One week ago Connie and I watched a movie called, “Courageous.” I had heard of the movie. Some of my friends had told me that the movie was good, that every dad should have the watch the movie, and that it had a profound impact on their life. I have to be honest with you and tell you that in the past Christian movies just haven’t done that much for me. It seems like life always works out in most of the Christian movies I’ve watched and oftentimes life doesn’t just work out so that everyone lives happily ever after. With that said, Connie and I watched, “Courageous” and I was blown away, I was deeply moved, and even more than that, God used that movie to cause me to take a long look at myself. Let me set the scene for you.
In the movie there are five guys who are friends; four of them work together as police officers. One of the men, Adam Mitchell, tragically loses his little girl in a car accident. After Emily’s death, Adam really struggles with life, and his struggle leads him to take a long look at his life. In addition to Emily, Adam and his wife, have a teenage son, a son named Dylan whom Adam doesn’t have much of a relationship with. They never really connected.
Adam takes a long look at his life through the lens of God’s Word. Through time spent in God’s Word Adam discovers what God calls men to be as men, husbands, and fathers. Adam invited his friends over to his one day and while sitting the back yard he shares with them “The Resolution.” It’s a list of things that he wants to commit to as a man and he asks his friends to help hold him accountable. As his buddies read the list one of them says, “Adam, I think you are being too hard on yourself. You are a good enough dad.” Adam says,
I don’t want to be a good enough father. We have a few short years to influence our kids. Whatever patterns we set for them in life will be used for their kids, and the generation after that. We have the responsibility to mold a life. And I don’t think that should be done casually. Half the fathers in this country are already failing, and I don’t want to be one of them. I’m talking about setting the standards that they need to aim for in life. (Adam Mitchell)
One by one each of Adam’s friends decide that Adam is right and they decide to sign the Resolution alongside of Adam. The men recognize that God had not only gifted them and blessed them, but He had called them to use their gifts and to bless their families.
Today is Father’s Day and I want us to not only celebrate Father’s Day, but to recognize the fact that nobody can take the place of a dad. I’m not suggesting that dads are more important in the lives of their children than moms, but I do want to highlight the fact that God has given dads some unique opportunities to impact the lives of others and I don’t want any of us to wait until we experience some eye-opening tragedy like Adam Mitchell before we recognize that now is the time to seize the opportunity.
God has created moms and dads with gifts, talents, and roles that are unique, and equally important in a child’s life. It is vitally important that a child have the benefit of the input from both mom and dad.
It would be wonderful if every child grew up with the benefit of both parents present, but the truth of the matter is that this is not where we are in America today. The Norman Rockwell image of the family, or the family that many of us had the blessing to grow up in, is not the norm in our day. Let me give you a snap shot of what I’ve learned about the present situation in the American home.
• 24 million children, one-third of all children in America, are growing up without their biological father, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly 2 in 3 (64%) African American children live in father-absent homes. One in three (34%) Hispanic children, and 1 in 4 (25%) white children live in father-absent homes.
• In the past 50 years, the percentage of children who live with two married parents has dropped 22 points.
• During that same 50 year time period, the number of babies born to unwed mothers jumped from 5 percent to 40 percent.
• A recent study by Dr. Rick Nauert entitled, Role Modeling by Dad Influences Daughter’s Sexual Behavior, showed that teenage girls whose fathers are present and engaged in their lives are less likely to engage in premarital sex.
• A study of 13,986 imprisoned women showed that more than half of them grew up without their father. Forty-two percent grew up in a single-mother household, and 16 percent lived with neither parent.
• 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, according to the National Principals Association Report on the state of high schools.
• The Population Reference Bureau (2010) reports that the poverty rate for children living in female-householder families (no spouse present) was 42.2 percent in 2010; 7 in 10 children living with a single mother are poor or low-income… (American Psychological Association. Effects of Poverty, Hungry, and Homelessness on Children and Youth. (www.apa.org/pi/families/poverty.aspx)
• 8046 children were in the State’s custody on January 2, 2011 in Oklahoma.
• Out-of-wedlock first births have risen so sharply that they are now more frequent than those conceived in wedlock.
