When all else fails, read the instructions. Today's hapless male has been inundated with a plethora of sickly theology and wacko psychology and feminized ideology to the point that the poor guy hardly knows what to do. It's so hard to be politically correct when the rules constantly change. The godly man then must refuse this worldly "wisdom," must disavow all the "facts" (both of them) he learned in public school, and must turn to the only authoritative and infallible Book of instruction regarding his calling as man, husband, and father.
In this perfect Book the Christian man will find the perfect pattern for his fatherly duties: the Fatherhood of God. We are to rear our children as God the Father rears His children. We are to love our children as God the Father loves His children (and we are to love our children's mother as Christ loves His church). We are to pity our children as God the Father pities His children (Ps. 103:13). And we are to rejoice in our children as God the Father rejoices in His children.
Joy in Our Children
Many passages of the Bible teach us about the joy of the Heavenly Father in His children. God declared, " . . . for the Lord delighteth in thee . . . and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" (Is. 62:4-5). "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good . . ." (Jer. 32:41). "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying" (Is. 65:17-19). "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy: he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17). And our Lord Jesus proclaimed, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (Jn. 15:11).
These verses clearly teach something quite contrary to the modern children-are-a-nuisance mentality. God delights in His children. God rejoices in His children. They are His joy. Wonder of wonders, God sings for joy over His children. This eternal, unchanging, sovereign joy of God in His children is to be the model for the Christian father's joy in his children. This is not just a natural parental affection, for the fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22); this is a spiritual grace to be sought and perfected.
God the Father rejoices in His children, and it is His children's blessed duty to respond in kind. In a sermon preached over a century ago, Charles Spurgeon declared, "What a gracious God we serve, who makes delight to be a duty, and who commands us to rejoice . . . for a joyous God desires a joyous people." God's children are to rejoice in their God. "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath clothed me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels" (Is. 61:10). "For thou will shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:10). Joy of the Father in the children; joy of the children in the Father — here is the model, the heavenly standard, for the Christian father.
When a man, by grace, is enabled to pursue his high and holy calling of godly fatherhood, his well-taught children are a joy to him and his house. Solomon taught us that a "wise son maketh a glad father," but "the father of a fool hath no joy" (Pr. 10:1; 15:20; 17:21). Many of the Proverbs speak to this. "The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise son shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice" (Pr. 23:24-25).
Results of Fatherly Joy
A father's joy in his children will have many very practical applications. His love for them will be evident, not a well-kept secret. His desire for their good will govern his every word and deed. The ever-growing friendship between the father and his children will create bonds that will endure forever. The father who joyfully acknowledges that his children are a gift of God will talk with his children, worship with his children, pray with his children, study with his children, work with his children, play with his children, serve God with his children (Timothy served with Paul "as a son with the father," Phil. 2:22), and dwell in peace and fellowship and harmony with his children, forming them into "straight arrows" (Ps. 127:4) which multiply the father's ability to fight the Lord's battles.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words in his first letter to the church at Thessalonia: "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory" (1 Thes. 2:11-12). Here we learn three aspects of the father's calling. He is to exhort his children; the Greek word implies that he is called alongside his children to be their helper, their encourager, their confidant. He is to comfort his children; literally, to be "near of speech," to take them tenderly and closely to him and whisper words of grace and truth. He is to charge them; testify to them of God's words and deeds, bear witness to them of the faithfulness of his and their God, calling them to a life of godliness and duty and honor. He is to do these things, that his children might walk worthy of God, who is faithful to call His covenant children into His kingdom and glory.
J. W. Alexander wrote of the joyful task of training our children:
No man knows what God has made him for. Some men, for all we know, may be sent into the world chiefly to form other men. The grand act of a servant of Christ, for which God has been preparing him for many years, may be to give an impulse to some other man, and this may be accomplished in a moment, and when neither of the two suspects it. No man knows when the great act of his life takes place. No man knows when he is doing the greatest good. The old monk who directed young Martin Luther, possibly did nothing so important in his life. Sometimes it is a child, and whom would a Christian more joyfully influence than the son of his bosom? It is for him we labour, pray, suffer, and live. How do we know but the chief purpose for which God has spared our lives is, that we may form an instrument for his work in our own family?1
"Quit you like men" was and is the command of God to men of God (1 Cor. 16:13). Men need to be reminded to act like men, husbands need to be reminded to act like husbands, and fathers need to be reminded to act like fathers. If God is pleased to turn our hearts from the vain and worthless worldly amusements which so often entangle us, and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers (Mal. 4:6), then perhaps we will be able to echo the words of the beloved Apostle, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 Jn. 4).
Man's (and his children's) chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
1. J. W. Alexander, Thoughts on Preaching (Edinburgh, 1975), 75-76.
- William D. Gamble
David Gamble, Ed.D., is an educational specialist, He and his wife, Stephanie, have been blessed with seven children. They reside in El Cajon, California. David is a teaching elder at Grace Covenant Church.