June 18, 2020
This weekend, as we celebrate Father’s Day with families across the United States, I will have the privilege of sharing a gospel message with families in East Asia. Though their Father’s Day celebration falls on a different month and day than our celebration in the United States, I plan to share some reflections I have had from my father and mother’s influence on me. I hope I will have this same effect on my children and their children’s lives as a father and grandfather.
I grew up on a farm in East Texas. My parents, Lenis and Pauline, may not have had the greatest marriage, but they loved each other and loved us. Their influence on us, and, in turn, our influence in our own families, has had both wonderful and unexpected outcomes. R. Kent Hughes says,
The terrible fact is, we can either grace our children, or damn them with unrequited wounds which never seem to heal. . . . Men, as fathers you have such power! You will have this terrible power till you die, like it or not – in your attitude toward authority, in your attitude toward women, in your regard for God and the Church.” 1
From the many lessons my parents taught me throughout my life, I want to share five simple truths:
1. I am loved.
Austin L. Sorenson says, “A child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father.”2 Although my parents died over 40 years ago, I have never wondered whether or not they loved me. I still remember and relive the many expressions of love they gave me. As enthusiastic encouragers and supporters, they attended all my athletic games and other events telling everyone, “That’s our son!” They gave this same unconditional love and support to each of their children and grandchildren.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Apostle John wrote the best-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” These words tell us in detail of the Heavenly Father’s love for his children. The power of Jesus’ words has changed my life as well as the lives of all his children around the world.
2. I am never alone.
As a little boy, I often felt afraid when storms would come, especially at night. I would slip into my parents’ bedroom where I felt safe — to be with them where they were. Facing the financial devastation and health crises created by the Covid19 virus, as well as the growing and violent civil unrest, Beth and I have chosen to focus on Psalm 31:15: “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, and those who pursue me.” This verse reminds us that even in the midst of life’s confusing “storms,” our lives are safely in our good Father’s hands.
Even though I went through some tough times as a child and teenager, my parents always assured me they would never give up on me. When we give our lives to the Lord, he also promises he will never give up on us. Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your future to the Lord. Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.” Verses 39-40 promise: “. . . the Lord delivers the godly; he protects them in times of trouble. The Lord helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked and delivers them, for they seek his protection.” In the same way my earthly parents loved me, even when I didn’t deserve it, so will our Heavenly Father love and care for me, for my family and for all of us.
3. I am listened to.
Long before the dominance of virtual technology in families’ lives, my parents gave me the gift of listening. They gave me thoughtful answers to all of my questions, often from God’s Word. They taught me that I have a Father in Heaven who listens to my prayers. They shared with me how I could give my life to Christ.
We also have a Heavenly Father who listens to us. He asks us to pay attention, to listen and take to heart what he says. Deuteronomy 6: 4-7 says this, describing how the children of Israel should act in the Promised Land:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength. These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.
Although our circumstances are subject to life’s changes, God’s heart never will. He is always there and ready to hear us when we talk to him.
4. I am part of a forever family.
Hearing the stories of my parents’ personal testimonies of coming to know Christ as their Savior, I gave my life to Christ when I was nine years old. Although my parents are now gone from this Earth, I know in my heart with certainty that we will all be together in Heaven one day. Psalm 127:1a talks about the way a godly home is built—upon the foundation of the true and living God, the Father: “If the Lord does not build a house, then those who build it work in vain.”
Psalm 127:3-5a teaches that a home is blessed by a “quiver full” of children. The “arrows” from our homes will still be in flight after we are gone! Unfortunately, many people today treat children like a liability or an interruption of their freedom. The world devalues children; but the Lord tells us they are infinitely valuable. Teach them God’s truth!
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
5. I am part of a family who forgives.
Giving forgiveness in families is extremely difficult. Hurts and wounds bruise us more deeply when they come from family. Being part of a family who knows how to forgive each other is a blessing. After Jesus gave his followers a pattern for how to pray, he explained that our Father in Heaven forgives us so that we in turn will forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). In fact, forgiveness is so important that Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant to illustrate the importance of forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35.
In this parable, a king generously forgives one of his servants of an enormous debt he could never repay in his lifetime. However, the servant turns around to a fellow servant and refuses to forgive his peer of a very small debt he owed to him. He even had the debtor arrested and thrown into prison. The king hears of his servant’s wickedness and turns the unforgiving servant over to his jailors (literally tormentors). Jesus concludes by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
A close friend of mine says about some discussions with his wife, “Before we get hysterical, we get historical!” In other words, when we keep a record of the wrongs others inflict upon us, we highlight an “unforgiving spirit.” Forgiveness and understanding can bring healing in the hearts of our family. I am grateful that my dad taught us with words and examples of “how to be a father.”
Richard Milnes writes about the family, “The Christian home is the Master’s workshop where the processes of character molding are silently, lovingly, faithfully and successfully carried on.” 3 So may we pray for ourselves and for our families, “Heavenly Father, teach us to be ‘good forgivers!’ Amen.”
Ron and Beth Wells
PS: Thank you for helping support Centrepoint Ministries through your prayers and gifts as we reach out to individuals and families in crisis.
1 R. Kent Hughes, quoted by Richard Exley, “A Man and His Children,” The Makings of a Man: Devotions for the Challenges That Men Face in Family and Career (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Honor Books), 68.
2 Austin L. Sorenson, “Fathers,” An Encyclopedia of Compelling Quotations, edited by R. Daniel Watkins (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.), 247.
3Richard Monckton Milnes, “Family,” 12,000 Religious Quotations, edited by Frank S. Mead (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), 140.