Fathers Are for Freedom Ephesians 6:4
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What reduces crime, child poverty, teen pregnancy and requires no new taxes? The answer is good fathers. This message focuses on the difference between “Freeing up Children” and “Frustrating Children” and the vital role that father’s have in shaping character, teaching values and preparing their children for career preparation and choices.
Barbara Dafne Whitehead wrote these words in the April, 1993, edition of Atlantic Monthly.
Over the past two and a half decades Americans have been conducting what is tantamount to a vast natural experiment in family life. Many would argue that this experiment was necessary, worthwhile, and long overdue. The results of the experiment are coming in, and they are clear. Adults have benefited from the changes in family life in important ways, but the same cannot be said for children. Indeed, this is the first generation in the nation's history to do worse psychologically, socially, and economically than its parents. Most poignantly, in survey after survey, the children of broken families confess deep longings for an intact family.1
What has been this vast natural experiment in family life?
The experiment of rampant divorce which has resulted in the absence of fathers from so many families in our day.
In our day we have made self-satisfaction our highest value rather than self-sacrifice.
We have put our own interests ahead of our children's interests, with the result that our children suffer at the hands of those who should be their protectors. Children often become parents to their parents, growing up long before our time.
I realize there are many who have struggled heroically to do the right thing, often with great success.
Yet, the evidence is undeniable that the absence of fathers is devastating to family health.
This most obvious of realities has often been overlooked in the past.
Listen to these words from an expert, a psychologist, who speaks for her field and the thinking many have done.
Amazing as it may seem, developmental psychology has only recently become aware of the vital role fathers play in the lives of their children. For many years, child psychology was preoccupied with the mother-child relationship, as if fathers were secondary figures…
Our research is part of a growing body of knowledge that puts this lopsided view of child development back into perspective. Fathers exert a critical influence on their sons and daughters throughout childhood and adolescence, helping to shape their characters, values, relationships with other people, and career choices… . Children do not dismiss their fathers just because there has been a divorce. Indeed, it is the children of divorce who taught us very early that to be separated from their father was intolerable. The poignancy of their reactions is astounding, especially among the six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds. The cry for their daddies--be they good, bad, or indifferent daddies.2
What difference do fathers make?
The loss of traditional family values means
The loss of peace and security in America.
1. All the sickness of our society can be traced to this shift away
from a focus on fathers and their role in the family and society.
2., All the research in recent years traces every ill in our nation to this reality.
all flow directly from the parental selfishness that rejects the abiding and legitimate concerns of the child we bring into our world.
Children from single parents homes are more likely to commit crimes than those from traditional families. They use drugs more heavily.
They are more likely to be gang members.
They make up 70% of delinquents in state reform institutions.
They commit 76% of the adolescent murders.
They are 70% more likely to be expelled from school.
This is not true of all, of course. But it is a pattern.
The greatest crime in America today is the crime of fatherlessness.
1. Here is an interesting question:
What reduces crime, child poverty, teen pregnancy and requires no new taxes?
2. The answer:
1. Father absence contributes to welfare dependency, crime and delinquency, to educational failure, to health risk, and to long-term success.3
2. Fathers are not superfluous, although they have often been thought of that way.
3. These realities have nothing to do with race!
4. These realities have everything to do with a failure in fathering
which marks our nation today.
In light of these realities, we must look at fathering today.
We are going to discover two things about fathering, perhaps the two most important realities we need to know for our times. Both of these realities are developed from the same passage, Ephesians 6:4. One reality tells us what fathers are not for, the other what fathers are for.
Come to the passage with me and see that
I. Fathers Are Not for Frustration -- Eph. 6:4.
A. As fathers, we are commanded not to create anger in our children.
1. We create anger in our children when we provoke them.
a. "Provoke" is a strong word, a word that means to cause to explode, exasperate, ignite.
b. This term describes a habitual attitude, the constant spirit that marks the child, the settled response to life.
c. We are not to cause a deep seated rage in our children.
d. The anger that we feel as adults may well have its roots in a father who failed to obey this commandment.
