God defines marriage as one man and one woman and designed marriage to be a loving environment where fathers and mothers raise their children in the “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). It should be a father’s highest goal to bring up his children to know, love, and obey Jesus Christ. Today, we shall discuss the father’s role and consider ways for him to strive to not embitter his children but to embolden them.
Strive Not to Embitter (Colossians 3:21)
Paul wrote in Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” This command is for fathers, in particular, to be self-controlled in their actions towards their children because their actions have a profound effect on their children. Let us be perfectly clear that each person is held responsible for his own actions. (for example, no one can make you angry, happy, or sad). In other words, a father can provoke his son and this provocation can lead to discouragement; but the provocation does not create discouragement. This is important because the father is not held accountable for his children’s discouragement, but is held accountable for his actions that contributed to his children’s discouragement. Fathers cannot make their children become embittered but their actions can elicit the response of bitterness. How can a father embitter his children? He can through his absence, his anger, and the misuse of his authority.
Watch your absence. “I don’t have time” is an excuse. We always have time for what we consider to be important. Fathers, if your children are important to you, you will make time for them. Your lack of time indicates that you do not really care about them and this can embitter them. God makes time for you, make time for them. Children want their dad and children need their dad. While the average father spends a lot of time during the day away from the house working (and no father should feel guilty for working hard to provide for his family), fathers must come home physically, mentally, and spiritually. You should physically come home and be with your family. Your family should see you. Fathers, you must also come home mentally. Sometimes fathers will physically leave work but mentally remain at work. Sometimes fathers come home but quickly check out with TV, computer, phone, etc. Your family needs both your body and your mind. When a father is absent, his children may grow embittered towards him. They feel that they are not important. A father must also be home spiritually. Fathers, are you leading your children to know, love, and obey Jesus? Is the spiritual well-being of your children your highest priority?
Guard your anger. In Ephesians 6:4, Fathers are told not to provoke your children. One of the ways anger can build in a father’s heart is that he sees his children as a nuisance. If your children are a burden, frustration and the anger will build within you and you will explode at your children. Fathers, are your children a burden or a blessing? Another way anger can build in a father’s heart is that he sets unreasonable expectations upon his children. Your children need love and encouragement, not the discouragement of unreasonable expectations.
Steward your authority. A wise father once told me: “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” As their father, you have authority over them and are responsible for seeing that they behave in a godly, wise manner. The children living in your home should obey the rules set by mom and dad. They are not the boss of the house and they need your rules to help them respect boundaries and respect others. Also, remember to communicate that “your rules” do not originate with you, but are actually God’s rules. But more important than the rules, is love. If your children know that you love them, they will be more likely to listen to your rules. If your children know that you love Jesus and are convinced that you love them, then hopefully they will love you and love Jesus.
Endeavor to Embolden (Ephesians 6:4)
Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In this verse there is an action to be avoided (provoke) and an action to be developed (bring up). Bringing up in this verse means to nourish. Just as fathers are to nourish their children physically, fathers are also told to be intentional to nourish their children spiritually. Just as we feed and take care of our children’s bodies (Eph 5:29), we must feed and take care of our children’s souls. Fathers, your goal as a father is to point your children to Christ. Fathers cannot save their children but they can shine as an example of faith and embolden their children through his love, laughter, and (most importantly) the Lord.
Commit to love. Everything you do must be motivated by love and this love can only be fueled by God’s love for you. This is because you can only strengthen your relationship with your children when you draw closer to God. Remember, you show your love to your family by making time for them. Everyone is busy, but we always make time for what is important to us.
Linger in laughter. The Bible says in Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Fathers, laughter can help your children physically and spiritually. Physically, laughter can provide stress relief. Spiritually, laughter is the outpouring of joy. Laugh with your children. Tell them funny, clean jokes. Play with your children. Also, your child’s disobedience may be a cry for your attention. Many fathers have noticed that their children are much more obedient when they are intentionally playing with them.
Trust in the Lord. Fathers, you cannot prevent your children from making foolish decisions, but you can show them that foolishness has consequences. Give yourself, your fatherhood, and your children to God. Remember, while you cannot save them, you can point them to the Savior. Are you a Christian? Are you a committed follower of Jesus Christ? Only then can you truly love with the unconditional, patient love that you need as a father. Fathers, you can only give as much love as you have received. You can only receive true and lasting love from Jesus Christ. Do you know Him, love Him, and obey Him? Is He your greatest treasure and delight?
It should be a father’s highest goal to bring up his children to know, love, and obey Jesus Christ. May God give us the strength and the passion to do so. Amen.