According to the Pew Research Center, a father’s role has changed in America. In 2016, the amount of time dads devoted to childcare was about three times the amount they provided in 1965. Despite this increase, 63 percent of fathers feel they still spend too little time with their children.1 The demands of juggling a career, a household, church commitments, and more are creating unparalleled pressure for dads and moms alike. How can we do it? How can we honor our family’s needs and keep up with everything else? Let me suggest five principles from God’s Word.
Provide for your family – 1 Timothy 5:8
Sometimes we think of our faith and our finances as being separate from each other, but the Bible draws a clear connection: “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). As early as the Garden of Eden, God established man’s responsibility to be a provider when He instructed Adam to tend and keep the garden (Genesis 2:15).
It’s no accident that the Bible refers to God as our Father. Not only does Father describe His true character and nature, but it also points to Him as the perfect example for us to follow. It’s amazing how many times in the New Testament the fatherhood of God is placed alongside human fatherhood to illustrate how we as human fathers can love our children. And one of the ways we do that, according to the book of Timothy, is by providing for our families.
With each child that enters the family, it’s a reminder that God has given dads this wonderful privilege and opportunity to provide for their families. Looking back over the years and recognizing how God has enabled us to meet our family’s needs is a joyful, worshipful experience.
Just as we want to provide for our children, God wants to provide for us. He’s not a reluctant Father who needs to be convinced to do what we want; He is a willing Father who is eager to answer our requests. The book of Matthew offers a parallel story of God the Father and of human fatherhood:
The Bible tells us that God is waiting for us to ask Him for what we need. In this same chapter, we find these familiar words: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (verses 7-8). While it is true that He has wired this universe to work through prayer, God simply says, “If you ask, I will answer. If you seek, I will be found. If you knock, the door will be opened.” That attitude of anticipation by our Heavenly Father should be the spirit that we have as human fathers—not reluctant, not having to be broken down, but eager and willing to help our children.
Teach your children to be godly – 1 Samuel 2 & 3
The COVID-19 pandemic required many families to shelter in place together for weeks and even months. Some parents welcomed this extra time with their children. Others discovered what their children’s teachers had been telling them for a long time—their kids are wild! As much as we might like to point fingers at the teachers or the kids themselves, God’s Word places responsibility squarely on the parents.
Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines those he loves” (NLT). That’s a good thought, isn’t it? We won’t help our children by withholding discipline. If we allow them to run wild, they won’t be prepared for success in life or in God’s kingdom. Helping our children make the right decisions is an expression of our love.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain that discipline allows us to share in God’s holiness and to enjoy “the fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Our goal in administering discipline is to encourage godliness. It is not an opportunity to vent our anger. It’s not because “these kids are driving me crazy!” It’s because we love our children too much to allow them to develop sinful habits that will lead them away from God’s will and the promise of His blessing.
Respond with compassion – Psalm 103:13-14
Fathers express love to their children by providing for them and disciplining them, but we also have a responsibility to respond with compassion. The goal of our discipline is to help them be their personal best, not perfect. Psalm 103:13-14 states, “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (NLT).
The apostle Paul adds, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Our correction should be constructive, not destructive. The goal of godly discipline is to cultivate good attitudes in our children and to encourage them.
When we’re raising our kids, there’s a fine line between maintaining the standard of what is right and understanding that they’re growing, that they’re kids, and that they need grace. We don’t always do that well. That wasn’t the way many of us were brought up. Along with all the rules and standards, it’s important to find a balance—and to have fun too.
Recognize their individuality – Genesis 49:28
One habit of great parents is that they study their children. Genesis 49 records the blessing that Jacob issued to each of his twelve sons. He didn’t give a blanket statement; he provided something special for every single person in his family.
Occasionally a parent will blurt out, “Why can’t you be like your brother,” or “Why can’t you be like your sister?” The obvious answer is that each child is a different person. God has created each one of our children unique. Some of them are athletes, and some of them are musicians, and some of them are into all kinds of different hobbies. And the greatest thing we can do is to love them, nurture them, shape them, know them, and prepare them to step out into this wide world as unique individuals, blessed of God.
As parents, our job is to learn about our children. Each of them has their own personality and abilities because each of them is unique. We can set our children free to be the people God created them to be if we will help them find their strengths, their gifts, their talents and then celebrate them for who they are and help them become everything God wants them to be.
Reinforce their identity – Colossians 3:21
When Jesus was baptized, the Bible says a voice from heaven proclaimed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). What a great statement that is. I don’t think there’s anything that we can do for our kids, especially in this generation, that’s more important than being their cheerleaders.
When my children were growing up, I made a commitment to support them and encourage them by being physically present at their activities. My son, David, played high school basketball, and his games were often in the afternoon. So I would take off early and go to the games. I hardly missed any. But my commitment was tested every time I turned around.
One day as I was preparing to leave for a game, I could tell my secretary was having a hard time with someone who wanted to talk to me about a personal crisis he was experiencing. He just kept after her. Finally she said, “No, Dr. Jeremiah can’t see you. He’s already late for an appointment. He’s leaving, and he can’t see you right now.”
In order to exit the building, I had to walk through the lobby. And he was there. He walked right up to me and he said, “Where are you going?” When I explained that I was on the way to my son’s basketball game, he threw a fit. In that moment, God gave me a word, and here’s what I said: “Sir, there are five guys upstairs who are pastors who can help you. My son only has one dad, and I’m out of here.” Then I left.
I trust that man found the help he needed. His needs were important and valid. But periodically, our priorities come in conflict with each other. And sometimes our kids need to take priority over everybody else and everything else.
That’s how we pass our values on to our kids. And we don’t do it right all the time. But when we see those values being passed on to the next generation, it is a wonderful thing. Fatherhood is more caught than it is taught, and our kids catch it when they see it happen. Let’s do everything we can to cheer them on to greatness.
1Gretchen Livingston and Kim Parker, “8 Facts About American Dads,” FACTANK News in the Numbers, June 12, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/12/fathers-day-facts/, accessed on May 14, 2020.