Many men desire to be good fathers, but what really matters is whether or not they are godly fathers.
Here are four Biblical principles that, by God’s grace, can be used to lay a sound foundation in helping fathers become godly fathers.
First, godly fathers are first godly men. It doesn’t work for fathers to bail out and say to their children, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Children must be able to see an example of Christ in their fathers. Paul says to his spiritual children in 1Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Until men by faith follow in the example of Christ themselves, they cannot be godly examples for their own children.
Second, godly fathers love their children unconditionally. Unconditionally is a significant word. It implies that love is not merited or earned and that the father’s treatment of his children is not dictated by what they can offer him in return. The father of the prodigal son stood waiting and watching for his son to return to him.
When he finally did return, the father didn’t judge the son or force him to earn back his favor, love, and approval. He simply embraced him and threw a celebratory party for his son (Luke 15:21-24). He could do this because his love for his son wasn’t based upon what his son could do for him but simply and strictly upon the fact that he was his son.
Godly fathers don’t make their children earn their approval, and they don’t use their children’s behavior as a condition for their love.
Third, godly fathers train their children how to love and honor God. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Ephesians 6:4 echoes the Proverbs passage, saying, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Training in righteousness requires learning the Scripture, for the Bible is how a child must come to know who God is and what God wants. In addition to instruction in wisdom and knowledge according to the Bible, there will also be a time for discipline. Sometimes children will test their boundaries or act out, and they need to be corrected and disciplined.
Discipline is not a wrathful outburst or reaction; rather, it is a purposeful, calculated means of imposing consequences grounded in love. Even our heavenly Father disciplines those sons whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and the fact that a father is willing to discipline his children proves that he loves them. Fathers who let their children get away with anything and everything fail to demonstrate the tough love that is sometimes needed.
Fourth, a godly father seeks to give his children good gifts. Godly fathers go beyond just giving spiritual gifts such as wisdom and Biblical instruction to seeking to give good gifts of all kinds. Our heavenly Father is the ultimate example of this. James 1:7 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
Our Father is the giver of every good and perfect gift because He knows when, how, and what to give us. He knows what we desire and ask for because He knows and cares for what we really want and need (Psalm 37:4, Philippians 4:19). Fathers, too, ought to be sensitive to their children’s desires and needs. They need to avoid the extremes of spoiling their children by giving into their every whim and being too stingy and holding back from their children.
A child’s view of God will largely be shaped by their father’s treatment of them. So as fathers, take interest in what brings your children joy.
The importance of being a godly father cannot be overstated.
Yet, being human, all fathers will make mistakes along the way. However, even how these failures are handled is a chance to demonstrate Christ and to leave a godly legacy. Children don’t expect their earthly fathers to be perfect, but they need fathers who will do their best by faith to imitate their Father in heaven.
by Pastor Brenton M. Barnett