Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
Fathers are the unsung heroes of our country today.
Greater than any athlete, rock star or celebrity.
More influential than any politician.
We don’t give enough credit to fathers these days.
Mark Twain wrote, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years!”
I’m reminded of a clipping from a Dutch magazine I read a number of years ago.
At 4 years old, the child says, “My daddy can do anything.”
At 7 years old, he says, “My daddy knows a whole lot.”
At 8 years, “Dad doesn’t know quite everything.”
At 12 years, “Oh, well, naturally my dad doesn’t know that, either.”
At 14 years, “Dad is hopelessly old-fashioned.”
At 21 years, “He is so out-of-date!”
At 25 years, “He knows a little bit about it, but not too much.”
At 30 years, “I need to find out what Dad thinks about it.”
At 35 years, “Before we decide, we need to get Dad’s idea first.”
At 50 years, “What would Dad have thought about that?”
At 60 years, “My dad knew literally everything.”
At 65 years, “I wish I could talk it over with Dad one more time.”
How important good and godly dads are – more than ever! The father that faithfully stands by his wife and children through all the highs and lows of life is becoming more and more of a rarity in our culture. I don’t want to come off as overdramatic, but our country needs you! We’ve all heard the Marine Corps slogan, “Looking for a few good men.” The new slogan of our country ought to be “Looking for a few godly men.”
For the lack of a father
It’s an established fact that most of our social ills today can be directly traced to the lack of fathers in our homes. In an article from the L.A. Times Magazine entitled “The Invisible Dad,” the writer pointed out that “many American men are disconnecting from family life, and society is paying the price.”
Consider two of our nation’s most serious problems – crime and teenage pregnancy. Studies show that the most reliable predictor of these behaviors is not income nor race; it is family structure. Pregnant girls and criminal boys tend to come from fatherless families. An astonishing 70 percent of imprisoned U.S. minors have spent at least part of their lives living without fathers.
Father Greg Boyle of Dolores Mission Church in East Los Angeles once listed the names of the first 100 gang members that came to mind, and then jotted a family history next to each. All but five were no longer living with their biological fathers – if they ever had. Without men around as role models, adolescent boys create their own rites of passage: perhaps getting a girl pregnant, or dealing drugs, or murdering a rival.
Throughout history, men have been torn from their families by war, difficult jobs in faraway places, disease and death.
But in 21st century America, men are simply walking away.
They are choosing to disconnect from family life on a massive scale – and at far higher rates than other industrialized countries. Men are drifting away from family life … and we are in danger of becoming a fatherless society.
Why is this a particularly difficult problem in America? I think you can trace it to the same root that’s causing so many American marriages to fail. In a word, it is selfishness. When the road of life gets a little bumpy, a little steep, instead of shifting into four-wheel drive and powering up that hill, men are slipping into reverse and backing away from the challenge.
Many of us men feel “ill-equipped” to be good fathers. So rather than face what we regard as our inadequacies, we just walk out the door when things get tough. Listen, it is infinitely better to be an OK-but-learning dad than to be completely absent.
When my son Christopher was born, I was just 22 years old. I remember thinking, I don’t know anything about fathering! So I began to study Scripture to find out what I could about being a good dad.
Fathers are the visible link children have to their Father in heaven. In many ways, the viewpoint our children develop about God will come from us. I remember when pro basketball star Charles Barkley expressed frustration over being reminded that he was an example for America’s youth. “I’m not a role model,” he groused. But he couldn’t escape it. Whether he wanted that mantle or not, he already had it. Kids all over the country looked up to him and wanted to emulate him. The question is never are we role models? The question is what kind of a role models will we be?
The potential impact of a godly father is almost immeasurable. A recent 26-year study came to the conclusion that fathers who spend more time with their young children appear to have an important influence on how compassionate those kids will be as adults. Parental involvement was the single strongest parent-related factor in adult empathy. Psychologist Richard Koestner of McGill University in Montreal said, “Dads who spent the most time alone with kids more than twice a week, giving baths, meals and basic care reared the most compassionate adults.”
When a father is not involved in his child’s life, or worse has abandoned his responsibilities, it can only lead to trouble.
Consider these statistics:
- 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes;
- 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes;
- 90 percent of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
Do you see a pattern there?
The Bible gives us some important insights on how to be better fathers.
When Moses spoke to the Israelites shortly before his death, he declared, “Hear, O Israel … You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
To lead our children we must develop our own fellowship and relationship with God. We cannot lead a child any further than we have come. We then teach the Word of God naturally and spontaneously to our children, the way Jesus taught.
When the Lord taught His men lessons about life, it wasn’t in a classroom. He wasn’t standing at a lectern with the Twelve sitting on folding chairs in a semi-circle. It was out on the road … walking through the fields … strolling through the temple … reclining on a sunny hillside overlooking the sea … sitting by a crackling campfire at night.
When He began teaching the crucial lesson of how to share in His very life, He didn’t use any overheads or PowerPoint presentations. He simply drew truths from the common, everyday things all around them in their environment.
Every day, every hour you spend with your kids is an opportunity for informal teaching. But if the only time you ever see them is right before they rush off for school in the morning or right before they hit the sack at night, it’s going to be difficult to teach those spontaneous life lessons as Jesus did.
How about a walk after dinner?
How about a Saturday morning stroll along the beach or a lakeside?
How about a summer hike or backpack in the woods?
How about taking one of the kids with you in the car when you run your errands?
It simply means giving it some extra thought and doing whatever it takes to help your boys and girls, your young men and women, begin to integrate God’s truth into their natural lifestyle. Once again, it is teaching that is spontaneous (not always structured and planned), natural (not forced or “religious”), and constant (not hit or miss when you happen to think about it).
Men, I am calling on you today to be the fathers God has called you to be. You can’t even think about deserting. You are on the front lines. Your children need you.
Your country needs you.
Be a hero.