2. As fathers we must understand how great our influence is.
a. We create the very inner atmosphere in which our children live.
b. We create the feelings they have about life and wholeness and reality.
c. We create a sense of peace and purpose, or we create a sense of stress and emptiness.
d. The way we raise our children determines how they feel about reality and life.
e. The apostle speaks to fathers because we set the tone in our families; even when we are not there we set the tone in our families.
f. As fathers we must choose to create an atmosphere for growth in our homes.
If you have been raised by a father who disobeyed this command you must make a choice to give up the anger that has been ignited within you by forgiving him for what he did to you. It does you no good to hang onto the anger and the hatred and the bitterness. You are only hastening on your death and raising your children to be your victims even as you were his. Take responsibility for your anger and call upon God to enable you to give it up before you do great harm to your children and yourself.
How do we provoke our children?
B. We provoke our children when we fail to love them.
Victor Hugo is quoted as saying, The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.4
Based on what we are seeing in our world today, the greatest need our children have is to know their father loves them.
How do we fail to love our children.
1. We fail to love our children when we reject them.
a. We reject our children when we are absent from them.
Howard Hendricks has said that the average American father spends 37.7 seconds a day with his children.5 The biggest problem we fathers face is that we are too busy for our children. We have a business breakfast early in the morning so we are gone long before they get up. We work late at the office after everyone is gone because no one will bother us, so we get home after they have gone to bed. On weekends we have work to do around the house, or we're so worn out we don't have energy or patience to be with them. We are committed to success, to more and better, often in the name of our children.
Must we be failures in business in order to raise our children well?
No, that is not what I'm calling for.
I am calling for all fathers in this room to take stock of their commitments and to determine that they will center their lives around the Lord and their families and their service to him in business and in other settings. Then we fathers must make certain that we are making weekly and even daily choices to know and understand our children.
There are times when we must travel or when we must work long hours. It just doesn't have to be all the time! According to a national survey taken some years ago of fathers, there are four primary factors that create time pressure for us:
jobs, outside activities, television, and financial pressure.
Instantly, if this is true in our lives, television can go. Next go any outside activities that we cannot incorporate into our lives. Next comes the discipline needed to get finances under control. Then we have a realistic picture of what it takes to be a business success as well as a success as a man walking with God and leading his family.
Home is not where we come to rest; home is where we come to lead.
Not only does absence mean rejection;
b. Control means rejection.
There are three ways we can control our children, all of which will generate anger.
We talk without listening.
We can run right over their explanations. We fail to respect them, nor give them the respect of hearing what they want to say, even when we already know what it is and know it won't change a thing.
One of the things we can learn from God as our Father is that we always must listen even if we cannot change our minds. He never rebukes us for coming back to Him again and again with our stupid little mistakes. If this is how He fathers, isn't it the way we should father?
Whenever one of my sons would say, You're not listening to me, I always would stop, ask him to repeat what he has been saying and then repeat it back to him and get him to affirm that he has heard me say what he said.
Then I go ahead with my plan of action, unless I do hear something I hadn't already heard.
If he's right, and I haven't heard him, I change. If he's just stalling for time, I point that out to him and go on. He may not like what I'm doing, but he has absolutely no valid objection that I am not listening to him.
We demand without understanding.
Often our children are right. We don't understand them and what they are experiencing. We simply made demands of them without showing any interest in their concerns.
We decide without consulting.
Our responsibility as fathers in their lives is to be stakes for our children. They are like young trees planted in the front yard of life. The winds come, the storms of life fall upon them, lightening lashes out at them, they shake and tremble in the gale, but our job is to hold them up and stabilize them. However, we must remember that the cords cannot be too tight or we'll cut off the life from the young tree.
This is exactly what we do when we don't give them ourselves.
2. We fail to love our children when we don't give them ourselves.
a. We give them our money, but not ourselves.
b. We given them their way and smother them with false love, but we don't give them ourselves.
c. We give them our anger with the harshness of a rigid control which denies their very existence, but we don't give them ourselves.
d. It isevident that anyone who so seeks to control a child so he is not a problem is really telling that child he never wanted him in the first place.
