The Father Factor
God Has an App for That – Part 6
Proverbs 4:1-4

We live in a world of technology and gadgets, but there is no substitute for a living and breathing dad who is invested and involved in the life of his family.  I mean, there is no electronic device or downloadable app that can wear the plaid Bermuda shorts with dark socks and dress shoes and mow the lawn while cars are driving by and while your kids hide inside the home!  There is no substitute for the real thing.

So many of you fathers in this church have done or are doing a great job, and we want to commend you on that.  At the end of this worship service, we’re going to honor you.  But all of us dads acknowledge that there are plenty of areas in which we can do better.  So, we turn our attention today, as we continue this series in the Book of Proverbs, by remembering who and why this collection of wisdom was written.

Proverbs 1:8 in the opening chapter says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”  You know, several times Solomon starts a chapter in Proverbs with “my son.”  Twenty-three different times in the book he refers to fathers.  Forty-nine times he refers to son or sons.  And we have learned that the Book of Proverbs was primarily penned by Solomon, but he wrote it for his son, and it was shared with all of his sons and daughters.  It was his effort for his children to make the application to their very own lives.

Now on Father’s Day our minds are in many different places.  You can’t just pin down one place.  Some of those thoughts are positive of a great dad that you had or perhaps of how well your husband is doing as a father.  And others aren’t so positive.  Maybe it is a dad who simply saw you for what you could do in the classroom or on the field or in the family business.  Maybe it seems that you were more a means to an end or more of a trophy as opposed to flesh and blood.  Maybe your dad wasn’t a believer, so you had to kind of find your way to faith on your own.  And I realize that sometimes holiday sermons can even seem more painful than pleasant as we don’t always have the greatest of memories.  Maybe you’re a dad and your mind is afraid that you’re not measuring up and that you’re failing.  

Well, rest assured that today our focus is not going to be to beat up on the dads.  What we want to do is we want to see what it is that we’re doing right and then see how it is that we can improve in some of the other areas.

I think the Book of Proverbs speaks to each of our minds wherever they may be.  And one of the reasons I have enjoyed this series in Proverbs so much is that it’s been so easy for us to find the different verses and Scriptures, because we’re drawing from just thirty-one pages that are in your Bible.

So, take out your Bible and turn with me to Proverbs chapter 4, where we’re going to look at verses 1 through 4.  Solomon is going to take us in three different directions that we need to look at this Father’s Day.  

Let me show you what I mean.  Proverbs 4:1-4: “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.  I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother.  Then he taught me, and he said to me, ‘Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live’” (2011).

And Solomon goes on to describe the instruction his father gave him years and years ago, and he gives the same instruction to the reader of Proverbs.

I. YOUR MIND IS ON YOUR FATHER.

So, the first direction we see in Proverbs chapter 4 is that your mind is on your father.

I mean, that makes sense…it’s Father’s Day.  Solomon writes something here that has been passed on to him from his father.  And some of you really resonate with that. You have great thoughts of your dad.  You have so many good thoughts.  You think of experiences.  You think of places that you’ve been together – of things that have occurred – and you can resonate with that because you think of your dad and how he passed that faith onto you.

My dad was a conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad.  He served as an elder in the church. But more importantly than all those things, he was a Christian; he was a man of integrity.  And if I could talk with him today, I would tell him that and thank him for his example.  I was so blessed with a Godly role model.  Homes don’t just happen by accident.

And for you Solomon’s words here really ring with the power of a true testimony if you had a dad like that.  Godly instruction really does bring life.  In fact, you have seen it; you have experienced it.

But think about Solomon’s father.  Remember who he was?  His dad was King David—David who as a child had killed Goliath—a giant.  David, who is anointed to be the next king over powerful Israel.  You see, this is not just two generations though.  It goes beyond just a father and a son.  It’s a father reflecting on what he learned from his father and what he, in turn, hopes to pass along to his son.

Look back again in your Bible at Proverbs 4 at that opening passage.  He says, “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction” (v. 1).  And then a little further he says, “For I too was a son to my father” (v. 2).  Do you see that?  That’s three generations.  That’s the sons: that is Solomon and Solomon’s father.  Solomon is the bridge, the connecting point between the grandfather and the grandson.

