Today being father’s day I was thinking about fathers and especially about the Fatherhood of God. So many people have experienced very poor fathering. Many fathers are abusive, absent – either physically or emotionally – or inadequate in some other way. In fact, even good fathers are inadequate. But God the Father is a perfect father (Matt 5:48). He is neither abusive nor absent. If we can embrace God as Father then a great deal of pain will be healed. Today I intend to speak of what kind of father we have in God.
God is a generous father who gives good gifts to everyone. The Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Matt 5:45). God is good to all people regardless of whether they believe in Jesus or not. Father God is not stingy. “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (NRS James 1:17). For his children, those who believe in Jesus, God gives even better gifts.
In Luke 11:13 the specific gift which God the Father gives is the Holy Spirit. NIV Luke 11:13 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” When we have the Spirit of the Father in us we are never alone. Jesus said, “NIV John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” NIV John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The gift of the Father is to be ever present with us, to never leave us alone. He is never an absent Father but he is a Father who is as close as it is possible to be. We can always be with him, he will always hear us, he will always spend time with us, his children.
God is emotionally present to us. He is concerned with the minutiae of our lives. NRS Matthew 10:30 “And even the hairs of your head are all counted.” If God knows the number of hairs on your head then he is interested in the details of your existence: what you had for breakfast, the little things that you need to get done today, the annoying things which are getting your goat, the fact that you are 50 cents short of something who want to buy. Our heavenly Father is interested in the everyday aspects of your life, not just the really big things which relate to the kingdom of God or grand ministries. To put this metaphorically, he gets down on the floor with us and plays with blocks.
He listens to his children and is concerned with our needs. NIV Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The Father knows the needs of his children. This implies that he pays attention to the lives of his children. The pagans babble a lot trying to get his attention. This is not necessary. As soon as you call out to the heavenly Father he is attentive.
Father God delights in our company. NIV Ephesians 1:5 “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”. This implies that God was pleased to bring us into his family. He is pleased to be our Father. Again the psalmist says, NIV Psalm 147:11 “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” NIV Zephaniah 3:17 is even stronger: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Father God is actually proud of his children.
Father God is not abusive. Abusive fathers seek something for themselves at the expense of their children. But God is a Father who has given us what is most precious to himself. John 10:17-18 17 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life– only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” It was the command of Father God that Jesus lay down his life for you and for me. Jesus is God’s beloved Son and yet the Father was willing to give him up for us. NIV Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all– how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” If Father God was willing to give up his most precious Son for you then there is no limit to what he is willing to do for you. This is the complete opposite of abuse.
Father God does not have impossible expectations of us. Instead he has accomplished for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves, and then he has freely counted these achievements as if they were our own. We are by nature sinners who continue to sin and fail to do what is right. Yet in sending his Son into the world the Father has given us free access to heaven and counts as children of God. We cannot be righteous but God has made us righteous in Christ as counts us as righteous. We cannot be holy and yet God has made us holy in Christ and calls us saints. The list of these accomplishments is long. We did not achieve these things but the Father counts these accomplishments as ours in Christ. Father God does not place a burden on us to come up to scratch before he loves us. His love is unconditional and his love enables us to grow from glory to glory.
The Father is like Jesus. John 5:17-19 “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.’ This tells us that Son acts like the Father. So when we see what Jesus acts like we know what the Father is like. Jesus is like the Father and the Father is like Jesus. Some people are afraid of Father God for various reasons. They imagine that he is an angry God and Jesus is the one who placates the Father. Such people pray to Jesus and avoid the Father. But if Jesus is like the Father and the Father is like Jesus then there is no need to be afraid of the Father.
What we most long for as children, and as adult people, is to have a father who loves us unconditionally. This is the kind of father which our Father God is. He is what we long for and what we spend all our lives trying to acquire. We look in all sorts of places trying to find that illusive father figure. Instead of putting people and things in the place of Father God let us embrace God as Father and be at peace. There is healing in knowing the Father as the one who meets our deepest longings. As I was explaining this sermon to my children the other day, David said that if we grasped hold of this idea then all the psychologists would be out of a job. Let’s put them out of a job.
There is no barrier to embracing God as Father because we have free access to the Father through Jesus Christ. The Spirit enables us to call out to God as Abba, Father. Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption, by which we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” So I urge you today, on fathers’ day, to look to God as Father and cease to run around trying to find the father who you missed out on as a child. God is perfect, loving, and accepting Father.