• There are 2.5 million single fathers raising their kids. That number is up from 400,00 in 1970.
• In a five-year study following 5,000 children, the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., found 80 percent of fathers provide support to mothers during pregnancy and more than 70 percent visit their children at the hospital. At the time of birth, a vast majority indicated they wanted to help raise their child. Five years down the road, however, only 35 percent of unmarried couples had gotten married. About 40 percent of unmarried mothers had already broken up with their child’s father and entered into at least one new partnership. Fourteen percent had a child with a new partner.
• 22 percent of fathers who live apart from their children visit them more than once a week. 29 percent visit their children at least one a month. 27 percent do not visit at all.
In the movie “Courageous,” Nathan Hayes, one of the police officers, says, “You know, if fathers just did what they’re supposed to do half of the junk that we face on the streets wouldn’t exist.” There is indisputable evidence that the void left in a child’s life because of the absence of a father will be filled with something or someone. Oftentimes, the things and people who fill that void are detrimental to the well-being of the kids.
I know many, many kids who are growing up without the benefit of a father. Many people today would hear the statistics that I have just shared with you and conclude that the future can’t be too bright for kids growing up without a father, but I would disagree. I’ve seen how those who care and are willing to spend time with kids who may not be their biological children can make a life-changing difference in the life of young boy or girl. Still others would ask, “What is wrong with men today? Why won’t men make the commitments and sacrifices necessary to provide for their kids?” Well, I admit that the statistics are startling and the heartache and pain are immense. We will never be able to “fix” the problem, but those of us who are men, men with families and men who will one day have a family, can make a commitment to use the gifts and abilities that the Lord has given us to make a difference with those He has put in our lives.
I want to encourage all men who are with us today. Grandfathers, fathers, and young men who are yet to have families of their own—you are so important in the shaping of young lives. Grandfathers and fathers, some of you do not have your children living with you any longer, but you are still needed. You are needed not only in the lives of your kids and grandkids, but there are many young people in this church who do not have the benefit of a dad, and you can pull up alongside of them and watch God use you in a powerful way. Dads, those of you who are busy raising your kids right now, I want to encourage you to give your all to being a blessing to your kids. Hug them and love them, discipline them, challenge them, and support them every step of the way as they grow up. Young men who do not have a wife and kids yet: I want to encourage you to prepare for the day when the Lord will bless you with a wife and kids. And last of all, I want to encourage a group of men who are with us that have children, but you do not live with your kids. You have the most difficult job of all and I want to encourage you to spare no effort in staying in touch with, staying engaged in the lives of your kids.
I want to share with all of us some very important things that we can do to maximize the opportunity God has given us as fathers so that we will become fathers of influence.
Let’s begin with taking a look at men in God’s Word who were fathers. You need to study the lives of fathers found in God’s Word as well as biblical principles that apply to being a father. There are some incredible stories of men who were fathers in God’s Word. You need to get to know Abraham, David, Jacob, and other men who were fathers. These men were flawed men, just like you and me, yet we can learn some incredible insights about what to do and what not to do from studying their lives. We read in 1 Chronicles 29:18-19 that David prayed for his son, Solomon. Read along with me.
18 O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” (1 Chronicles 29:18-19 NIV)
It is important for us as dads to pray for our children. What are we to pray about? You name it. The list of things that we need to pray about for our kids is endless. We can pray about their health. We can pray about their hearts, that they would grow to love the Lord. We can pray about their heads, that they would learn to make wise decisions in life. We can pray that God would be preparing for them a future husband or wife, and that they would have eyes to recognize him or her when the Lord’s time is right. We can pray for their protection in everyday life. We can pray that they will be strong enough to resist the many temptations that will seek to destroy their lives. We can pray that they would be a godly influence on their peers. The list is endless, but the bottom line is that we must pray.
There is another father in Scripture from whom we can learn a great lesson. One of the most well-known stories in the Bible is the story of the Prodigal Son. You know the story? The son decided that he didn’t want to live under his dad’s roof any longer. He wanted to head to the big city, sow his wild oats, and live it up. He thought that living at home was oppressive. He had to get away from his mom and dad. How many times has that story been lived out through the years? How many young people are living out the story of the Prodigal Son even as we sit here in this sanctuary?