Now I’ve got to know.  How many of you in the room here today are grandparents?  Wow!  That is a lot of you.  That’s exciting.  And you know that the saying is true, “If I would have known grandchildren could be so much fun, I would have had them first!”

But so many of you are great examples of keeping that spiritual torch being passed along.  And here in Proverbs we see these three generations—David, Solomon and now his children—they’re trying to pass down God’s wisdom.

And I’m aware that some of you men didn’t have anyone to teach you what it was to be a man of God.  And I realize you hear me tell stories about my dad, and you say to yourself, “Well, you know what?  That is a far cry from what my dad was like.”  And a lot of you didn’t have someone to teach you how to be a dad.  Some of you young ladies didn’t have a father who really impressed upon you what true beauty is.  And some of you men, you didn’t have, as a little boy, a man who showed you what real strength was.

But before you get too fixated on the idea, catch your breath; grasp the reality.  There are no perfect dads.  There are no perfect parents.  Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, didn’t always have a father who was a great role model.  His dad, King David, was a good dad but he was not a perfect dad.  David wasn’t always perfect.  He committed adultery.  He did so with Bathsheba.  Bathsheba will end up being Solomon’s mom.  David basically had Bathsheba’s husband put to death in battle, yet the Scriptures refer to him as “a man after God’s own heart.”  So evidently David was a good man with a good heart who made some poor choices.  That’s a good description of many of us in this room.  Solomon had a broken family with broken relationships.  Solomon’s dad was at war almost as much as he was at home, and part of the time David was at war with Solomon’s brother, Absalom.  So, this isn’t the Cleaver Family; instead it is a family filled with dysfunction, strife, and infidelity.

 II. YOUR MIND IS ON YOURSELF AS A FATHER.

So not all of our minds go back to our father.  Sometimes your mind is on yourself as a father.  That’s the second area.

If you have been blessed with children, “Do I have what it takes?” you ask yourself. “Have I done a good job?  Is it too late for me to get back on course?”  I mean, every dad in this room…we’re all conscious of plenty of mistakes that we have made.  I mean, isn’t that right?  The question is whether or not we allow those thoughts to consume us, and if so then we are looking at life from the wrong perspective.  Chris Harrell says, “We tend to become what we focus on.  When we’re consumed with who we wish we weren’t, we move closer to failure and guilt.”  In other words, don’t dwell on your past mistakes.  Give those things up to the Lord.  Repent of them.  Focus on how you can change and how you can be made new in Christ.

And Solomon has some wise counsel for you, and it comes in the form of a challenge. Look back in your text in Proverbs chapter 4 and look at verse 14.  “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.”  This is part of David’s advice to Solomon and part of Solomon’s advice to his sons.  “Don’t even step in the way of the wicked.”

That sounds like a pretty strong admonition, yet David and Solomon couldn’t stick with it themselves.  You say, “Well, you know, Solomon can give advice.  He’s a guy in the Bible, so we should listen to him.”  Well, sure we should listen to him, but also understand that he didn’t always practice what he preached.  As we examine his life, we realize he made mistakes.  In 1 Kings chapter 3 it says he offered sacrifices to false gods.  In 1 Kings chapter 6 and also in chapter 7 it tells us that he took twice as long to build his palace for himself as it took him to build the temple for God.  Oh, and one more thing…one other small detail… Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.  If that’s not bad enough, many of them were not Israelites, which was in direct opposition to God’s command.  So Solomon didn’t listen to this advice from David because David made mistakes too.  And Solomon didn’t give this advice because he was perfect; Solomon gave this advice because the advice came from a Source that was perfect.  It came from God.  It was a revelation from God, and Solomon knew that he didn’t have to be perfect in order for it to be right and true.

It’s kind of like in the New Testament where we read the Apostle Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  The New King James Version says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”  That means you don’t do everything that the Apostle Paul did, but in the areas in which he followed Christ, then you try to follow him.

