Dads: Make the Rest of Your Life Be the Best of Your ‘Dad Life’
Study Guide , June 17, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
After his son got his new driver’s license, the son asked his Dad about getting a car. So that Dad said, “I‘ll make a deal with you, son. You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible more, get a hair cut and we’ll talk about the car.” So after about six weeks the Son asked about the car again. And the Dad said, “You’ve done real well with your grades and with your Bible Study, but what about the haircut? The Son said, “Well Dad, you know Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, and many think Jesus had long hair.” And the Dad said, “Yeah, but did you also notice that they all walked everywhere they went?”
Dads have to be on their toes about a lot of things, right? Parenthood is the greatest challenge for a Dad or a Mom. Got to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, huh? But parenting not only seems daunting when you are young in life and children come along, but it even seems daunting still when you are older in life and the children are far along in their own lives. And so it seems that many Parents, or many Fathers, since we are focused on Father’s Day, often carry a sense of how they could have done Fatherhood better or should have done Fatherhood better. But that’s actually a pretty natural thing for conscientious men to carry around. Who couldn’t have done things better, right? Our Heavenly Father is the only Parent that has done it all perfectly and will continue to be the Perfect Parent for us children of God for all eternity.
We point out ‘conscientious’ men or ‘conscientious Fathers’ because ‘calloused’ men or ‘calloused’ Fathers don’t give much thought to how they should have done better anyway. They are simply calloused and cold spirited about it all. ‘Calloused’ Fathers don’t need encouragement about how they have treated their wife and children. No, they need rebuke! Spiritually and emotionally calloused fathers need to become convicted of their hard heart and become repentant and broken of their calloused ways so that God can remold and remake them into conscientious Fathers.
So our focus here today is not for calloused Fathers. It’s for conscientious Fathers who carry some burdens around with them or a carry a sense about what they could have done, or should have done, or would have done differently in their lives as Fathers if they could go back and do it again. Certainly, all of us could write a list of things we would have done differently if we could live our lives over again. And although we can learn from our past we need to realize that we can’t live in the past. We can only live in the present. Once again, we can and should learn from the past, but we can only and should only live in the present, with our eyes not on the ‘what ifs’ of life, but on the ‘what nows’ of our life. Learn from the past, but don’t stay there. For if you stay there, you not only prolong the pains of the past, but you forfeit the blessings of the present, along with rewards of the future.
Remember, non-Christians are prisoners of their past; but Christians are free people, who now live in the realm of new mercies each day, along with new possibilities each day for new growth and new transformations each day in union with the living God. Plus, as the prophet Joel learned, God is even able to make up for His people the years the locusts have eaten. Just like love covers a multitude of sins, godliness covers a multitude of ungodliness, kindness covers up a multitude of unkindness, generosity covers up a multitude of stinginess, commendation covers up a multitude of rudeness, affirmation covers up a multitude of neglect, and so on.
If you haven’t realized it by now, realize that the Holy Spirit has a way of multiplying the ‘blessing effects’ of however we are trying to bless others now as we are seeking to better know God and serve others in the ways God instructs us to; especially our family. God enhances and expands whatever blessing or blessings we are now seeking to give to our family. Now, whether they immediately respond to those ‘blessing effects’ varies from person to person and from time to time. But remember, God has not called us to ‘outcomes’, but to ‘faithfulness’. But what is certain is that when we seek to bless someone in the power of the Holy Spirit, then they will be affected by that blessing one way or another, sometime or another.
That’s one of the reasons that parents are to never give up hope about any of the ways they have tried to bless their children by way of instruction or demonstration or commendation or even correction. It’s like the story Dr. Howard Hendricks used to tell about the father who was really discouraged about his poor relationship he had with his son. And he asked the father how old his son was; and the father said his son was 38 years old. And Dr. Hendricks said: “Why are you giving up on him so soon?” Parenting is a life-long endeavor. It’s like with anything that is worthwhile, even like in war, as Winston Churchill said: “Never, never, never…give up!” Good advice for parents, right?
Often the laments from parents come from them focusing on the outcomes, when the real focus of parents is always to be on the process. And what is that process? That process is the only thing that anyone, or any parent, is in control of anyway. 1 Cor 15:58- “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” NASU Did you know that you and I are only in charge of one thing in life? ‘Toil’. And ‘toil’ means labor, work, service…or essentially, efforts of faith…’faith efforts’.That’s all God calls us to in any endeavor of life. He supplies the sufficiency of grace, the guidance of wisdom and knowledge, and the inspiration for service. All He looks for from us is…’toil’. Even in our parenting, God only calls us to ‘toil’. And here’s the thing:You can only toil today. You cannot toil yesterday…you cannot toil tomorrow….you can only toil today. That’s why we have to keep our minds and emotions focused on today. Otherwise, we get stuck in the past and we lose our focus and even our joy and strength for the toiling of today, or for the works of today.
