We had the privilege of spending a few days with our family in Oregon this past week. In a world where the concept of “family” has become so confused and perverted from God’s design, it becomes even more meaningful and precious to be part of a family that follows the pattern God sets forth in His Word. We were able to get almost everyone together last Friday for a short time and then got to spend Fathers’ Day with our son and family, which hasn’t happened for many years. What a joy it was to be with our daughter and our son and their families. Not only do we share a biological bond but, as believers, we have the special tie of being brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Kathy’s sister, Trudy, also got to join us for our granddaughter’s dance recital so we got to visit with her as well and hear about her recent trip to China. We praise God for His grace in allowing us to experience the blessings of being part of a godly family.
As I think of our earthly family, I can’t help but consider what it means to be part of the family of God and to have Him as our heavenly Father. Have you ever pondered what it is that motivates God, what makes Him act as He does towards His children? Some say it is His holiness, others His love. But what exactly ties together all of God’s attributes? It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with God without having a right concept of who He is. God has revealed much about Himself and His attributes through His names that describe the way God deals with us. But, although God has used His names to unfold to us portions of His character, we still lack a complete picture because we don’t know how to tie them all together. By viewing God as powerful, for example, we may also view Him as impersonal. Or, if we focus on His love, we might assume we can do anything we like. If we concentrate on God as our provider, we might get heavily into debt, thinking that God will bail us out. If we focus on His holiness, we may live on a tight rope of fear. We need one concept of God that encompasses all the others, that pulls all this together.
That leads us back to the question: What motivates God? At the very center of His being, what is God? God is first and foremost, above and beyond everything else, a father. Only with that as the central view of God do the other concepts fit together. Jesus came to tell us that God is a father. Christ’s favorite way of addressing God and speaking about Him was “My Father,” “your Father,” “our Father.” That was the most prominent truth Jesus taught us about God. The word “Father” is applied to God 189 times in the Gospels alone (124 of those in John’s Gospel). Some today object when we refer to God as our heavenly Father, claiming that this discriminates against women and mothers. They would like us to change every reference to God in the male gender that appears in the Bible. I believe, however, that God is the heavenly Father of every Christian, and I don’t apologize for it. We are His children. In His model prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Mt. 6:9).
Just what are the qualities of God’s Fatherhood revealed in Scripture? Here are some:
1) Parental Authority
— One of the greatest weaknesses today in the average home is that of discipline of children—
consistent, firm, loving discipline.
— Children’s response to authority will largely depend on how they respected the authority of their
parents, especially dad who is held responsible (cf Eph. 6:4).
— Children need to feel secure. Home needs to be a refuge, a place to enjoy. It will be if fathers fulfill Eph. 6:4: “Fathers , do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up
in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
— Our heavenly Father disciplines and trains us with a perfect balance of authoritative love, providing security, comfort, refuge, and joy (Heb. 12: 5-11).
2) Parental Faithfulness
— Every promise God has ever made to His children will be fulfilled (Nu. 23:19; Psa. 89:34-36; Ro. 4:21; 11:28,29).
— His heart motive remains the same through time and eternity. He never changes. He only desires to show love and forgiveness.
— Your childhood may be full of memories of broken promises of parents who may have been too busy with jobs and friends or maybe you had an absent father or maybe you were even
abused by your father, but Jesus said, “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you…I am with you always even until the end of the age” (Heb. 13:15; Mt. 28:20).
— Parents may forsake you—God never will. “Even when we are too weak to have any faith left, He remains faithful to us who are part of Himself, and He will always carry out
His promises to us” (II Tim. 2:13 in the Living Bible).
3) Parental Generosity
— Parents love to give gifts to their children (and grandchildren!). Where does that desire come from? Jesus said, “What man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf
will give him a stone? Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more
shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Mt. 7:9-11).
— God is not stingy, possessive or materialistic. We may use people to get things, but God uses things to bless people. He “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17) cf Psa. 37:
3-5; Eph. 3:20,21). God is a generous God, as depicted by the father in the story of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:22,23).
4) Parental Affection
— Do you have any idea how attractive you are to God? God hates our sin, but loves us unconditionally and will never change His mind about us. We may have broken God’s heart but we
are still the center of His affection, the “apple of His eye” (Psa. 17: 8).
— God may have to discipline us, but He will never reject us once we are in His family. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Ro. 8:31-39).
5) Parental Attentiveness
— One attribute of God that not even the best parent can imitate is God’s ability to be with you all the time—24-7 (I Pet. 5:7; Psa. 139:13-18).
— Of all the 7 billion people on earth, God is always with me, thinking about me—and you. How? I don’t know. Just enjoy it! As far as you are concerned, it is just God and you. You don’t have to
get His attention—He’s already listening. Don’t worry about taking His time—it’s all yours.
— And, just as we take delight in the activities, projects, etc. of our children, God always takes delight in you and in the work of your hands.
6) Parental Acceptance
— We live in a performance-oriented society where acceptance is conditional—based on performance. So often we convey to our children that we only accept them if they are successful.
— Praise God, we don’t have to perform in a certain way to come to Him and experience His love and we don’t have to perform to continue in His love. As someone said, “Don’t wrestle…nestle.”
— Paul tells us to “Accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Ro. 15:7).
7) Parental Sacrifice
— Loving parents make sacrifices for their children. Love always makes sacrifices to meet needs— that’s what the Father heart of God is like. He made the greatest ultimate sacrifice to meet the
greatest of all needs. We were dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from God, but “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 cf I Jn. 4:9,10). The greatest display of the “Father heart of God” was at Calvary.
Is He your heavenly Father? Have you accepted what His Son did for you at Calvary? If so, “…you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father!’” (Ro. 8:15).