God a promise that he wouldn’t repeat the mistakes his own dad had made. Jim had been raised by his mom after his mom and dad had divorced. He was only five at the time. His dad would have been a great dad, or at least Jim believed that he would have, if he had only tried. Others told Jim that his dad was a great man. He heard stories of how his dad had helped others. He heard stories of his dad’s accomplishments in the community, but for Jim his dad was a distant figure whom he rarely got a chance to be around while he was growing up.
It is a wonderful thing when a person uses their the experience of their own suffering to make a decision to help others so that they might avoid the suffering they have endured. That is exactly what Jim did with the void left by his dad. He decided that He would never abandon his own son. Jim turned down promotions because they might take him away from Kathy and Tommy more than he wanted. Jim went to work early in the morning so that he could make sure he was home by dinner. He loved Kathy and Tommy and it was evident.
Things were going according to plan for the first several years. When Tommy was six, Jim and Kathy had a second child, another little boy they named William, but everyone called him “Billy.” Jim once again had a talk with God and made a commitment not to repeat the mistakes his own dad had made in his life. Jim would pray every morning for Kathy and his boys and he would ask God to keep him focused on what truly mattered in life.
Jim loved spending the evenings with Kathy and his boys. They tossed a ball around, wrestled in the floor, and read books when it came time to go to bed before they ended the day in prayer.
Jim and Kathy planned a big celebration for Tommy’s 13th birthday. It was hard to believe that their little boy was now a teenager. Kathy had sent invitations to all of Tommy’s friends. They gathered at the neighborhood pool, played games, and made memories that they would never forget.
Over the next few months things began to change. Tommy began to withdraw, detach, and spend more time with his friends and less time wanting to be around his mom and dad. It didn’t bother Jim too much; he knew that Tommy was a teenager now and that it was just part of the process of growing up. Then, when Tommy was in ninth grade his grades began to slip, he decided he didn’t want to play basketball anymore, and he and his dad began to argue. Argue may not be the right word—it was war and every day was a battle. Tommy was rebelling and Jim was tired.
Changes continued, but the changes weren’t confined to Tommy’s heart—Jim began to withdraw. He was tired of fighting, tired of trying to connect with Tommy when Tommy showed no signs of wanting to connect. Jim began to take on more responsibilities at work, spend more time playing golf with his friends, spending less time at home, and he did this to try and escape his disappointment with home.
There was collateral damage that was done because of Jim and Tommy’s soured relationship. Because Jim was staying away from home Billy didn’t get to spend the time with his dad that Tommy did when he was young. The evening wrestling matches were a thing of the past. Jim didn’t coach Billy’s little league baseball team. He did good just to make it to Billy’s games. Kathy still read to Billy and prayed with him before he went to sleep at night, but Jim had work to do so he would look up from his computer and tell Billy “goodnight” on his way past Jim’s office. Jim had thrown in the towel.
Jim’s story is not unique. Jim wasn’t the first dad to be disappointed nor will he be the last. Regardless of what the parenting books at Mardel’s tell you, most dads who really make an effort to be a “good” dad feel disappointment if their children begin to withdraw, acquire other interests, or begin to make disappointing decisions.
Emotions are powerful. The experiences we have in life that disappoint us can lead to our making decisions that can impact us for the rest of our lives. A wife who is disappointed with her marriage can make the decision to check it in. The worker who is disappointed with his boss can make the decision to resign. The friend who is disappointed with his buddy can choose to walk away. Each of us knows this to be true. Some of us have even experienced the disconnect I am talking about.
Men, the question I want to address today is, “How can we stay true to what God has called us to do when we encounter disappointment?” I don’t want to spend our time simply focused on “Fatherhood,” that is far too narrow of a topic, and our checking out when we encounter disappointment is far more widespread than simply the arena of fatherhood.
While I was on vacation with my family a few weeks ago I read 1 Chronicles. If you’ve never read it then you really should. There are some powerful lessons taken from the lives of David, Solomon, and the Israelites. While I was reading 1 Chronicles I noticed something about the relationship of David and his son, Solomon. David wanted to build a temple for the Lord more than anything, but God wouldn’t allow it. God told David that his son would be the one to build the temple for him. How David dealt with the disappointment of not being allowed to build the Temple provides us with a powerful illustration that transcends every area of our lives. David had to have been disappointed when he learned that he wouldn’t be allowed to build the temple. At that point David could have shifted into “woe-is-me” mode and lived out his years in disappointment and loathing. David didn’t do that, he wanted to build the temple, but he understood the sovereignty of God, so he went with God’s plan. In 1 Chronicles 22:5-13 we read what David did in response to God’s announcement. Read along with me.
5 David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death. 6 Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. 7 David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. 8 But this word of the LORD came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. 9 But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. 10 He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ 11 “Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. 12 May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. 13Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. (1 Chronicles 22:5-13 NIV)
David recognized that his son was young and inexperienced. Solomon would need help. David began to make plans to help Solomon accomplish all that God had given him to do. David did two things that were very important: First, he began to gather the needed materials that Solomon would need to do what God had called him to do one day. Secondly, and really of first importance, David urged Solomon to walk with God, to keep God’s commands, to be strong and courageous, and to refuse to fear or become discouraged.