So when Solomon tells his sons to listen to this wisdom, it’s not because he has always followed it himself, but it’s because it’s what God commands.  God’s wisdom is still wise even in spite of our foolish choices.  And some of the most powerful wisdom comes from people who have learned the hard way and they’ve made mistakes.  And they have learned from their mistakes, and they have humbled themselves enough to be honest about the wrong turns that they have made.  And they even say to their kids, “You know what?  Hey, when I was your age I made this mistake,” or “I went down this path,” or “I had this stretch where I was away from God.  Learn from me.  Don’t do it.  It’s not worth it.”

A great verse for dads to remember is found in James 1:22 where James writes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

You see, our goal is to grow in Christlikeness.  That passage continues in James chapter 1, and it tells us that God’s Word is like a mirror to us.  When you got up this morning, took a shower, got out of the shower, started getting dressed and ready, you looked in the mirror.  Why?  You wanted to see what adjustments you needed to make.  Do I need to comb my hair?  Do I need to shave?  Do I need to put makeup on?  You looked and then you said, “I’ve got to make some adjustments so that this reflection looks the way I want it to look.”  James makes it quite clear in James chapter 1.  He says, “This is your mirror.”  He says, “This is what you look to.”  And you open up God’s Word and you see how your life lines up with what God’s Word teaches.  In the areas in which it doesn’t line up, you dig into God’s Word, and through prayer and through Christians, as iron sharpens iron, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, in time you will start to have a better reflection.  In fact, in time you will start to look like God and people will catch a glimpse of Him.

You might say, “You know what, David?  I will never have that type of a reflection.”  Well, you know what?  We’ll never look like God, but I want you to look more like God next week than you did this week.  I want you to begin to realize that through the power of the Holy Spirit that He can transform us.  And if you think, “Well, I’ll never be good enough,” or “I dread Father’s Day,” or “I’ve blown it so many times as a dad.”  Hey, understand this: With God there is always room to make beauty from ashes.  With God truth always wins, even if you’ve failed at times.  With God there is always another chance, so don’t give up.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can do this!  You can be a Godly dad who passes that baton of faith onto the next generation.  You can allow God to work in and through you, even with your imperfections.  Max Lucado says, “Let your failures refine you not define you.”

Turn in your Bible just a few pages to the right to Proverbs 23.  Just flip over to Proverbs 23, verse 24.  This could be the description of you in the years to come, dads.  Verse 24, “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him.”  Your child will evaluate you on the whole not on the part.  So, learn from the past; don’t live in the past.

Recently I watched a video clip on a friend’s Facebook page of the wedding of a couple that I don’t know, nor do you – Leea Nash and Ryan Bridgeman.  They are both members of the church where my Facebook friend ministers.  They both have come from solid spiritual homes.  When it came time for the vows, they each read their personalized vows that they had written, but the other person had not yet heard them or seen them.  And I want you to hear what both of them said in their vows, but I also want you to pay particular attention to what Leea says toward the conclusion of her vows.  She’s a daddy’s girl, and I think you’ll draw some takeaways on this Father’s Day from her comments. Watch this with me.

(PLAY VIDEO CLIP)

Ryan: Leea, as I take you to be my wife, I pray that God molds me to be the husband of your dreams, but more importantly a husband in whom He is pleased. You are truly a gift from God and I promise to spend the rest of my life treating you as such. I will cherish you always and never take you for granted. I will love you and be faithful to you alone. I will be a strong spiritual leader in our home for good times and bad, in joy and in pain. When you need encouragement, I will be there to build you up. When you need support, I will be the rock for you to stand on. (Ryan getting choked up as he finishes saying his vows) I love you, Leea, and it is with all my heart that I make this pledge to you and to God.

Preacher: I read these before he started so I got the Kleenex® for me. (Laughter)

Leea: Ryan Daniel Bridgeman, you are quite simply the love of my life. In you I have found my most trusted confidant, my greatest cheerleader, my spiritual leader and, perhaps most importantly, my best friend. You are kind, gentle, loving, caring and thoughtful and all-around perfect. Since I was a little girl I have always wondered if I’d ever find a man as good as my father. However, today that question has been answered in you, and today my biggest worry is, “Will our future daughters ever find a man as wonderful and as endearing as you?” And I pledge that I will care for you deeply, champion your causes and love you forever. Thank you for making my life. Love, Leea.

