Some months ago I heard a touching story about a humble, consecrated pastor whose young son had become very ill.
After the boy had undergone an exhaustive series of tests, the father was told the shocking news that his son had a terminal illness. The youngster had accepted Christ as his Savior, so the minister knew that death would usher him into Glory; but he wondered how to inform one in the bloom of youth that he soon would die.
After earnestly seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit, he went with a heavy heart through the hospital ward to the boy’s bedside. First he read a passage of Scripture and had a time of prayer with his dear child. Then he gently told him that the doctors could promise him only a few more days to live. “Are you afraid to meet Jesus, my boy?” asked his devout father. Blinking away a few tears, the little fellow said bravely,
“No, not if He’s like you, Dad!”
Today I want to highlight The Difference Fathers Make
Do you remember Nadya Suleman and her octuplets – that’s right eight newborn babies at one time! At first the birth of the octuplets was celebrated, until the facts about their circumstances came to light. One of the more troubling things was that Nadya was an individual who intentionally brought eight more children into the world without a father. Keep in mind that she already had 6 other children – that makes 14 fatherless children. What was she thinking?
Suleman’s case is so unsettling in part because it is an exaggerated picture of something that has become pandemic in the United States: the systematic abandonment of the norm of a two-parent home.
Almost no one in the media or in the church is commenting on the alarming spread of “fatherlessness” – even though it is creating incredible and well-documented devastation for children. According to the most recent census report, 24 million American children will go to bed tonight in a home where their biological father is not present. That means one out of every three children is living without a dad in the house. And it won’t get better anytime soon. The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that about 49% of American children were born out of wedlock in 2015, compare that to the 11% rate back in 1970. And according to prominent African-American economist Walter Williams, the rate of fatherless black children is now an astounding 72%. By contrast, Dr. Williams notes that in 1950, only 18% of black households were female- headed.
The number of out-of-wedlock births had actually been going down for more than a decade from the year 2000-2010 until recently. But now it is rising again, but not for the reason that most people would imagine. When many people think of out-of-wedlock births they imagine teenage girls who make a youthful mistake. But it is not teens who are causing the increase. It’s young women in their 20’s and 30’s, who don’t see anything wrong with bringing a child into the world without a father, who are having children in increasing numbers. In fact, a Gallup Survey found that 64% of young adults 18 to 29 think that having a child out of wedlock is “morally acceptable.”
In 2009, The New York Times Magazine published an article entitled:
“2 Kids + 0 Husbands = Family”
The article described a group of college-educated single mothers who admitted how they “wanted to make decisions about their kids and didn’t want to have to share that authority.” – That’s why they don’t want any dads involved.
When it comes to the importance of fathers, we are now suffering from the ‘perfect storm’ of three converging trends in our society:
1. Immorality – our carnal culture has forgotten the crucial link between personal morality and relational stability.
2. Irresponsibility – as self-centered individuals place their own wants and wishes above the best interests of their children.
3. Ignorance – many people, both males and females, no longer understand WHY it is important for children to have both a mom and a dad.
Let me share some of the research that shows the difference dads make.
- According to a Gallup Poll, 90.3 percent of Americans agree that “fathers make a unique contribution to their children’s lives.” (Source: Gallup Poll, 1996. National Center for Fathering. “Father Figures.”)
- A survey of over 20,000 parents found that when fathers are involved in their children’s education including attending school meetings and volunteering at school, children were more likely to get A’s, enjoy school, and participate in extracurricular activities and less likely to have repeated a grade. (Source: Fathers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools. National Center for Education Statistics. Washington DC: GPO, 1997.)
- Using nationally representative data on over 2,600 adults born in the inner city, it was found that children who lived with both parents were more likely to have finished high school, be economically self-sufficient, and to have a healthier life style than their peers who grew up in abroken home. (Source: Hardy, Janet B. et al. “Self Sufficiency at Ages 27 to 33 Years: Factors Present between Birth and 18 Years that Predict Educational Attainment Among children Born to Inner-city Families.” Pediatrics 99 (1997): 80-87.)
- From a study based on 17,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 1958 who were followed up with at ages 7, 11, 16, 23 and 33:
- It was determined that children with involved fathers have less emotional and behavioral difficulties in adolescence.
- Teenagers who feel close to their fathers in adolescence go on to have more satisfactory adult marital relationships.
