Journey: Fatherhood

This morning, we honor and celebrate fatherhood!  There is truly no other journey like it!

This morning, we’re going to learn some advice for being a good father from the life of Jacob, whom God renamed to Israel.  God is obviously the absolute best, perfect father.  However, He chose Jacob, a single man, to be the father of His own people.  That’s saying a lot!

God chose Jacob to father twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel who would, spiritually speaking, become the father of us all.  His children became the nation of Israel and generations later, they are still here today as a direct result of God’s promise.

This was the promise given by God first to Abram, which was then passed along through Isaac, which was then passed along through a blessing to Jacob.  We start with the power of:

  1. A father’s blessing

One of the most significant things that God has enabled a Father to do is to pass along a blessing to his children and along through his children to future generations.  The blessing that a father speaks over his children is prophetic and powerfully life-directing!  This blessing is our inheritance that remains even when we are not present.

Proverbs 13:22 (NKJV)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children

An inheritance is so much more than just money and material possessions.  As most of us have seen firsthand, those things will destroy a family if they are not also accompanied by the blessing of a strong moral compass built from God’s word and a solid foundation to stand on of God’s Kingdom principles.  Only then is an inheritance all that God intends for it to be.

Men, what are we passing along as an inheritance to the generations to come in our families?  What attitudes and behaviors and mindsets do we bless?  Which do we boldly curse?  What values are we developing into the lives of our children and the generations to follow them?  What are we defining as right and where do we draw the boundary of what is wrong?  We do these things not only with our words, but more importantly, with our own actions.

God honors the blessing that we pass along to our children because it’s who He is.  He promises and fulfills, therefore, he honors the blessing that we as fathers prophetically promise to our children.

Don’t underestimate the power and authority that are carried in the blessing of a father!  Next, we can take a breath of relief because:

  1. Perfection is not a requirement

Jacob wasn’t a perfect man and he definitely did not have the perfect family.  He was a momma’s boy and his twin brother, Esau, was his dad’s rough and tough hunter.  Jacob bought his firstborn brother’s birthright for a bowl of soup.  Then, he stole his father’s blessing to Esau by deceiving him.  Of course, this was his mom’s idea and not his own.  She vowed to be cursed so that Jacob might be blessed.  Esau was furious and planned to murder him because of it.  This is how valuable the blessing of a father is!

We don’t have to live life perfectly to be the perfect father to our children.  In fact, we probably teach them more from our mistakes and how we respond to them and what we do to own up to them and to make things right than we do by making all the right choices.

Jacob didn’t have the perfect family.  Jacob chose to favor his son Joseph more than his brothers and this caused issues.  Ten of Jacob’s own sons agreed to kill, but then instead sold off into slavery, Joseph!  However, because of Jacob’s commitment and faithfulness to serve the Lord and that same trait that Joseph lived out, God brought their family all together in the end.

Jacob’s life was not without hardships.  His own uncle, Laban, treated him badly.  He broke his promise at the end of a seven year contract by deceiving him and giving him the wrong daughter in marriage.  Then, he made him work for seven more years for the daughter that he worked the first seven years for.  However, God continued to bless Jacob despite this.  When he had enough, he brought his two wives together and:

Genesis 31:5-7

5 He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, 7 yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.”

Most of us can relate to being cheated from family or being underpaid by our employers. This didn’t stop Jacob from working with all his strength knowing that it was ultimately the Lord who he was working for.

Beyond all of this, his daughter was raped and he and his sons avenged the act.  He had to face his brother, Esau, and hope that it wouldn’t end in his own death.  He literally, physically, wrestled with God all night and ended up with a busted hip all because he refused to let go without a blessing!  He grieved the death of his father and his wife Rachael during childbirth and his wife Leah, and his favorite son Joseph (though we know he didn’t actually die).  He had to provide for his growing family in the midst of a severe famine.

As he aged, he became weak and ill and his eyesight became so bad that he was nearly blind.  By his own testimony:

Genesis 47:9

…The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.

Thankfully, life does not have to go perfectly to be a good father.  The character and strength of our fatherhood is revealed through the testing of challenges and hardships.