Six chapters later, we are allowed to hear a father and son heart-to-heart that should be used by every father to teach his son what is most important in life. Let me set the context for you. Solomon has come to his coronation, he is to become king, and his father, David, is addressing all of Israel about the future with their new king. When we come to 1 Chronicles 28:9-11, David turns his attention from the people of Israel to his son, Solomon. David says,
9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.” 11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. (1 Chronicles 28:9-11 NIV)
What is most important for the new king to know going into office? Surround yourself with capable leaders? No. Exert your authority so you can let them know who’s boss? Hardly. David says, “acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind…seek Him and He will be found by you…Be strong and do the work.” That is great advice for all of us men. It is also great insight that we should sharing with our children. After David instructed his son he handed him the plans for the temple and then, in 1 Chronicles 28:19-20, we read,
19 “All this,” David said, “I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.” 20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. (1 Chronicles 28:19-20 NIV)
“God is with you Solomon. Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or discouraged.” When Solomon was a young guy his dad had told him the same thing, “Don’t be afraid or discouraged.” David coupled this advice with the reminder to seek God above all else. Herein lies the key to being the man God has called us to be—seek God above all else. David had done it in his own life, throughout his life, and now he was passing on to his son the greatest lesson he could ever learn—seek God.
Make it your aim to walk with God every moment of every day, give your full attention to fully following Him and being obedient to what He is showing you in His Word, and don’t be discouraged or afraid. God is not nearly as concerned with our “success” as He is our passion for Him and our obedience in following His will. This is a lesson, a principle that applies to every area of our lives men. From parenting, to serving our wives, to blessing those in our place of work, to being God’s ambassador when we are with our buddies playing softball or attending a ball game—seeking God with all of our hearts will prevent us from ever being led astray.
As I said earlier, when David heard that he would not be the one to build the temple David could have allowed his disappointment to derail him from being the man God had called him to be, but he didn’t.
This is not the only time in David’s life that he would have to deal with disappointment. David’s family was a mess. His son Absalom turned against him. The two were alienated for years until finally Absalom wanted to kill his dad. Absalom was killed by David’s men, even though David had given them strict instructions not to harm him. When David found out that Absalom was dead we read how David responded.
33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you–O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33 NIV)
It was a devastating blow for David, but David eventually got up from the ash heap and continued in his pursuit of the Lord. Over and over again we find David dealing with disappointment and in equal proportion we find David seeking God, finding his strength in the Lord.
Earlier in his life David had lost a newborn son, the first son he had with Bathsheba. While the child was alive David wouldn’t leave his side, but when the child died, David got up took a shower, went to eat, and all of this perplexed his servants. His servants asked him about it and David said,
22 …”While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22-23 NIV)
David was use to dealing with discouragement and disappointment before he ever lost his son. Before David became king he was on the run from Saul. David, his men, and their families were at Ziklag. While David and his men were out one day the Amalekites raided their camp and stole the women and children. When David and his men returned they found their families missing. David’s men turned on him, they began murmuring, and the murmuring grew and grew until the men were ready to stone David to death. David knew what was going on. He knew that his life was hanging in the balance. In 1 Samuel 30:6 we read.
6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6 NIV)
There it is again. “David found strength in the Lord his God.” Through all of the disappointments of his life David persisted in seeking God. In the workplace and in his home David sought the Lord with all of his heart. He encouraged those around him to seek the Lord, but most did not. When they did David rejoiced, but when they refused and went their own way, David continued to seek the Lord.
Men, I’ve got a treasure for you this morning that is more valuable than anything you could ever possess. I’ve got some inside information that is of greater value than the best stock tip you’ve ever received. I’ve got a plan for you that is more solid than any book you could buy at Mardel’s or Barnes and Noble. You ready for this? Do you have your pen and paper ready? Here we go. Seek God. Seek Him with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your might. Never cease from seeking Him. Through discouragement seek Him. In the midst of trials seek Him. When you are disappointed and it is leading you into depression—seek Him with all of your heart. We men love plans. Give us three steps and we will try and conquer whatever obstacle lies before us. I’ll save you two steps—seek God!
Those of you who are fathers need to know that being called “dad” is an amazing thing. Having the opportunity to bless our children, lead them in their understanding of the Lord, and watch them grow is one of the greatest blessings God has reserved for us dads. At the same time, there can be some tremendous challenges and disappointments along the way. There may come a time in your child’s life when you aren’t “cool” any more. I know that is hard to believe. You young dads, you know that it’s happened to other dads, but they weren’t as cool as you. Well, I don’t want to discourage you. I hope that you are always cooler than ice cream to your kids, but just in case your “coolness” melts in the eyes of your kids I want to encourage you to seek God above all else. There may be some dads who are here with us this morning who have teenage children that have withdrawn, disconnected from you. I want to encourage you to continue to seek God. Don’t get discouraged, don’t be afraid of what the future holds—seek God. There are some dads here who have grown children. Don’t think that just because they are now adults that your calling has ceased. One of the blessings of being a dad is that we are never forced into retirement. We get to be called, “Dad” for the rest of our lives. Our relationship with our adult children has changed but they still need us to point them to the Lord, to give them good, godly, biblical counsel about life. Don’t pull back when they don’t follow all of the advice that you give them. Continue to seek God and seek opportunities to be used by God to bless their lives.
When I was young I was often told to “be the man.” What was meant by that was to be the “go to guy,” never back down from a challenge, and rise to the occasion. I like a challenge, but boy some challenges can overwhelm me at times. I’ve put a twist on the saying that I heard so often when I was young. Now, instead of wanting to be the man, I desire to be the man that God has called me to be. I’m not Superman. I don’t have what it takes within me to meet every challenge, but when I come across challenges that are too big for me, to overwhelming for me to deal with, I can find strength in the Lord and He has never failed to give me the strength I need to face each and every challenge that has come my way.
Men, God has called us to make a difference in the lives of our kids, but He has also called us to make a more far-reaching impact on this world for His glory. To do that, to be the man that He has called us to be, we must seek Him with all of our hearts. I want to challenge you this morning to let God search your hearts and show you if this is true of you. Are you seeking Him with all of your heart? If not, why not confess it to Him this morning and confess your desire to be the man He has called you to be.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 20, 2010