Tuesday, June 10, 2014


張國昇牧師  6/8/ 2014
Traditionally a father figure is a man of authority. This is especially true in a Chinese family. He makes the rules that are to be obeyed. He also exercises authority in discipline and dishes out punishments that the children can only avoid by hiding behind their mother. Fathers are to be feared, honored and obeyed. Today, even Chinese children living in the Western society don’t believe in that any more. In modern days we are taught that fathers should be friends to the children. Honor and respect have to be won by friendship because children of this age are often rebellious against authorities including that of the parents. The subject of today’s sermon is not about the techniques of parenting. There are many experts out there to talk about that subject. I want to direct your thoughts on the subject:  Is there any wisdom for a man to be both a father and a friend to his children?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) The Bibles teaches us to have a loving reverence for God as our Lord and King. The Chinese translation of the word “fear” embodies two concepts: 「敬」the idea of honoring; and 「畏」the idea of standing in awe in His presence. Jesus taught his disciples to honor God as their heavenly Father. Since we owe our very existence to our heavenly Father, He should have absolute authority in our lives. As children of God we should be totally submissive to His Lordship and obedient to His commandments. The Bible teaches us that we are made in the image of God; in a sense we are a representation of God on earth. How then should we teach our children to honor God? The Apostle John gave us a grandfatherly advice: For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1John 4:20) In the same way, if anyone does not honor his earthly father, how can he honor his Father in Heaven? Honoring parents is the first step toward learning how to honor God. Parents also need to set the example of honoring our own parents; step by step our children would learn to honor God. Honoring parents is not only desirable in a child’s behavior; it is also expected of him because it is clearly spelled out in one of His Commandments. (Exodus 20:12) Out of reverence we do not adress our father on the first name basis; neither do we casually call on God’s name. Jesus taught us how to address God in our prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” Holy and reverend is God’s name. Standing before a holy God we should have an overwhelming feeling of a sense of awe. As earthly fathers we should at least expect the proper respect due a parent from our children.  We receive from God the mandate and authority to teach our children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9); if we do not use that authority to teach our children responsibly, we don’t expect respect from them either.

The word “fear God” does not necessarily imply scare or afraid of God in a sense that children afraid of punishment from their fathers. Of course a sense of fear about God’s righteousness is healthy. John Newton had put it beautifully in the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’:  “It was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” Though God is righteous and holy, He is also full of grace. The thought that we come short of His glory makes us trembled; but the thought of his love and forgiving grace makes us feel so relieved and close to Him. That is the kind of experience in life a father should instill to his children; share with the children of God’s grace every chance available. Personal experience of God’s grace is a powerful teaching tool.

More importantly ‘respectfulness’ is a learned behavior. If you respect your child when they were young, they will in turn respect you when they are older. I commend my son-in-law's way of dealing with his two years old son when he was in his worse behavior. He gave his son two reasonable options in dealing with a situation. In reality either option will be fine; the idea is to let the child feel that his feeling is respected. The child quickly exercised his right of choice and fussed no more. Subsequently whenever the father tries to discipline him, he always asks for options. Fathers are charged with responsibility of disciplining his children. He must do it consistently with a most respectful manner even if the child is in his worse behavior. Disciplining children in a disrespectful manner achieves nothing more than just venting the anger. The father will win the trust of his children if he respects their opinions and choices while guiding them in the right direction.

Disciplining involves rewards and punishments.  Moses told the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, "So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love The Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its seasons, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you." Deuteronomy 1113-17 throughout the history of Israel, God was like a father to her. God punished the transgression of His people, often severely, but not without grace. It is hard to convince a child that the purpose of punishment is for his own good. It is true that the Lord disciplines those he lovesand he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.Hebrews 12:6Proverbs 3:12It is also true that no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painfulHebrews 1211Younger children would be scared when a father explains to them the reason of their punishment;  it is therefore also very important that they are reassured of their father’s love. Older youths do not like to be correctedhowever, sometimes the most selfless and loving thing one can do is to confront them with the truth when they have erred. But how to prevent a well intended advice from becoming a heated argument that hurts more than builds upPaul also found it tough to admonish the brethrens in the church of Corinth. They were divided groups of very gifted and opinionated people; but they were definitely erred in the truth. Paul gave a great exposition on the truth on Spiritual gifts and the functioning of the church blessed with those gifts. In between those tough teachings he inserted the magnificent chapter on love. The truth, if not given in love, can hurt. Advices not delivered in love can deflate one's ego instead of building up the person spiritually. Paul said, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:15) Paul was talking about "Tough Love".

As the children are growing up, a father would be facing increasing challenge to exercise "Tough Love". The fact that an advice is the truth will not necessarily be accepted or even be admitted by your child because of personal pride. Paul had a piece of advice for fathers, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." (Colossians 3:21) All rebuke and no encouragement can only exasperate your child and not building up his faith and self-confidence. Pray for the appropriate words to say. Begin the conversation with a honest affirmation of the appropriate things that the child has done and deliver the truth with a portion of grace as God always did with Israel.  Always leave the child with a sense of positive outcome and hope at the end of the conversation.

God wants us to be a good Stewart in raising our children. Before we can build up their faith we must first build a relationship: spend time together; do things together; help them in their school projects; give them advice when solicited. However, God does not expect us to be "Super-fathers". We cannot fix every mistake our children make. It is especially true that we cannot fix peopleIf we try to be Mr. Fix in every situation, we not only lose credibility with our children, we also usurp God's sovereignty. Sometimes God may want us to say nothing and do nothing; but offer to pray for and pray with our erring children just to show them our love and care. Just like a close friend would do: stick together, offering comfort and support; reassuring them you are always there to help. They know that you are not always able to help; but you are a close friend to them nonetheless. Paul said, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."Colossians 46

Jesus told his disciples, "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord', and rightly so, for that is what I am."John1313But Jesus also told his disciples, "You are my friends if you do what I command."John 1514The disciples must first acknowledge and respect Jesus as their Lord and do what he commands before they can know him as a true friend. Indeed, you can be both a father and a friend to your childrenbut your children must honor you as a father first; then take you as their friend and confidant. Your children will learn of your role model when you truly honor God and follow His command.