by Jane L. Fryar
The apostle Paul knew the satisfaction of investing in the lives of others. Single, alone in a Jewish culture that celebrated marriage and children, Paul “adopted” Timothy as his son, as it were. Paul became a mentor, an encourager, a father in the faith for Timothy, Titus, and other young men like them. At some point, Paul even invited his “beloved and faithful son” (1 Corinthians 4:17) to leave his childhood home and travel to the ends of the earth to share the Good News of Jesus. An audacious invitation. And yet, called by God into full-time ministry, Timothy followed Paul on the adventure of a lifetime.
Paul knew the courage it takes to confront and correct rebellious children. He writes to the church in Corinth:
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:14–16
Like a father, Paul experienced the pain of waiting for wayward children to repent, the pain of waiting while half-dreading the outcome. After the Corinthian church had, in fact, repented, he confides in them the feelings he had experienced:
I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
2 Corinthians 2:4 ESV
With fears and an awareness of his own weaknesses similar to godly dads in every era, Paul committed himself to set an example of Christlikeness for the family of God even in the most difficult circumstances. “Imitate me,” he writes, “just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). And he went on to model patience, courage, and hope even in the midst of anxious moments (Philippians 2:28 ESV) and crushing burdens (2 Corinthians 1:8–9; 7:5–6 KJV)
From exhilaration to the pit of anguish and back again . . . from utter confidence in Christ to self-doubt and back again . . . Paul seized the grace of God for the strength he needed to keep his focus on his Savior. Leaning on his heavenly Father, Paul lived as a man of courage. Every dad, every man of faith can find much in this apostle’s life to admire and imitate. His life story gives us in the church today key insights about encouraging all men and especially fathers on Father’s Day. A few thoughts drawn from his life:
God wants dads, just as fully as moms, to know the joys of nurturing, mentoring, and guiding children and those young in faith. Single men, strong in their relationship with Jesus, can make an eternal impact on boys—and girls, too—as they model, teach, and witness to Jesus’ faithfulness and forgiveness. Congregations need to create opportunities for this to occur and recruit faith-filled male leaders.
Not all men who want children have them. A man’s “highest calling” is the calling God himself gives. God does not call all men to be husbands and dads; many men serve the Lord and his people in other ways. Father’s Day can stir up a unique and deep pain for infertile couples and for those whose wives have experienced a miscarriage—even if that loss happened decades ago. When we in the church are sensitive to this deep ache, we will find ways to celebrate the contribution and calling of fathers in the congregation, while still ministering to the men (and women!) who live as singles or in families without children.
Few families have raised perfect children. Paul worried about his spiritual children in Corinth and in other churches as well. Father’s Day observances give pastors and other church leaders an opportunity to encourage dads who struggle with family problems—debt or job insecurity, rebellious teens, shaky marriages, and the everyday crises common to life in every family on Planet Earth. Father’s Day provides an opportunity to encourage everyone living in every kind of family by reminding them that Jesus died for the sins we commit in our relationships. He forgives the angry comment, the biting criticism, and the forgetfulness that makes those we love feel unimportant or underappreciated. We can confess our sins to one another, forgive one another, and begin each day anew in the shadow of Christ’s cross.
Many men know the pain and pride that comes with living apart from one’s own children. The divorced dad who takes his children on weekends, the dad who has sent a son or daughter halfway around the world into military or missionary service, the dad whose son or daughter has run away from home in a moment of rage or pain—all these dads will wake up on Father’s Day with mixed feelings and perhaps hurting hearts. We in the church can support these men on Father’s Day, even as we elevate the importance of the role God intended fathers to play from all eternity. We can look for ways to stir up within them new courage and confidence in the all-sufficient grace of God, the Lord who protects, enfolds, and cares for all of us and all our children, wherever they may be.
To help you acknowledge and encourage all the men in your congregation on Father’s Day (June 18), and especially the fathers, CTA has created a number of meaningful and cost-effective gifts.
All of us at CTA are praying God will use your Father’s Day celebration this year to encourage all the men of your congregation in their faith and in their callings from God himself to serve one another in love, especially in their families.