- Girls who have a strong relationship with their fathers during adolescence showed a lack of psychological distress in adult life. (Source: Dr. Eirini Flouri & Ann Buchanan, “Involved Fathers Key for Children,” Economic & Social Research Council, March 2002.)
Let me make a quick, but important clarification. Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying any of this to pile on single mothers who had no choice and are doing the best they can. Rather, I’m pointing out these things to encourage dads – we do make a very big difference and we must not forget that! Amen!
My goal today is not to remind dads of their duties and responsibilities so much as to encourage and remind them all of their importance that we might respect the dignity of the role of father.
First of all, I would suggest that Dad’s make a difference through their LEADERSHIP. God has ordained that the husband and father is to be the leader in the home. He is to lead primarily through his example as he attempts to faithfully follow the commands of God in his own life. God the Father is the perfect Father – altogether holy, righteous, loving and wise. It is to that high standard that every earthly father should be aspiring. Although we will certainly fall far short of being like God, no other target is worthy of our attention and effort. It is so important that we fathers practice what we preach. A father’s leadership also comes through the teaching and discipline he gives his children.
The Bible commands fathers to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The Bible commands that fathers discipline their children – to not do so is to subject their children to all kinds of trouble and failure. But the Bible also warns us to be careful that the training and discipline of our children is not too harsh or unreasonable, otherwise we may exasperate or embitter our children.
One final thing about a father’s leadership – it can be powerfully exerted in prayer. Some of the most powerful pictures we have of biblical fathers is when they are praying for their children. James 5:16 reminds us that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Job was a father who prayed for his kids and made sacrifices for each his children. The Bible says that this was his regular practice. He was concerned for their relationship with God. As King David’s death approached, he prayed a special prayer for Solomon – he prayed, “Give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees…” (1 Chron. 29:19). There is so much we need to be praying about with regard to our kids – we can pray for their protection and safety, their spiritual interest and faithfulness, their education, future mates, and families, their health and prosperity, and their effectiveness in the kingdom, just to name a few. Fathers really do make a difference through leadership.
Second, I would suggest that fathers make a difference through laughter. I believe that God has a sense of humor – one woman said, “He made men, didn’t he?” Life can’t be all about serious stuff – there needs to be some laughter. First of all, we dads need to be able to laugh at ourselves. There are times I do some pretty silly things – sometimes on purpose, other times just because I’m me. Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between people.” Laughter can bridge the gap with our kids, especially during the difficult teen years, or so they say. My kids are not there yet! Someone said, “Laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper – it doesn’t solve any problems permanently, but it makes things more acceptable for a while.” Someone else said, “Laughter is contagious – why not start an epidemic!” So dads, let’s learn to lighten up and find the humor in ourselves and even in the difficult situations we face with our kids. I think laughter makes a big difference in parenting.
Finally, I would suggest that fathers make a difference through love. Certainly this seems like a “no brainer,” right? Of course fathers are supposed to love. But what does love really look like between fathers and their children? Here is a list I found that highlights this for us:
I know my dad loves me because:
1. He takes time for me.
2. He listens to me.
3. He plays with me.
4. He invites me to go places with him.
5. He lets me help him.
6. He treats my mother well.
7. He lets me say what I think.
8. He is nice to my friends.
9. He only punishes me when I deserve it.
10. He is not afraid to admit when he is wrong.
Notice that qualities 1 to 5 are versions of a single word – “Time!” Time is an expression of love. One father tells about a special trip that he made with his son. He made arrangements for he and his son to attend a shuttle launch at Cape Kennedy. So they flew to Florida and witnessed an absolutely spectacular morning launch. While there they took in every tour of the Cape that was available. He could see how much his son was enjoying the great parade of technology. As they drove back to the airport with the rental car, they played a sharing game they often played “What did you like best?” The boy turned to his father with a serious look on his face and said, “The best part about this trip was being with you, Dad!” We dads make such a difference in the lives our kids as we love them in word and deed. Let them see the tenderness of our hearts. Let them see the hopes and concerns that we have for them. Let them see how much we love them by the way we involve ourselves in their lives and by the time we spend with them. The apostle Paul described the role of a father well when he was talking about the way that he loved and worked with the church at Thessalonica. He wrote, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God…” (1 Thess. 2:11-12)
God has given us dads a very special privilege and calling, let us never forget that. We can be dads who make a difference by leading, laughing, and loving.
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