The belief that fathers should rule with an iron fist, never weep, and refuse to express any feelings is not biblical. It may be Hollywood’s version of masculinity, but it is not God’s design or desire for men. Of course, a heavy-handed approach is not just a modern-day idea. Paul observed this type of parenting in his first-century Roman setting. A father being distant, stoic, and callous was celebrated in the ancient Latin culture, and it was damaging to children. That is why Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
This verse and others we will look at today give shape to what biblical fatherhood actually is. Here is what Scripture reveals:
A man PATERNALLY is uniquely designed to lead, provide, and protect as a father.
Many men feel overwhelmed by the idea of spiritually leading their families. If that is you, please allow my words to encourage you. Leading spiritually has nothing to do with your personality or your past. You don’t have to sound and act like your pastor to be a spiritual leader. While pastors should be examples, there is a big difference between pastoring a church and leading your family. Whether you feel like you are not well versed in the Bible, have strayed from God in the past, or have never had a good example to follow, God’s commands are not conditional. No matter where a man has been in the past, he can obey God now, and God promises to empower his efforts.
The single greatest act of spiritual leadership in a husband’s life is simply being the lead follower of Christ in his home. He cannot lead his family where he is not going himself. Men, this means your children need to walk in on you having prayer time. They need to hear you talk about life issues and connect them back to the gospel. Be honest with your children when you face circumstances where you don’t know what to do, and you need to both pray for wisdom and ask other godly men for wisdom. Do not fall into the trap of assuming a spiritual leader has all the answers or never makes mistakes. I only know one perfect man like that in Scripture – the Lord Jesus. You don’t have to know all of the answers. You don’t have to know all the books of the Bible in order. You have to know Jesus, and Him crucified.
Let your influence on your family come from the influence of the King in your heart. And if you need to reestablish your spiritual leadership in your home, you start by reestablishing His spiritual leadership over your life. As you follow the Lord, your family will follow you, and together you will obey and submit to the Lord.
Don’t skim past my reminder that you must talk to your children. As men, we can struggle to share our feelings. But I have never met anyone who has said, “I wish my dad had talked to me less.” One of the greatest lies the enemy propagates is that our lack of communication is no big deal and that our children can get all they need just by watching us live good lives. Your children will meet all kinds of people who live “good lives.” Buddhists can live good lives. Muslims can live good lives. Your neighbor who doesn’t believe in Christ can live a good, moral life. He can pay his taxes, be nice, and help coach little league. There has to be more than just living a good life. Proverbs 4:10-11 reads, “Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.” For your children to hear, you have to speak. Don’t assume your children are taking in what they need to just by watching you. Talk to them. You don’t have to be articulate. You just need to take the time to speak truth into your children’s lives.
The last passage I want to point you to is Psalm 127:4-5: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” My love for archery started at a young age. And as an archer, I know three things must happen when using arrows: you prepare them, you aim them, and then you release them.
Notice the battle analogy used in Psalm 127. When children are raised in the Lord, they are likened to a warrior’s arrow. When does a warrior need a full quiver? In war. Like an arrow used in battle, we want our children to be able to push back hell. We want Satan to hate that we had children.
There is a prevalent mentality that parenting is about keeping your kids safe. Of course, I want to protect my kids from danger. But remember what you ultimately do with arrows. You do not keep them. You release them. We are to help cultivate in our children a love for Jesus and an understanding of living on mission that teaches them God might someday call them to buy a one-way ticket to reach people for Christ. Releasing them in this way may feel difficult, but if our children know Jesus, we have all of eternity to be with them. Viewing our children as arrows means we have to lay them on God’s altar and say, “You have given them to me, and I give them back to You.”
I will end with this. Resist the pull to believe there is only one way to be a father. I have met all kinds of godly men, and many of them have shared with me about the godliness of their fathers. But the descriptions they share vary greatly. Their fathers were different men with different passions, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. There is no one man you are supposed to epitomize as you father your children. Whether you received them through conception or adoption, whether they’re children from a previous marriage that you’ve welcomed into your life, God has called you to be their father. You were made in God’s image, and you can only be the version of you that God intends for you to be in their lives.
I pray these words help obliterate any lies you may believe about not being able to be a spiritual leader in your home. By His grace and with His power, you can do this. You can lead your family. Follow Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, body, passion, and strength. As you do that, you will be the leader God intends for you to be.