Let’s clarify this a bit. For Christians who are growing in grace and developing in spiritual maturity, guess what? You will always be thinking about how you could have done things better. And part of the reason for that is because of this principle: We live forwards, but we understand backwards. In other words, as followers of Christ, who are now seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, we are continually coming to a better understanding about our world, about life…about family life. The further we go in spiritual formation the better we understand life and relationships. And so it is natural that we will then consider and ponder things we could have done better in all of our relationships of life; like in our Fatherhood. It’s a bit like the commercial for Farmers Insurance: ‘We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.’ But for followers of Christ it goes even further than that. Spiritual maturity is like climbing a mountain – the higher you go the better you see everything around you and the better you understand where everything fits into the picture.
And so it is in our life. It’s like with the Biblical counsel we read in our Responsive Reading from Deut 6:5-9- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” NASU
This counsel is for training in our home life and really all of life. It deals with passing on a Biblical worldview in all of life. It deal with our personal life – ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might’. It deals with our home life – ‘teach them and talk of them in your daily routines of life’. It deals with our social life – ‘It directs your thoughts and activities with others’. And it deals with our business life – ‘It guides you through the gates or your places of business…and so on.
Again, the more you seek to follow Christ’s Lordship and act on His instructions not only will you grow to better understand your present relationships, but as we pointed out, inevitably you better understand how you could have or should have or would have done things better before, in all these areas, from your personal life to your home life to your social life to your business life.
And it’s right here that we need to understand something very important about all of this: And that is, the fact that you are now even thinking about all the ‘could have beens’ or the ‘should have beens’, like in your family life, is a testament to the reality of your further growing and maturing and formation as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you were not growing in Christ you wouldn’t even be thinking this way, or be burdened about the past. But the fact that you are thinking this way is not going unnoticed; and particularly by two different persons. And one of those persons is Satan, who is constantly looking for any way to steal your joy and replace it with discouragement. And thus, he will use your burdens and thoughts about the ways you could have done things differently or the ways you should have or would have done things differently to bind you up in discouragement, in order to keep your focus off of what the other Person in your life is trying to get you to focus on instead. And that other Person, of course, is the Holy Spirit of Christ, who is instead trying to encourage you in your spiritual formation and to share His joy with you over your growth in Him and is wanting you now to focus no longer on your failings of the past, but on His pleasure over you for your faithfulness in the present…and to rejoice over your steps of faithfulness now.
Remember, Satan is always trying to take us back into the past of what we should have done, or what we could have done, or what we would have done, and so on. Satan always wants to use past failings or faults, either real or perceived, to bind us up in discouragement in order to keep us from walking with the Holy Spirit of Christ in the present…walking in freedom and forgiveness, and with the joy of knowing that Christ is not bound by our past and neither are we. Our God is able to transform a past failing or past fault by a single present act of faithfulness into an amazing new reality or even new relationship. Remember how the Apostle Paul was a testimony of all of that in his own life? And he then revealed to us what the possibilities really were of what God could do with our present offerings…Eph 3:20-21- “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” NLT
The Apostle Paul realized that our offerings of prayers and acts of service and words of grace were like raw materials that, when we put them into the hands of God, He is able to do more through them than we can even imagine; like mighty works in our families. Like we can’t even imagine what God is going to do yet in and through what we’ve given Him in our prayers and in our toil, our efforts of faith, for the sake of our families, no matter their ages…because, again, with God, all things are possible! Friends, Never close the book on a story that God is still writing.
We are each one of God’s stories…along with every child and every parent of that child. Until that story of their life is done, God is not done working on them. And thus, neither should we be done. And realize most, God is not done working on us. Phil 1:6- “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” NASU And that reality is to be a present encouragement, day by day, and a source of joy for us day by day, which then gives rise to our strength for doing whatever it is that God has for us to do day by day, whether that is in our personal life, our family life, our social life, or our business life. Remember Guys, the key to being a better person, better Husband, better Father, better Grand-father, better friend, better employer or employee, or better anything is to first be a better follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. For God calls us first to follow Him. Everything else is to flow out of that.
And so Dads, regardless of however much you toiled in following Christ or whatever efforts you put forth in following Christ in your past and in how that played out in your family in the past, even though you no longer have the past, you still have today. And so today you can ‘be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.’ Every effort of faith, every pray of faith, every step of faithfulness is going to count in how it affects you and your family and others both now and forever. Remember: Our present efforts of faith today are what God uses to transform even things from the past to become glorious things in the future.
And Dads, because of that reality, we can make the rest of our lives be the best of ‘Dad lives’.