Video ends

Did you see it?  Did you hear it?  Leea turns and she looks back at her dad and she says, “Since I was a little girl I always wondered if I would ever find a man as good as my father.  However, today that question has been answered in you, and today my biggest worry is for our future daughters.  Will they ever find a man as wonderful as you are?”  Those are words that every Christian father would love to hear.  In that moment Leea gave a blessing to her father and to her husband.  But that wouldn’t have happened if her dad hadn’t poured into her for the previous twenty-plus years.  Do you realize what Leea was doing?  Throughout her entire life and into adulthood, she was looking for a man who was a reflection of her dad … and she found one.

What was David doing when he instructed Solomon in wisdom?  What was Solomon doing when he instructed his sons?  They were passing on reflections of their earthly fathers, yes, but it went even deeper than that.  They wanted their sons to somehow see a reflection of their Heavenly Father.

III.  YOUR MIND IS ON YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER.

So there is one more brief stop on this journey.  On Father’s Day our minds are in many different places.  You can’t just pin down one.  Some of you, you think about your father.  Others of you, you’ve been blessed with kids, so you think about yourself as a father.

But this Father’s Day, don’t forget the most important direction to look, and that is your mind needs to also be on your Heavenly Father.

Think about your Heavenly Father.  Try as hard as we may, we will never be perfect or anywhere close to it, but there is One who was and is.  So don’t miss the presence of God on this day.

And one of the reasons for the Proverbs of a father to a son is because, as much as a father might want to make all the decisions for his kids, ultimately every person makes his or her own decisions and choices and is responsible for them.  Some of the very best parents that I know have had their hearts broken by their kids.  Some of the worst or completely absent parents that I have known…their kids somehow have turned out to make wise decisions and not be anything like their parents.

I can think of some friends who didn’t have a dad or whose dad was far away from God, but still they were able to overcome the odds and tune into a relationship with the Lord and with His Word; and they broke the cycle.  They broke it.

You see, God has the power to take our fears and to conquer them in the name of Jesus Christ.  God has the power to give us true wisdom that can only come from the Father.  God has the power to take that past that we have and transform it into an incredible, new future.

John Dolaghan served as the National Golf Director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  In an interview a few years ago, someone asked him, “Please tell us a little bit about your family and how you came to faith.”  And this is the story that John told.

He said, “My father was Irish.  He was an alcoholic.  If he had been drinking, you stayed clear of him.  You didn’t want to be in the same house that he was in.”  He said, “I remember in high school one time I came home from a date.  I got home ten minutes after my curfew, and as soon as I walked in the door, I could smell the alcohol.  My dad had been drinking.  He was drunk and he had waited up for me.  And since I was ten minutes late, the first thing he did was he jacked my jaw and he almost put me through the drywall.”  He said, “I hated my dad.  I despised him.  But,” he said, “through time our family became Christians – everyone, that is, except for my dad,” he said.

He continued, “We would invite my father to come to church, but he wanted nothing to do with it.  So we just began praying that somehow he would be receptive to the Gospel, but nothing happened.  So we continued to pray, and we continued to pray and go to church.  But one night we had an evangelist in, and we had a revival service at our church.  It was one of those weeklong revivals, and every night we were there.  One night during the revival, unbeknownst to us, our dad came in and he stood in the back of the church.  He just stood in the back and listened to this evangelist as he preached the Gospel.”  He said, “We had no idea he was there, but can you imagine our surprise when the invitation song was given and, as we stood and began to sing” he said, “from the back of the room my dad came walking forward!  That night he gave his life to Jesus Christ.”  

John Dolaghan said, “I read in my Bible where Jesus turned water into wine.  But that’s nothin’.”   He said, “I saw Jesus turn hatred into love.  And in time, through the power of Jesus Christ, my dad, the man who was my worst enemy, because of Jesus, became my best friend.”

Our Heavenly Father specializes in transformation.  God has the power to give us life, the very thing that is promised to us in Proverbs.  And to close out this morning, I just want you to turn to Proverbs chapter 3.  Just flip back a few pages and I just want to read for you the opening verses.  It’s a good summation of all that we are talking about in this series of messages.

Proverbs 3:1-6: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV 2011).

Pray with me.

 

David Hall
First Church of Christ
June 20, 2021