By Victor Knowles
Sir Francis Bacon said, “It is a reverent thing to see an ancient castle or building not in decay, or to see a fair timber tree sound and perfect. How much more to behold an ancient and noble family which hath stood against the waves and weathers of time.” Before civilization, there was the family. Before the state, there was the family. Before the church, there was the family.
A godly father is crucial to shaping and sheltering the Christian home. Billy Graham said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”
The Greatest Father
The religion of Islam does not present Allah as a father. The Quran teaches that it is beneath the dignity of Allah to have a son. Sura 19:35 says, “It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son” (Holy Quran, English Translation by Marmaduke Pickthall). Christianity stands in stark contrast with Islam because God is the world’s greatest example of a father. One of the most beloved verses in the Bible tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). One of the most famous of Jesus’ parables is the story of the prodigal son being received back by a patient, loving, and forgiving father.
I’m grateful it was not beneath the dignity of God to have a Son! The apostle Paul said, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14, 15). The Greek word for father is pater and means “a nourisher, protector, upholder.” That is precisely what God is to his family. The Greek word for family is patria and stands for all those who are spiritually related to God (John 1:12, 13).
Everything that a godly father should be has been expertly modeled by the greatest Father of all, Almighty God. Paul described him as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). God is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). He nourishes his children (Isaiah 1:2), loves his children (Hosea 11:1), and gives good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17). He makes his home with us (John 14:23), hears and answers our prayers (John 16:23), and gives us grace and peace (Romans 1:7). He sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). God blesses us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) and has no greater joy than to see his children walking in the truth (2 John 3, 4).
A Father of Nations
God promised Abraham that through him all the peoples on earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). He informed Abraham that he would be “a father of many nations” (17:5). Abraham was not the only friend of God, but he is the only man in the Bible who is called the friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23).
What was there about this godly man that caused God to call him his friend? Consider God’s own testimony: “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19). Abraham was a good father. You can practically trace the travels of Abraham by following the trail of altars this devout man left behind (for example, Genesis 12:7, 8; 13:4, 18; 22:9). Later, his son Isaac and grandson Jacob would do the same. He sought a blessing for Ishmael (17:18), mourned the passing of his wife Sarah (23:1, 2), and sought a godly wife for Isaac (24:1-4).
Abraham’s faithfulness prompted Paul to write, “He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). Even our baptism into Christ can be linked to Abraham: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
A Praying Father
George Will said, “We are given children to test us and make us more spiritual.” The ancient patriarch Job experienced both of these truths. Job and his wife were blessed with 10 children—seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2).
Job was a deeply spiritual man. “He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion” (Job 1:1, The Message). He was extremely sensitive to sin, especially when it came to the behavior of his children.
His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom (Job 1:4, 5).
The father is the spiritual guardian of the family. He is their vanguard, rearguard, lifeguard, bodyguard, and safeguard. The father is the shield and shelter of the home. God has appointed him to care for, provide for, look after, attend to, and watch over his children. The father should never surrender these sacred duties to anyone else. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
A Leader in His Home
Joshua, the successor to Moses, challenged the nation of Israel to throw away their idols and serve God alone. Then he set the example: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). This must have resonated with the people, because they responded, “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God”
Joshua was only reinforcing what Moses had told Israel, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. . . . Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
Among Moses’ last words were his instructions to “command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32:46, 47). God intended the father to be the transmitter of transforming truth in the home.
Guardian of Jesus
Perhaps there is no more of an unsung hero in the Bible than Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth. Yet God entrusted this gentle and quiet man to be the guardian of Jesus.
Scripture describes him as a righteous and devout man (see Matthew 1:19). He was sensitive to Mary’s unique situation. He was obedient to the message of the angel and took Mary as his wife, not knowing her intimately until after Jesus was born.
He gave the child the name Jesus. He took Jesus to the temple to be presented to God. He was a protector to the Son of God, taking him to Egypt for the child’s safety (Matthew 2:14). Every year Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover. He helped him grow and be strong. He taught him the honest trade of carpentry. Joseph was a good protector, provider, and instructor. He was the greatest guardian parent the world has ever known.
One day we received a unique birth announcement in the mail. It was from friends in the Pacific Northwest who had just been blessed with a child. The father wrote, “God has entrusted into our keeping an eternal soul.” I don’t remember the date the child was born, the weight, or even whether it was a boy or a girl. But I do remember the words: “God has entrusted into our keeping an eternal soul.”
Joseph was that kind of father. Any fathers reading this need to be that kind of father too. Even the poorest man on earth can leave the richest inheritance for his children if he guards their eternal souls and gives them the living Christ.
Victor Knowles is founder and president of POEM (Peace on Earth Ministries), Joplin, Missouri. www.poeministries.org
Tools for Dads
The Dad in the Mirror: Ten Ideas to Help Your Children Grow Up Loving God
by Patrick Morley and David Delk
First Time Dad: The Stuff You Really Need to Know
by John Fuller
(Moody Publishers, 2011)
Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent: Building Relationships, Buying Breakfasts, and Secrets for Connecting with Your Teenager
by Jonathan McKee
(Standard Publishing, 2011) Item 025471611
What a Son Needs From His Dad: How a Man Prepares His Sons for Life
by Michael O’Donnell
(Bethany House, 2011)
Dad’s Everything Book for Sons: Practical Ideas for a Quality Relationship
by John Trent and Greg Johnson
What a Daughter Needs From Her Dad: How a Man Prepares His Daughter for Life
by Michael Farris
(Bethany House, 2012)
Daddy Dates: Four Daughters, One Clueless Dad, and His Quest to Win Their Hearts
by Greg Wright
(Thomas Nelson, 2011)
Dad’s Everything Book for Daughters: Practical Ideas for a Quality Relationship
by John Trent