Well, eventually the boy found himself penniless and partied out. He began to come to his senses and he knew he needed to go home, but he didn’t know how to face his dad. He must have been in pretty dire straits because his fear of facing his dad didn’t keep him from making the long walk home. In Luke 15:20-24 we read about what happened as the boy made his way home.
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24 NIV)
The lesson for us in the story is that we should never give up on our kids. You probably noticed that the dad didn’t go looking for his son to try and convince him that he had made a big mistake, he didn’t bail him out of the mess he had made, but when the son came home he welcomed him with open arms. He did not give up on his son and we shouldn’t give up on our kids either.
I grew up with a tough dad. My dad was never in the military, but he ran a tight ship. If he said to be home at 10:00 pm, he meant 9:55 pm. If he told me to do something then I was expected to do it…right then. I didn’t appreciate, nor understand all of the rules and discipline that my dad put into effect when I was young, but I sure appreciate the discipline he built into my life now that I am an adult.
Men, God has not called us to be our kid’s “best friend,” but He has called us to train our kids, to discipline our kids when they make poor choices or act with defiance. We are to do this in order to prepare them for the day when they will leave our house and have to deal with a tough world. In Proverbs 3:11-12 we read,
11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV)
There is a tragic story in 1 Samuel about a man named Eli. Eli was a mentor to Samuel, but God judged Eli and his family because of the hands off approach Eli took in relation to his son’s waywardness. It wasn’t that the boys were juvenile delinquents that brought about God’s judgment, but it was the fact that Eli didn’t do anything about it. Listen to 1 Samuel 3:13.
13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. (1 Samuel 3:13 NIV)
Dads, one of the great restraining forces in a child’s life is their dad. We are called by God to discipline and train our kids. There is another aspect of fatherhood that we can learn from reading God’s Word. In Psalm 103:13 we read,
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; (Psalm 103:13 NIV)
We are called to be tough, but we are also called to be tender. Are these not the characteristics that we find in our Heavenly Father? God calls us to live according to His standards and when we step outside the lines God will discipline us. At the same time, God is tender with us. Over and over again in Scripture we read about the tenderness of God. In Romans 2:4, Paul tells us that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. We, as fathers, need to know when to be tough and when to be tender.
Last of all, we as fathers are to teach our kids the Word of God. For many of us dads we fail to share God’s Word with our kids because we don’t know God’s Word. Men, don’t let that stop you from sharing God’s Word with your kids. Confess to them that you don’t know God’s Word very well, but that you want to learn it right alongside of them. God told His people in Deuteronomy to impress His commands upon their children. Listen to this.
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NIV)
These are just a sampling of the counsel of our Heavenly Father, that we as fathers, can implement into our lives as we seek to be the fathers that God has called us to be. Even though these are just a sampling I’m sure you guys are like me and you are thinking to yourself, “I’ve fallen short. I’ve not been the man that God has called me to be.” That is the most profound, the most godly, the most needed realization for any man to come to in life. When we realize that we are coming up short of God’s call upon our lives then the next step is to cry out to God in confession and seek help. The help has already been provided. God has given us His Word. He has given us His Spirit. He has given us the company of men who share the same desire to grow in their walk and to impact the lives of those around them.
I want to encourage all of us dads to recommit our lives this very morning to walk in the steps of our Heavenly Father. As I watched “Courageous” with Connie I thought about my life and the men of Britton Christian Church. Men, I need you. I want to be the man God has called me to be to my wife, Connie, to my children, Dan, Nate, and Annie, to this church where He has called me to worship and work, and to this community where He has called me to be a blessing, but I need help. I need an “Adam” or a “Nathan” or a “Javi” who shares my passion and is willing to walk with me and hold me accountable.
I sent out an email after I watched the movie and invited the men of this church to join me this past Wednesday. There were 23 men at that meeting. I shared my experience with them, I gave each of them a copy of the Resolution, and I asked to go home and pray about the possibility that God might be calling them to come together with other men in this church on Sunday to commit to the Resolution. Men, the time is now.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 17, 2012