Our Father In Heaven & Great Dads On Earth
Hey, friends! For this first Sunday after Fathers Day, I’ve got a good word for men about how our heavenly Father models the best of being a great Dad on earth.
You know that fathers have a tremendous influence on their kids, an influence that literally lasts a lifetime. The importance of your role as a father cannot be overstated. Brian May carries a great story about this. Considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time and lead guitarist for the band Queen, Brian’s first guitar was one that he and his Dad made together. In the early 1960’s, teenaged Brian wanted an electric guitar. But they were expensive back then, well beyond their family’s budget. Brian’s Dad was an electrical engineer and a hacker of sorts. So father and son took the next two years to build a custom guitar.
The neck was constructed from an 18th-century fireplace mantel that a friend was about to throw away. Wormholes that were in the neck of the guitar they filled with matchsticks. The body of the guitar came from an old table. The guitar’s whammy bar came from a bicycle saddlebag holder and a plastic knitting needle tip. Even motorcycle valve springs found their way into the guitar’s construction. And when they were all done, they named it the Red Special.
All of the hit songs you’ve heard from the band Queen were recorded on…that guitar, the Red Special. Even today, at 73 years old, Brian May prefers to play the guitar that he and his Dad made, over all the others available to him. There’s the enduring influence of one man’s hands-on father.
Our heavenly Father as well shows us the best of how to be a great Dad here on earth. In the Lord’s prayer, the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but the Lord’s prayer actually reveals how our heavenly Father is a great role model for us becoming great Dads here on earth, with your family. So drawing on some work done by Mark Mitchell, I want to unpack that for you right now.
Before we turn to God’s Word, let’s call on our Father in heaven. Would you pray with me?
Our Father in heaven, thank you for the wonder that we get to call you Father. Thank you for sending your Son to make peace between us, while we were still sinners. Thank you for your fatherly heart revealed in the parable of the prodigal son, how you cam running in welcome and celebration the moment that wayward one set his heart toward returning home.
Father, I ask you to make me and each man watching today more like you in our own fathering.
Holy Spirit, I trust you to apply the Word of God to each man personally and powerfully today.
Bless us today, we ask, and make us a blessing to the next generation. We ask all of this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Alright, let’s jump right in. If you have a Bible or Bible app, open to Matthew chapter 6 and verse 9, as we explore four ways our Father in heaven models how to be a great Dad here on earth. Here’s the first:
1. A great Dad’s priority is loving God.
Jesus starts his prayer with these familiar words: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” There’s the highest priority in a great Dad’s life—that God’s name be hallowed, that is that God be honored, in every area of your life. “Hallowed be your name” means essentially, “God, may you be right-sized in my life. Take the lead. Take first place in how I handle money. Lead me in how to treat my wife and in how to engage with my kids. Call the shots. Coach me. Empower me to seek and obey your wisdom in each arena of life—at home, work, church, neighborhood and beyond.”
This is what it means to hallow God’s name; that you honor him to the best of your ability. This is a high calling. And it’s a daily prayer, remembering to consciously seek God’s honor as your highest priority.
In his book “What God Thinks When We Fail,” Steven C. Roy tells a fictional story about a young violinist. Although he was a superb musician, he was deathly afraid of large crowds, so he avoided giving concerts. But after enduring criticism for his unwillingness to give concerts, he finally agreed to perform in the largest concert hall in London.
The young violinist came onto the stage and sat alone on a stool. He put his violin under his chin and played for an hour and a half. No music in front of him, no orchestra behind him, no breaks—just an hour and a half of absolutely beautiful violin music. After ten minutes or so, many critics put down their pads and listened, like the rest …. After the performance, the crowd rose to its feet and began applauding wildly—and they wouldn’t stop.
But the young violinist didn’t acknowledge the applause. He just peered out into the audience as if he were looking for something—or someone. Finally he found what he was looking for. Relief came over his face, and he began to acknowledge the cheers.
After the concert, the critics met the young violinist backstage …. They said, “You were wonderful. But one question: Why did it take you so long to acknowledge the applause of the audience?”
The young violinist took a deep breath and answered, “You know I was really afraid of playing here. Yet this was something I knew I needed to do. Tonight, just before I came on stage, I received word that my master teacher was to be in the audience. Throughout the concert, I tried to look for him, but I could never find him. So after I finished playing, I started to look more intently. I was so eager to find my teacher that I couldn’t even hear the applause. I just had to know what he thought of my playing. That was all that mattered. Finally, I found him high in the balcony. He was standing and applauding, with a big smile on his face. After seeing him, I was finally able to relax. I said to myself, ‘If the master is pleased with what I have done, then everything else is okay.’”