3. We fail to love them when we don't let them be themselves.
a. Often fathers try to be too protective of their children, and they deny their child's identity as a result.
b. Perhaps nothing damages more, perhaps nothing creates more anger in a child than unreasonable restrictions that deny that child the freedom of his true identity.
c. It's risky and frightening to let a child be themselves, but we must let our children take the risk of being themselves.
Joel swam the stream at Yosemite.
Listen to these feelings expressed by the parent of a teenager.
Prayer for a Teenage Son
Lord, the night is quiet.
There is only the hum of the clock--glowing at 3:11 A.M.
and the even breathing of my wife
and the quickened beating of my heart.
For Bill is late. So much later than he said he'd be.
You know he's a good boy, Lord,
kind and thoughtful--
but, oh, so vulnerable
And there are many pressures out there,
in the world of the night.
Noiselessly I creep from my restless bed
and silently prowl the shadowed rooms.
Lord, you have blessed us with him
and blessed him with your grace.
Listen to my prayer and watch over him now.
I will for the phone to ring--and not to ring--
For my fear is great.
Trust, you seem to tell me
Trust in me and do not fear.
But the beat of my heart will not quieten.
Now at last I hear his key in the lock
And I am filled with the warmth of relief.
Thank you, Lord, for bringing Bill safely home.
Now help me to listen as he speaks--
And not to be angry.6
What if we provoke our children?
But if fathers are not for frustration, what are fathers for?
II. Fathers Are for Freedom -- Eph. 6:4.
A. We free our children when we bring them up in the lord.
1. To bring them up means to feed them.
2. It has the idea of bringing someone from need to need.
3. It demands that we be need oriented, that we know our children well enough to recognize their need and that we act in such a way that we provide for their needs.
a. These needs are physical.
b. These needs are mental.
c. These needs are emotional.
d. These needs are spiritual.
4. We must given our children the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment they need to grow to be healthy and whole human beings.
5. This is why we must adjust our lives to meet their needs.
a. We need to know the different personalities of our children.
b. We must be aware of the different stages of life which they face.
c. We must be prepared to meet the needs which thesedifferences create.
There are some very significant steps which we must take.
We must pray for our children.
We must have honest discussion with our wives about our children's needs and how we can best meet them together.
We must let our children know us as human beings and so express our trust in them.
We must spend time to watch, observe, listen, talk, think, pray, and act.
B. We free our children when we discipline them.
1. This word means to educate.
2. The focus of this word is to educate by means of physical discipline.
3. Physical discipline is essential in raising children, and fathers must be faithful to exercise it.
a. Faithful discipline demands personal discipline.
It demands the discipline to do it when it should be done, even if this is the most inconvenient thing of all.
It demands the discipline to do it in a fair and appropriate way, which means we are under personal control when we do it, what the Bible calls dignity.
b. Faithful discipline demands preventive discipline.
We must play with them.
We must love them.
C. We free our children to be themselves when we instruct them.
1. We instruct them by our model before them.
The time Pop went to church on a stormy night, and I learned the meaning of commitment.
2. We instruct them by our teaching of them.
a. We teach them manners.
b. We teach them morals.
c. We teach them truth, especially spiritual truth.
3. We instruct them by our commitment to them.
Fathers are for freedom, not frustration.
What if you have had a father who turned out to be for frustration and not for freedom?
What if you have been a father who has been for frustration and not for freedom?
Pay any price you must, but CHANGE!
Now make a commitment to love your children:
to give them your time,
and their identity, which they can only find through a relationship with you.
Are you where I am: inadequate, afraid?
Let's commit together to join the fellowship of fathers for freedom, let's commit ourselves to depend on the Lord this morning.
1 Whtiehead, p. 84.
2 Wallerstein, Judith S. & Blakeslee, Sandra, Second Chances, pp. 233-234.
3 Brochure, The National Initiative for Fathering.
4 English, O. Spurgeon, M.D. and Foster, Constance J. Foster, (New York: G. Putnam;s Sons, 1961) Fathers Are Parents, Too.
5 Hendricks, Howard, (Dallas, TX: The Art of Family Living) The Anatomy of a Father.