Keep Up the Good Work, Dads!

For the first time in thirteen years of preaching, I am preaching a Father’s Day sermon this Sunday. I don’t plan to make this a habit, because topical messages are difficult and make me vulnerable to the accusation of hobby-horsing. But I feel compelled to preach this message this year. And it’s not because we have a church full of deadbeat dads; we have a church full of wonderful dads, just like my own. I have told people before that I feel like I’m preaching to a church full of men like my dad, and families like my own growing up. And my desire for this week’s message isn’t to criticize dads or browbeat them; it’s to stir them up to love and good works.   

The Fury of Fatherlessness

But let’s face it, fathering is not in a good place in our country. After recently reading Mary Eberstadt’s article “The Fury of the Fatherless” and her book _Primal Screams, I am more terrifyingly convinced than ever that we need better fathering in our country. And even strong Christian dads need to be reminded to stay with it, press on, don’t exasperate, and don’t quit on your kids.

Even strong Christian dads need to be reminded to stay with it, press on, don't exasperate, and don't quit on your kids.

I’ve said many times that my job as a pastor is to remind the congregation constantly what they already know (the gospel is good, sin is bad, Satan is prowling, etc.). Originality is overrated in the pulpit. And men, like soldiers on the battlefield, need to be reminded about 1) how to fight, 2) what they are fighting for, and 3) why it’s important.

Encouragement for Dads

I don’t know if there has ever been a day where it is easier for dads to be derelict of duty. Divorce is rampant. Deadbeats are legion. Not only can you reject your duties as a father and be applauded, but you can reject your biology as a male and be applauded! For men who are faithful to their wives, work hard to support their kids, and take their families to church, I salute you. You are my hero. Don’t quit on that! Men who defy God and indulge their flesh sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. It’s too easy to do that in this day. But the hard work of faithful, God-fearing fathering sows good seed and reaps a bountiful harvest. If you have a good dad, like me, you should take time this week and thank them. Don’t send them a tie. Ties are instruments of torture that parade as a fashion fiction. Instead look your dad in the eye, and tell him thank you for loving you well. And if that makes him cry, that’s okay. Men not crying is another fiction. 

Exhortation for Dads

Let me suggest five commitments for you, dad, this Father’s Day. Put these down as goals to chase in the next year before the next Father’s Day. First, love your wife. A wise man told me once that a father who loves his kid’s mother can just about violate all rules of child-raising and still end up with a good kid. That’s not an admonition; that’s a comfort. But a father who does everything right in the area of child-rearing, but fails to love his wife takes an axe to the base of his own tree. Your first duty as a father is to love that kid’s mama. Second, ask your kids if there’s anything you do that exasperates them (Col 3:21). Then, in the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop it!” Next, show your kids how to forgive. Don’t be that dad who brings up every sin your kid (or your wife) has ever committed. Learn to have a forgetful memory. Learn to release your kids from the obligation to appease your anger. Forgive them. Fourth, show your kids how to repent. Show them how to ask God for grace. The only thing your kids need more than morality and holiness is grace. And the uncanny thing is that when we pursue God’s grace we get morality and holiness thrown in with it. In the words of Paul Tripp, “Don’t raise good kids. Raise gospel kids.” Finally, be the kind of man that you want your sons to become and your daughters to marry.

Be the kind of man that you want your sons to become and your daughters to marry.

Hypocrisy compromises your ability to positively influence your children, and they need your positive influence! Don’t be a hypocrite, dad. Practice what you preach.        

The Disclaimer about Dads

I realize that we live in a world with lots of failed dads who need God’s grace and forgiveness. I realize also that we have grown kids in churches who were failed horribly by their fathers. That can even be the majority in some churches, and pastors need to learn how to preach to those father-wounds. But we should also support, encourage, and challenge the faithful dads among us who are doing their best. If that’s you, keep up the good work, Dad! Keep letting your “light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

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