When my wife, Jennifer, got pregnant with our first of two children more than 17 years ago, I was your typical scared-to-death father who didn’t feel prepared to be a dad. I didn’t know what to expect and was concerned that I wouldn’t be a good father. Growing up in a home without a dad from the third grade on, I didn’t have an example of what a good father looked like. I only knew that I wanted to be a father that was there for his children and always made it to the events in their lives. I wanted my children to be able to come to me without reservation when they needed advice or help with a problem. I want to leave my legacy on earth through them.
As an avid reader, I looked for a self-help book that could guide me. As it turns out, there aren’t many self-help books on how to be a first time father, so I asked my Father in Heaven for his guidance.
His response… “I gave you an instruction book but you don’t read it.”
This started me on my quest to read through the Bible looking for instructions on how to be a great father.
Here are a few of the things that I learned along the way.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6
Train up or dedicate your child in the way they should go. As a father, I am like a shepherd who is dedicating my children to the path that our Heavenly Father has designed for them to follow. It is my job to dedicate my time to finding the path for my children—to help them find the purpose God has for their lives. For me, this is something I have influence on but I am not in control of the outcome. My job as a shepherd is to encourage my children to try different things so that they can find what it is that they enjoy and what fits within the plan that our Lord has for them as they grow.
In my world as a father, my children and I spent most of our time in sports learning how to work with others and how to strive to be their best. I’ve spent hours in our driveway playing basketball with my son and with my daughter. In fact, my daughter and I spend nights on our couch watching games on TV and talking about what each team is doing. This is just one of the ways I try to live this verse. I pray for discernment every day for my children and their calling as they continue to move forward.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” ~ Ephesians 6:4
When I first found this verse and started thinking about how I could apply it to my life, I thought I just had to keep from making my children angry. But that’s not what the verse means. “Provoke” here is meant as “avoiding unfair and cruel behavior” or “blatant favoritism.”
Since I have two children, it makes sense that I should avoid situations that seem cruel or show favoritism of one child over the other. This means that I love both of my children the same amount but I don’t treat them the same. They are two different people with two different dreams and I need to discipline them according to that standard.
The second part of the verse: “bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord,” means it is my job to make sure that they are involved in biblical teaching at home and in small peer groups like Sunday school and youth groups. We were blessed that a teacher from our local school put together a boys Bible study after school that has grown to include a girls group that my daughter is a part of as well.
If you don’t have access to a group, maybe you can start one on your own. Bringing peers together to study and learn is a great way to instruct anyone (children and adults) in the ways of the Lord.
And here is my favorite…
“Honor your father and mother.” ~Ephesians 6:2
I thought I could hold this over my children’s heads when they were misbehaving but that’s not really what this one is about either. In this verse, Paul is challenging us to teach our children to respect all authority so that as they grow they will become productive members of society. If my children learn to respect those who have authority they will honor their teachers, their coaches, their bosses and those who uphold the law. We also want to model respect with their peers and all people in general. Respect is a virtue that we need more of in today’s culture and instilling that in my children is extremely important to me.
There are so many things that can be learned when reading through the Bible about raising children. I hope that these three verse inspire you. Children are a gift that we have been given the responsibility to shepherd throughout their lives. My prayer is that my investment in my children leaves a legacy for the future.