Please allow me to say at the outset that I do not consider myself to be an exemplary father. However much I aspire to be one, I am all too aware of my own failings, inconsistencies, and points of selfishness. The good news is this — God, in His grace, has intersected my path with some great dads. Perhaps God knows that I need a target or maybe a diagram. Either way, God has used these men to point out five qualities of exemplary fatherhood:
Let’s briefly explore these essential attributes of biblical fatherhood.
“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).
There is a pandemic of thoughtlessness in our world today. Everything from music to media, from gaming to golf invites us to turn off our brains or to bury genuine reflection beneath layers of banality. The result is distant dads busy with self-consumption. The best dads I’ve met are not necessarily the deepest thinkers, but they are, in fact, thoughtful. They meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 1) and wait to make decisions until they can justify them with sound biblical reasoning. Exemplary dads endeavor to love God with their minds (Matthew 22:37).
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)
At the core of Jesus’s earthly ministry was the reassurance of His Father’s approval (Luke 9:35; John 6:38; 10:30, etc). Furthermore, the most traumatic moment of our Lord’s existence was the awful forsaking of that same Person (Matthew 27:46). We discipline (Proverbs 13:24), teach (Ephesians 6:4), and train our children (1 Timothy 4:7) just as God does with us (Proverbs 3:11). Yet, my heart is consistently rebuked by dads who demonstrate joyful approval in all the praiseworthy graces their children display.
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
I have a friend who lived his teenage years in rebellion to his father — a father who also happened to be a pastor. I asked my friend once, “What brought you back to the Lord?” His response was immediate — “I knew that my dad was the same person in the pulpit that he was at home.” O God, grant me the same mark of authenticity.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
Nobody destroys relationships more thoroughly and more quickly than a person who can never be wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat across from children streaming bitter tears over muffled chokes because of the corrosive effects of parents who can’t sin.
At best, these parents make silly excuses. At worst, they place the blame for their bad behavior directly on their children. The irony, of course, is this — we Christian dads have extraordinary confidence to confess our sins to the children we’ve sinned against. Our sinless Advocate (1 John 2:1) ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25) thus granting incredible courage to face down our sins in full view of our kids.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21)
Every great dad I’ve ever met understands that they teach their most enduring lessons by example. If the child observes that camping trips, youth sports, or preferred friends can drive church attendance, then we might expect them to conclude that camping trips, youth sports, or preferred friends are the most important considerations.
If the child observes generosity toward fun but stinginess toward God’s people, we might expect them to conclude that hedonism is the way to go. But if the child simply assumes attendance at a Bible-teaching church (so don’t even bother asking to skip a Sunday), if the child feels the sting of sacrifice for the sake of God’s work, and if the child observes his or her dad’s investment in God’s kingdom, well, then, that child just might conclude that God is worth living for.
I so badly want to possess these graces of exemplary fatherhood. And if you’ve made it to the end of this article, I’m sure that you do, too. Would you take a moment to pray for me as I pause a moment in this writing to pray for you?
Greg Baker is the senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Liberty, Utah, where he has pastored since 2010. He is also the president and co-founder of the Sego Lily Foundation, a resource center which equips born-again Christians for evangelism to Latter-day Saints. He and his wife, Danielle, have five children.View all posts by Greg