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Father Knows Best
God has clearly shown in His Word what He wants a father to be.
by Derek Prince

During my military service in World War II, I was in the British Royal Army Medical Corps, and I spent a substantial amount of time in the Middle East. After three years in the deserts of Egypt, Libya and the Sudan, I was posted to Jerusalem. There I met and married a Danish school teacher, Lydia Christensen.

When Lydia and I were married, she brought with her eight girls without parents to whom she had become an adoptive mother, and for whom, from that time onward, I accepted the responsibility of fatherhood. Of these girls, six were Jewish, one was Arab and one was English. They ranged in age from eighteen to three.

From my background as a boy without brothers or sisters, I suddenly found myself the only male responsible for ten females - Lydia, her eight girls and one Arab maid, Jameela. In our new relationship we all had many adjustments to make. There were times when I felt that the responsibility I had taken on was too great. Undoubtedly Lydia, too, must have wondered sometimes whether she had made the right decision in marrying me. But somehow the love and grace of God always carried us through.

I have not been a perfect husband or father, by any means. But my family life on the whole has been happy and successful, for which I give God all the glory. Through it I have learned many important lessons.

One thing I have gradually come to see over the years is that personal ambition at the expense of home life is a serious problem in the lives of many men. Some would be considered successful and would consider themselves successful. Yet an inner core of self-centeredness keeps them from the warm, open interchange with their families that is the essence of successful relationships within a home.

There may be no open crisis or thought of the marriage breaking up. Yet the home provides none of the security and fulfillment that the family members need. In many cases the father has so many commitments outside his home that he is not even aware that he is failing his family.

I have come to the conclusion that many men in our contemporary culture need to face this issue. They may be successful in various fields - as bank presidents or doctors or lawyers or computer technicians or on the golf course. They may even be successful in Christian ministry. Yet they are failures in their own homes.

I want to suggest to you that to succeed in other capacities and to fail as a husband or father is, in God's sight, to fail. No other success can make up for that failure.

I have said many times that the number one problem in society today is delinquent males - men who have failed in their two primary responsibilities: as husbands and as fathers. You can read various books about the family, but you cannot build a truly successful family until you understand these two basic roles: husband and father. They are the essential foundation on which a truly happy and harmonious home can be built. In this article, I want to focus on the role of fathers.

Representing God

In a certain sense God has committed to every father the responsibility to embody, as a person, the ultimate revelation of the Bible: fatherhood. To be a real father is the most perfect depiction of God that any man can achieve, because it is the ultimate revelation of God Himself. In fact, every father represents God to his family. That is not an option! The question is, "Do you as a father represent God rightly or wrongly?"

There are three God-given responsibilities every father has toward his family: to intercede for them (the biblical role of priest), to represent God to them (the biblical role of prophet), and to rule them according to God's standards of righteousness (the biblical role of king).

As priest of his family, each father has the privilege to bear up his children continuously before God in prayer. This keeps them under the continuing oversight and protection of the Almighty. But when a father fails to fulfill his intercessory ministry as priest, God says, "I will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6). That is, "Your children will no longer be under My special, watchful care."

This solemn warning of God has become vivid to me these days. Sometimes, watching the multitudes of young people thronging the streets in a city, I ask myself, How many of these are forgotten by God - ignored by God - because they have no fathers to intercede for them?

This dire situation calls for an army of committed intercessors who will stand in the gap on behalf of such families. But the intercessory prayer of a father on behalf of his family is unique. No one else can fully take that father's place. His unique privileges carry with them unique responsibilities.

How Will You Respond?

God's Word confronts our civilization with just two alternatives: We may either restore family relationships and survive, or we may allow family relationships to continue to deteriorate and go the way they have been going in the last decades. If we do the latter, we will perish under God's curse.

The outcome of this crisis will be decided by the response of the fathers. They are the ones whom God holds primarily responsible. In Malachi, God requires first that the hearts of the fathers turn to the children (Malachi 4:5-6). Only after that will the hearts of the children turn to the fathers.

Those of us who belong to older generations can complain about Generation X or Generation Next or whatever we may call them. We can point out all their faults and failings. But the crisis did not begin with them. It is the older generations who are to blame. It is our generations who have betrayed them, who have failed to present the truth to them, who have failed to teach them godly discipline. Now God is judging us through our children.

There are voices crying out that the Church today needs to become socially relevant. In no area in society does the Church have a greater opportunity to become socially relevant than in the area of family life. In so doing we shall be responding to the most urgent crisis of our time.

Perhaps You Have Failed

Possibly you have come face to face for the first time with a biblical picture of what God expects a father to be and to do - and you are shocked!

Do not react too quickly. Take time to think - and pray - about this issue. Ask God to make the picture clearer to you.

Consider the three primary ministries of a father to his family: priest, prophet and king. Check your performance in each of these three areas, and ask yourself some relevant questions:

a.. As priest of my family, am I faithful in, regular, daily intercession for them?  How often do I thank God for them? 

b.. As prophet, how well have I represented God to my family?  Have I given them a picture of the loving Father in heaven?  Or must I acknowledge that the picture I have given them of our Father God is actually an unattractive caricature?

c.. As king, have I ruled my children with a discipline that combines love and firmness and that prepares them to take their place in society as responsible citizens?  Have I set boundaries for my children that protect them from the evil forces at work in the world today? 

What is your response to these questions? Do you recognize that you have indeed "sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)? That is no reason to be discouraged or to give up. God convicts us of our sins not in order to condemn us but to direct us to the remedy He has provided for us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Two Simple Steps

God's simple requirement is stated in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." When we sincerely acknowledge and confess our sins to God, He not only forgives us but He also cleanses us from all sense of guilt and failure and restores to us pure consciences.

To complete the cure, there is one further step we need to take. In putting things right, the first step is to take care of our relationship with God by confessing our sins to Him and receiving His forgiveness. The second step is to put things right with our fellow men by confessing our sins to them (James 5:16).

This requirement applies to all Christians living in fellowship, but first and foremost to the Christian family. This places a special responsibility on the father in each family.

Suppose you have taken the first step and confessed your sins to God. Now you need to take the next step and confess your sins to the members of your family, first to your wife and then to your children.

Quite probably you are already aware of some of the sins you need to confess, but you have been sweeping them under the rug. Let me tell you frankly, there is no rug ever made that will cover those sins! There is only one way to deal effectively with sin - heartfelt repentance followed by confession: "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy (Proverbs 28:13).

This brings out the real barrier in dealing with sin: pride. If I confess these sins, we say to ourselves, I'll be humiliated. No, that is another deception! If you confess your sins, you will be humbled. If you refuse to confess them, ultimately you will be humiliated.

Multitudes of Christians today are living in what I call a "spiritual twilight zone." They are not walking in the clear sunlight of God's favor in a life of unreserved obedience to Him, nor are they walking in the night time darkness of open sin.

But the Gospel leaves no room for spiritual neutrality. If you purpose to be the kind of father God is calling you to be, you must be willing to open your whole heart and life to Him. As you allow Him to expose all sin and to do His purging work in you, you will move out of the twilight zone and into the clear sunlight of God's favor. There you will begin to understand all that is involved in being a father.

Proclaim God's Word: I shall teach God's Word to my children, speaking of it when I sit in my house, when I walk by the way, when I lie down, and when I rise up (personalized from Deuteronomy 11:19).

Excerpt from Husbands & Fathers. Published by Chosen Books, Derek Prince.