Another Father’s Day which means that it’s time to clear off the mantel and make room for this year’s WORLD’S GREATEST DAD trophy that your son or daughter is so excited to give you! Now I know you feel unworthy to receive such an esteemed recognition of your fatherly status (after all, there are so many “good” dads), but then, your children are excellent judges of character!
Well the truth is, there are moments when we are deserving of such a title. But then there are those times when, like all of us, you are probably deserving of a less meritorious title.
As fathers, it can be a real challenge to know what is truly best for our children. There are so many expectations, both self-imposed and those placed on us by others. We make plans and promises, sometimes failing to follow through on either one. So many times, we can feel that we are missing the mark at this vital role. Our response to these failed outcomes can be to try harder and increase the pressure to perform. Others may choose to turn their attention to those things that they seem to have better success at, such as work.
Famous Fathers in the Bible
A few years ago, I set out to see what the Bible had to say about being a great father by considering the lives of more notable biblical figures. I started with the life of Adam, the father of all humanity. Here is a man who started out with the perfect life, including direct communion with God, however he eventually falls into temptation resulting in bringing sin into the world and later, one of his sons ends up being a murderer. Probably not a model of a great father!
I then turned to Abraham, the father of our faith. Abraham does amazing things for God; however, he too has his moments of failure, including disregarding God’s promise and having a child through a woman who is not his wife, resulting in a son whose offspring continues to present a significant challenge to Jews and Christians even today. Not necessarily the model of a great father!
King David, another great leader in the Bible whose moral failings end in the murder of another woman’s husband and sons who eventually go to war with one another. Not a model of a great father! Moses, a great man of faith who also murders a man and in the end, because of his doubting of God’s provision, is unable to join his family in God’s promise of a new land for his people. The bottom line is that if many of these men of the Bible lived on your street today, you would likely caution your children to not hang around their homes!
So where does this leave us in our search for being a great dad? Well on one hand, we do see through the lives of these “great men of the Bible” that they also had great problems, so maybe there is some hope for us! Although we do find comfort in this answer, it does not lead us to understanding fatherly greatness.
So where are the great fathers in the Bible? Certainly, Jesus’s dad, Joseph, was an outstanding example of a man who was obedient to God in the face of uncertainty and possible public shame. But unfortunately, we don’t know much about him in the later years of Jesus’ life.
Parable of the Prodigal Son
So back to our search of finding a truly great father in the Bible. My own search turned to a story. A story that is most likely fictional, and was told by a man who was never actually an earthly father. It is a story that was told to a group of “sinners” and religious leaders to illustrate the great love a father can have for his children. It was a story to lead us to a father who is truly great…God the Father. The story, as told by Jesus, is that of a loving father and his two sons…
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (See Luke 15:11-32 for the entire story.)
The parable of the Prodigal Son holds many lessons for each one of us, no matter our state of life, illustrating God the Father’s love for each one of His children.
For fathers, it is a filled with challenging insights. First, it raises questions about parental involvement and the need to set boundaries for our children versus allowing them to experience the consequences of their actions. It illustrates the commanding theme of unconditional love and the power of forgiveness.
It also points to the family dynamic between siblings and how a parent must navigate these competing interests. But the bottom line of this story is that it points to a father’s love for both his children and the unspeakable joy that comes when one “who is lost is found.” In short…this is our story!
The story also establishes the pathway to greatness as a father. It is a path that is marked by unconditional love, forgiveness, great humility and an absolute commitment to family. It shows us that no matter what the circumstances may be, as fathers, we stand firm for our family and act as a bedrock of support for every family member, no matter their current position in life.
So, as you place your latest Father’s Day trophy on the mantel, remember the one who truly is the WORLD’S GREATEST DAD. The one who teaches us how to care for our families. The one who calls us and equips us to serve faithfully as dads. The one who we call, God the Father. Have a great Father’s Day!
Dan Dolsen is the founder and director of The Fatherhood Project-Building Great Dads. The Fatherhood Project’s mission is to build great dads by equipping them with the tools to lead their families in the roles of provider, protector, partner and preparer. The Fatherhood Project is a Christian ministry and a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. The Fatherhood Project may be found at www.buildinggreatdads.org .
© 2018 The Fatherhood Project-Building Great Dads. Not to be reproduced or copied without permission of Dan Dolsen. PLEASE SHARE THIS MESSAGE WITH OTHERS! All Bible quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.