During the month of June, in connection to Father’s Day, I am thankful and eager to be able to share with you the things that God, by his love, grace and mercy taught me as I raised my four children. In some of the lessons, my now mature, adult children will share how God used me to help and bless them. The first lesson below will help to lay the solid spiritual foundation upon which we are to stand as we seek to be fathers who are led, inspired, and encouraged by God, our loving Father in Heaven.
As we begin, let us come to God with the following prayer, seeking his gracious guidance:
Our dear Father in Heaven, please help us to become to best fathers we can possibly be! - Sam Laing
The Fundamental Foundation of Good Fatherhood:
A Close Relationship with God and Jesus
In the thoughts and verses below I will share with you three of the vital foundations that God, by his grace and love, taught me as I raised my children. At the end you will find a personal note from my son, David. When it comes to fatherhood, there is much to say about discipline, communication, building memories and so much more. But let’s start with this basic foundation: God’s love for us, our love for him, and our daily walk with him.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10
First things first: our entire approach to God - our personal spirituality and our life in the church - is primarily motivated by his love for us. Through the years, I realized more and more how imperative it was that my children see this in my heart, words, and actions. God loved me through Christ, and I loved Him in return. The fact that I believed deeply in his love—and relied on it daily—helped them to realize that this was the reason I was his servant, and obeyed him. It showed them that my motivation was positive, based on His love, and on joy and peace, and not on mere shame, guilt, and duty.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:11-12
Second, my children also realized that the greatness of God’s love for me is what inspired, caused, and enabled me to love them—my children—as much as I did. As they grew older, I shared with them more and more about my own sinful nature and how God’s love had changed me and enabled me to be a loving father for them. This was a major part of what eventually motivated them to come to love and serve God themselves.
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
Finally, my children observed that I walked with God. I knew him as a friend. Unbeknownst to me, they took note of how I regularly went outside and prayed, walking with God and Jesus. They saw that I not only spoke to God and Jesus, but that I listened to him by spending time in daily Bible study. My children later shared with me that seeing my walk with God had a profound, positive impact on them, even though I did not realize it at the time!
Fathers, I am encouraging, urging, even pleading with you: walk closely and humbly with God! It will help and inspire your kids as they see that you have an intimate, personal relationship with your loving heavenly Father. And, as they see your humility before God and before them when you stumble or make mistakes, it will bless them. The fruit and impact of this for your family will be greater and reach further than you may ever come to know!
I’d like to give my full throated “Amen” to everything written here! I remember well waking up on a snowy morning and running to the window with my brother to see the blanket of white in the back yard—and hoping that school would be cancelled. We noticed one set of footprints meandering through the snow into the woods behind our house. We knew right away what that meant: Dad was already out there talking to God. We knew that Dad, as our authority, also submitted to a higher authority. And we knew that he and God were friends. We knew that Dad’s relationship with God is what made him a better father. He shared that with us in words but he also modeled it day in and day out, year after year. This was the greatest gift and the greatest teaching he ever gave me. I learned that God loved me, my dad loved me, and my dad walked with God—which enabled him to love me better!
Like my brother, I remember many mornings as boy, maybe three or four 4 years-old, eating at the breakfast table and looking out over our backyard. We lived on a few acres in Georgia, and in the morning, my Dad was often down by the creek with his back to the house and his Bible open to a Psalm as he was praying. I even remember one of our cats sitting on his shoulder while he prayed, and that amused us greatly (“She senses my inner purity,” Dad would always joke.)
As we grew older, the scenery changed and we lived in different places, but Dad’s habits of prayer were constant. I knew that Dad really loved God, and that he loved being with Him. He told us so, and he unknowingly showed it to us out on those prayer walks. So, as I grew older and he began to teach me Scripture and character, I sensed I was building my own personal relationship with God, and not just following rules.
I now know that when my Dad was out praying, he was praying for me to someday come to know the Lord.
As a grown man now, working and raising a family, it’s now my turn to sincerely pray for my kids to come to know God’s love. I fight distractions, tiredness, and trials of many kinds, and I am far from being a perfect example to my children. I’m not always even a good example! Still, children possess profound perceptiveness—even at a very early age—and they especially perceive sincerity or its absence. Perhaps, then, the perfect example to a child is not a perfect father, but an imperfect father persevering, praying to God and seeking Him, even when those efforts fall short.
We can find peace as fathers, knowing that as we walk with God each day, we are also giving our children a strong foundation—a foundation upon which we hope and pray they may someday choose to build.