That’s the heart of how the Lord’s prayer starts: “Our Father in heaven, may you be my highest priority today.” And he continues, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” When Jesus speaks of God’s kingdom, he’s speaking of God’s leadership within us, allowing God to have first place in our attitude, words, and actions. In Romans chapter 12, the apostle Paul calls it the renewing of our minds rather than being conformed to the pattern of this world.
From my heart, I don’t know anything more important than this—that the lifelong journey of being a Christian must be marked by an ever-renewed mind. There’s a great old hymn about this that sings this prayer, one worth making our prayer today:
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.
May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.
That’s a prayer God loves to answer—asking that his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is the first mark of a great Dad: God is your highest priority. What Jesus taught, we pray and we pursue. Amen? Here’s the second:
2. A great Dad provides for his kids.
If the first word that describes a great Dad is priority, the next is provision. Jesus says that when we pray, we should ask, “Our Father in heaven…give us today our daily bread.” It’s good and right to look to our heavenly Father to provide for us.
When Jesus taught this prayer of trust and dependence, the people’s food staples were basic: bread, wine, and olive oil were the essentials—because the three main crops of Israel were wheat, grapes, and olives.
Bread was eaten with every meal—so much so that the Hebrew word for bread, Iehem, also referred to food in general. And because bread would quickly become moldy—no preservatives—you would only bake enough for a day or two—hence the prayer asking our heavenly Father for daily bread, daily provision. Again, this is a prayer God is pleased to answer.
As Jesus taught later on in this same chapter, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. [he’s talking about provision]
Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:25-26 NLT)
What an amazing declaration of how much God loves you! He is pleased to give you the ability to work, so that that daily bread is there for you and your family.
Phillips Brooks has a great quote about how to think about your work, your job that puts food on the table and pays the bills. Brooks is best-known for writing the Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” But he was also a pastor who left a great quote about the love that drives great Dads to provide for our families. Phillips Brooks wrote, “Duty makes us do things well; but love makes us do them beautifully.”
If you want to encourage your Dad today, or your husband, one of the most meaningful things you can express is a sincere “Thank you for working to provide for our family.” For most men, that will go deep, because we give so much effort to working to provide for our families. Don’t let today go by without saying it: “Thank you for working to provide for our family.”
A great Dad’s priority is loving God, as the Lord’s prayer models.
A great Dad provides for his kids—as our heavenly Father does for us. Third…
3. A great Dad pardons his kids.
Jesus’ prayer continues, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Forgive us our sins, just as we also have forgiven those who sin against us. That’s a tall order! That’s what last week’s message was all about—the amazing power of confession and forgiveness. If you missed it, go ahead and watch it this week on the church website, y-church.com, or on yChurch’s YouTube channel.
Great fathers are quick to pardon their kids. There’s an Old Testament description of God prayed again and again that goes like this: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7; see also Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps 86:15; Ps 103:8; Ps 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).
We find this recited again and again throughout the Old Testament, by a range of people. This is what God is like—and it’s what great Dads are like as well—slow to anger and quick to forgive.
Even Jonah prayed this, praying with a bad attitude, that he knew this is what God is like: he pardons the guilty. He forgives. He has a long fuse. A father can provide lots of income, but if you don’t model quickness to forgive, your kids will be emotionally starved. They’ll look for acceptance elsewhere if they don’t receive it from you. The hard reality is that there are father-wounds that men and women carry their entire lives, which could be healed if you will voice and demonstrate forgiveness.
The absolute worst thing your child does, God can forgive. And so can we. God’s quickness to forgive has to be the standard for how quickly we as Dads forgive.
I was in the Chicago area recently and spent some time with Pete Leonard, a church member from my time in Wheaton twenty years ago. Pete personifies the power of pardoning. A relative of Pete’s committed a felony and spent time in prison for it. When he got out, no one would hire him, because job applications require you to report if you’ve been convicted of a felony.
There was someone who committed a crime and completed his sentence, but the punishment wouldn’t stop. Pete stepped in, started a coffee-roasting business, and his first hire was that family member. They’ve since gone on to hire many ex-felons, giving them a second chance to get back into the workforce to provide for their own families. In order for them to become good providers, it took one good man to tangibly demonstrate pardon. And today when you buy coffee from “I Have a Bean” roasters, you have a hand in tangibly showing God’s pardon to men and women who need to see it.
Your kids need to feel your forgiveness, too. Kids need lots of affirmation, encouragement, and demonstrations of love both verbal and hands-on-proven. This never stops. Whatever age your kids are, they need to hear and see this from you, Dads. Your forgiveness and acceptance will be the most important forgiveness and acceptance your kids ever feel. There are tons of temptations and poor influences around. Make sure your kids know that you will always forgive them when they make a poor choice—just like our Father in heaven does for you.
