Father’s day is just around the corner. It is an important day, though it is odd how we create these special days as more important than the rest when every day should be a day we appreciate and show we value our fathers and our mothers (Ex 20:12). But that is beside the point. Father’s day is on Sunday and I wanted to offer a challenge to our fathers to be the men of God the Lord desires them to be. Since fathering is a daunting task in and of itself in today’s age, it’ll be accompanied by a promise from God’s word.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)
Two questions: whose responsibility is it to look after the spiritual welfare of your children and is it an important goal for you? Is it the local church, perhaps a Christian school, summer camp, a mentor, or grandparents? No, the God given duty to instruct children in the Faith is given to parents (of which fathers play a central role) and it is a primary duty that cannot be pawned off to others without the gravest of consequences (notice the stress placed on you and your above). It is to be done diligently, continuously and visibly. In our reading for this week’s Bible study lesson Wilberforce asks the question whether your child’s education, sports, clothing, and other extra-curricular activities are what you deem most important for their development (measured perhaps by the time and money invested) or is it investing in their relationship with the Lord, in something that will positively shape every other dimension of their life and have an eternal reward? Deuteronomy reminds fathers that discipleship is their responsibility, is to be conducted within the home first and foremost and is of primary importance.
I always had a hunch that a failure to heed these words was a partial culprit for the decline of Christianity in much of the West. A recent article I read confirmed this. Prior to the nineteenth-century evangelical Christians, drawing from their Puritan roots, seriously heeded our passage in question. While they viewed the chapel and the preaching of God’s word and his worship on the Lord’s Day as vital and significant, the home and family worship was considered essential to discipleship, piety and holiness. As the nineteenth-century wore on the Sunday School replaced the home as being the primary engine to achieve spiritual aims, this was then superseded by Christian groups meeting in chapels (think YMCA or Scouts) to where we find many churches today, empty of youth and empty of the generations that were not nurtured by family devotion and the promotion of godliness. Many homes have missed the mark set for us by our forbearers in the Faith and the principle truths found in this passage. Even in his day Samuel Slater (Presbyterian minister in London) wrote a tract in 1694 in favour of family worship in which he also offered this lament:
There is so little done for God in the houses of many who call themselves Christians, that one would take them not for Christians, but Atheists, and conclude them without God in the world, yea ,and that altogether; for there is no praying in their families, no reading of the Scriptures, no singing of psalms, no repeating of sermons, no catechizing of young ones, who would not take these for heathens, if they did not call themselves something else?
The home is one of the primary bodies in which the Lord wills to mould us into Christ’s likeness. Is it any wonder then that when the family is attacked or family worship is neglected it affects not only the health of the family but of the Church and society at large?
Godly fathering is one of the most blessed and challenging callings in life. It requires intentionality, diligence, grace, truth, wisdom, love, patience and prayer. It also does not mean for certain a child will follow the Lord but it does increase the probability. It appears like an enormous endeavour—and it is—but in every command of God is a promise for those who trust Him in it, that His grace will be sufficient to enable you to undertake the task.
Perhaps you have not been loving the Lord yourself. How can you expect your children to do so if you do not first set the example for them? Take this Father’s day as an opportunity to turn to your heavenly Father to ask forgiveness in Jesus name for your sin of ignoring Him and begin to lead your family in following Him.
Perhaps you already love the Lord, but the children have left home long ago or are already teenagers, and you haven’t fulfilled this fatherly calling and you have regret. Ask for forgiveness and for the Lord to give you opportunities to do now what you didn’t do then. It is never too late to begin to honour the Lord.
Perhaps you (like me) don’t have children yet; then along with your wife build a home that honours the Lord (Jos 24:15) and establish spiritual disciplines so you may be ready to welcome children when they come. And so your love of the Lord as a family will be evident to all. Perhaps you are a man who is not married yet, then step up to the plate of loving the Lord so your godliness may be evident, so you will be mature in Christ for your future wife and family. Or perhaps you are single, then for your own sake and the families and children you will encounter in life, live a holy life that glorifies God in in your singleness.
To love the LORD our God; what a delightful thing! May such cultivation be the foremost aim upon our hearts this Father’s day and every day and may we praise God for the abundant fruit this will produce to His glory. Amen.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
 Smith, Karen. “Nonconformists, Home and Family Life,” in the T&T Clark Companion to Nonconformity. (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 285-304.