Perfection is not a requirement of being the perfect father!  And thankfully:

  1. God is faithful

God worked through the wicked animosity between Jacob’s sons and all of the troubles that he faced and worked it all for good.  It all eventually resulted in their salvation!  In the end, their divisiveness resulted in unity because of Jacob.  They lived together in the best land within Egypt and were ensured employment for whatever skill they possessed.  They were blessed!  Jacob was able to be a faithful father who stuck with his family through all of the hardships only because God was his faithful Father.

When there are days that you’d rather just work some overtime or hang out in the garage because of the chaos or troubles within your own household, don’t give up!  Don’t walk away from it all; tempting as it may be!  God is working even when we can’t see it.  When the challenges are just too much to take and you’re not sure what you can do to make things right, God is still faithful!  God is still at work!

When Jacob first started his own personal journey with the Lord, before he was even married or had any kids, God visited him in a dream and made him a familiar promise.

Genesis 28:13-16

13 There stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

So often, we get buried by the stress and weight of all of our responsibilities and we miss this fact.  The Lord is in this place and we’re simply not aware of it!  God promised to be with us and to watch over us wherever we go, but are we aware of it? 

God is working in the midst of the chaos and struggles and challenges.  Our reality is that all of these things would be far easier to manage if we would just take a moment to be more aware of God’s Presence faithfully there with us in and through it all.  If we would just let go and let God.

We carry the divine responsibility and privilege of representing our Heavenly Father in the way that we father our own children.  As He fathers us, so we are to father our own children.  No, they won’t be perfect.  Yes, they will make some bad life decisions, but haven’t we as well?

How does our Heavenly Father father us?  He surely doesn’t lower His standards or change His ways to accommodate our sin or choose to just sweep it under the rug.  He is patient and merciful and forgiving and trusting.  He faithfully pursues us even in our sin and will do all that He can do to right our relationship with Him while still holding us accountable.

We also must learn to walk that same fine balance of keeping a healthy relationship with our children while still disciplining them with a true motive of His love.  The prodigal father never stopped loving his son, but he also didn’t go cleaning up his messes after every wild party and stupid decision that he made.  There is a path and there is a healthy and wise balance through it all. 

We must learn use the right tools available to us to teach and instruct them our children in regard to what is right and what is wrong; to impart Godly wisdom into their lives.  We must learn how to do this while also never allowing anything to stop our love toward them.  None of us can do this on our own, but we can through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  We can love and discipline in the same way that our Heavenly Father disciplines us with an ever-faithful and unceasing love toward us.

  1. Finish strong

Fatherhood is a life-long journey.  In all reality, we are learning how to be a father right alongside of our children learning how to live life to its full. 

Genesis 49:1-2

1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;

    listen to your father Israel.

Then, he gave a prophetic word to each son individually as a blessing.

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite…

It may not sound like a very spiritual thing to do, but I urge every man here, no matter what your age, to draw up a will.  Having lost my own father far earlier than we expected, having a will and knowing with certainty his desires of how he wanted his inheritance to be managed was a huge relief in the midst of my grief.  That’s exactly what Jacob was doing in this moment.  However, I recommend that you don’t wait until just a few moments before you pass to get to it.  🙂

33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

Even in Jacob’s last moments of life, he was still leading and instructing his children.  Fatherhood is a life-long journey, but we can finish strong.  No matter what mistakes we may have made or how strained our relationships might be with our children, nothing is ever too far gone for our great God to restore and redeem!

Make the most of every opportunity because you just never know when that opportunity was your last one until it is too late.  Life is too short and eternity too serious a matter for us not to live fully surrendered to our own Heavenly Father and to follow the lead of the Spirit within to reveal and invite in God’s Kingdom to our children.  We follow His lead to discern when to keep our mouths shut and to let our lives shout the gospel and when to boldly speak up with the truth that sets us free.

At the end of each day, finish strong.  When the kids were toddlers, I would have HKP time every night with each kid individually just before bed.  Hugs, kisses, and prayer.  As they are now older, I still make sure that every night I tell them that I love them, no matter what friend they are video calling with at the time, and to give them a simple blessing to end every day just before bed.

Those days slip away to months, to years, to decades.  Simple, small habits shape life-long character.  Finish strong!

And now, we end with God’s blessing over you and your family.  This blessing was given to Moses to give to Aaron, to give to his sons, to bless all of God’s people.  It’s intent was to put the name of the Lord on all of God’s people so that His blessing may rest with them.  And now, I pray and declare this fatherhood blessing over all of you and your journey ahead:

Numbers 6:24-26

24 “The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”

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