John Wooden, one of the most revered coaches in the history of college basketball, credited much of his success to his dad. One scene in particular from his childhood left a lasting impression on him about the character of a godly father.
Their rural Indiana county would pay local farmers to take teams of mules or horses into the gravel pits and haul out loads of gravel. Sometimes it was hard for a team to pull a wagon filled with gravel out through wet sand and up a steep incline. One steamy summer day, a young farmer was trying to get his team of horses to pull a fully loaded wagon out of a gravel pit. He was whipping and cursing his horses, which in turn were frothing at the mouth, stomping, and pulling away from him.
John Wooden’s Dad watched for a while, then went over to the young man and offered, “Let me take ’em for you.” John’s Dad started talking to the horses, almost whispering, while stroking their noses with a soft touch. Then he walked between them, holding their bridles and bits while he continued talking—very calmly and gently—as they settled down.
Gradually he stepped out in front of them and gave a little whistle to start them moving forward while he guided the reins. And before long, without the frothing and stomping and pulling back, those two big plow horses pulled the wagon out of the gravel pit as easy as could be—as if they were happy to do it.
Much later in his life, John Wooden said, “I’ve never forgotten what I saw him do and how he did it. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of leaders act like that angry young farmer who lost control…So much more can usually be accomplished by Dad’s calm, confident, and steady approach.” John Wooden concluded with this: “It takes strength inside to be gentle on the outside.” The same can be said of God: It takes strength inside to be gentle on the outside. May the same be said of you, men—that those who know you, know you to be slow to anger, and quick to forgive.
A great Dad’s priority is loving God.
A great Dad provides for his kids—as our heavenly Father does for us. Third…
A great Dad pardons his kids—just like God does us, with incredible patience. Fourth and finally…
4. A great Dad protects his kids.
The prayer Jesus taught ends with a prayer of protection, praying, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
The reality is that just like Jesus faced many temptations in his lifetime, we will as well—so this isn’t a prayer that we’ll never be tempted. It’s a prayer that when we are tempted, we’ll do as Jesus did: submit to God, resist the devil, and take the way out that God provides. That’s something we want to model for our kids, and it’s something to teach our kids.
Paul explains it this way in his first letter to the church in Corinth:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
Teach this verse to your kids. Help them memorize it. Talk about it. Teach them that no temptation or peer pressure is beyond what others have had to face. Teach them that these things come to everyone. And teach them that in the moment of temptation, God is always there to help you through it, and to help you find the way out of it.
Our kids need us to teach them age-appropriate ways to navigate the world as it is. Our kids need us to teach them how to be spiritually and morally street-smart, and how to handle peer pressure rather than yield to it. Dads, they need to know they can come to you about anything, that nothing is off-limits for discussion. Just like we can come to God about anything, make sure your kids know they can come to you with anything.
And seize teachable moments along the way: whether it’s a great example when you’re watching television or when a song comes on the radio that has a catchy tune but morally lousy lyrics, talk about it. Help them think it through and learn to discern good from evil.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is protecting them while they are young so that they can enjoy the innocence of youth instead of becoming jaded prematurely.
My Dad told me several times about the time his Dad brought him into Manhattan as a young boy, and made a point of driving through the Bowery, a neighborhood in southern Manhattan long known for social vices. With a nod toward the homeless and alcoholics on the streets, my my grandfather taught my Dad, “Each man you see here is someone’s father, someone’s son, someone’s brother.” That one visit left a positive lasting impression on my father, and he in turn passed it on to me and my siblings. It showed a father’s compassion on men who had fallen far and hard.
Think of what we see in Jesus, calling out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) There’s the heart of a great Dad: “Come to me. I’ll protect you. Let me teach you. I’ll show you the better way.”
The heart of God beats powerfully through the Lord’s prayer: just as Jesus taught us to pray, so are we to parent:
· Showing love for God as our highest priority—his kingdom come;
· Working diligently to provide for our family—giving our family their daily bread;
· Modeling Christlike pardon, forgiving offenses when they arise—forgiving as our heavenly Father does us;
· And doing our best to protect our kids from things they can’t handle or shouldn’t yet have to handle—delivering them from evil.
Men, you have a Father in heaven who sees you, who has blessed you with the children you have, who stands ready daily to be the Father you need, to be the best father you can be. The way you father is one of the greatest parts of the legacy you are building even today. You’ve got this—because our heavenly Father has got you!
And so we pray…
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
We praise and thank you for how you are a great Father to us. I pray now for each Dad watching, that you will bless them and make them a blessing to their family. Through us, I pray that our children will see your character and be drawn to trust you and follow your leading, that your kingdom will come and your will be done in them as well. For your honor we pray, coming to you Father in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen!