GROWING PAINS(Pt.4)

The Old Testament opens with the story of God as Creator and God as a Father to Adam (Man),His highest creation. But after Mankind’s repeated record of failure to walk in the ways of the LORD God, the Hebrew scriptures close leaving us with a promise from God to restore a fathering grace in the earth. “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse”(Malachi 4:4-6 NASB).

“Where are the fathers?” My simple reply,”They are being restored!” This no doubt may be hard to comprehend when the enemy has done his best work to destroy the true image of fathers(And thus the image of the family) in our world. But I would also suggest that perhaps we don’t SEE them because we don’t know HOW to recognize them. Or to put it another way, WHAT does a true father look like? (I apologize in advance that I am writing on a very important subject in a rather broad way for the sake of this one article.)

There are two primary types of fathers in the earth that we need to recognize.

NATURAL FATHERS

Depending on your experience and history (in the natural),the mention of a father can bring up a variety of images and emotions. This could range from fond memories of the person that brought joy, security and support in your life while growing up to the opposite pole; the person not present in one’s life, in addition to the person who may have been physically and/or emotionally abusive. How does the scripture help us to recognize or relate to our natural father?

HONOR

Honor your father. Some don’t want to honor their natural father because they were absent or abusive, or just neglected. (They may even be confused or ashamed by circumstances that brought them into the world). But honor does not mean endorsing wrong or inappropriate behavior. Honor may mean starting with forgiveness. You must forgive them in order that you can move forward in your life. Life gives options. It gives you the opportunity to make choices about your future with the possibility of fulfilling your God-given purpose and destiny. Give up any resentment and bitterness toward your father. Maybe, due to their own upbringing, they did not have the skill sets to be to you what they should. Release them through forgiveness. Honor them for giving you life. You may discover that two people are able to move forward…You as well as them.

SPIRITUAL FATHERS

The main focus of this teaching is to give some understanding of those who have grown in maturity and grace to be called spiritual “fathers”( I am not here referring to those who carry a professional religious title).  Here are some basic Scriptural observations of true spiritual fathers:

Fathers AFFIRM of our true identity as sons (or daughters) of God. Luke records, “Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased”(Luke 3: 22 NASB). Jesus needed the affirmation of His Father before He was led of the Spirit to face forty days of temptation and spiritual conflict from Satan. What was central issue behind Jesus’ temptation? A challenge to his true Sonship(“If you are the Son of God”- Lk.4). The Father fortified Jesus by the words, “You are My beloved Son”. With that affirmation He was able to stand and withstand every assault of Satan.

Fathers ENCOURAGE us in our spiritual development. The apostle John the beloved wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4 NIV). Again the apostle Peter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”(2 Peter 3:18 NIV). They don’t hold us down or back, spiritually, they celebrate with us those moments of “growth spurts” in God.

Fathers CHALLENGE us to fulfill our God-given purpose in life. Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith, “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith”(1 Timothy 1:18, 19 NIV). Fathers don’t let sons settle for less than is God’s best for their lives. They are always stirring up their faith and gifts in order that they may to reach out(And up) for all that God has in mind for their life.

Fathers DISCIPLE us in the ways of the Lord. Apart from the record of our Lord Jesus, no one gives us a greater window into disciple making as the apostle Paul, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us”(2 Timothy 1:13, 14 NIV). Again, Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”(1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV).

Discipleship is a process of teaching by principle, precept as well as by example. Spending time with sons in the faith in order to model is as important as the truth being imparted. In other words, discipleship is a lifestyle of walking with and being available to those who are being discipled (Jesus’ early disciples went everywhere with Him). True fathers don’t consider spending time with sons an intrusion into their life or work. IT IS THEIR WORK.

Fathers share PERSPECTIVE. “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning”(1 John 2:13a NIV). True spiritual fathers are able to impart an eternal perspective of life. They don’t merely speak from a momentary trial or test or circumstance. They speak to the issue of what this “moment” means in light of eternal consequences. Time and again, the apostle Paul would encourage the believers to view their present situation, persecution, challenge(Even seeming setbacks!) in light of eternity. Perhaps, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase says it best, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever”(2 Corinthians 4:16 MSG).

When true fathers “turn toward the children” it is natural that “children turn toward their fathers”. The need to belong and to be placed in a family is natural. The desire to please a father brings great joy and satisfaction. Ultimately, fathers are a dim(but necessary) reflection of God, our Father. Every true son of the Kingdom knows that (at a heart level) their true desire is not to please man but to please the heart of God, their heavenly Father. The apostle Paul wrote “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29,30 NASB). May we each experience the fulness of His love and purpose for our life.

 

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in anyway from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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