Fathers: Shepherds of Light and Life
Fathers, pay attention to the flock that is in your home. Develop a life-oriented sensitivity for your wives and children. It is difficult to maintain an adequate consideration for your family. It is easy to be too busy, and to run past your family, failing to share their lives in a tender kind of relationship. The Gospel ministers to every person at the point of their need: this is the nature of life.
John 1:14 says, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” Christ is our Creator. He made us, He gave us life. Life was granted to us by Him at creation and was redeemed for us by Him at Calvary. Truly, in Christ is life. The natural desire of man is to live. “...And the life was the light of men.” Life itself attracts us and gives us a sense of focus and reality. Life is the universal essence of being.
Life is Relationship
John 17 has a revealing description of eternal life. Think of eternal life: if life is great what is eternal life? When I was a boy, I used to think about peanut butter sandwiches. My idea of eternal life was an unending jar of peanut butter with no restrictions to eat as much as you want. Interesting! Peanut butter gave me pleasure, so I measured happiness by it. Now what can give man more pleasure than to experience the outpoured personal love and care of God Himself throughout all of eternity?
In John 17, Christ is praying and He talks about eternal life in verse 2 and 3, He says, speaking of the Son of Man, “As Thou hast given Him, power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”
This is a short and complete definition of eternal life, given from the mouth of Jesus Christ, before He went to the cross to win that eternal life for us.
The word for “know” here in the Greek is the word, “epiginosko”: it reflects a sense of substantial or significant kind of knowledge. Thus eternal life is a deep intimate knowledge, or relationship with God Himself. This is God’s definition: eternal life, is an eternal relationship with Him! Our lives are going to be filled to overflowing because of the relationship that we will have with the Father and the Son in heaven. Relationship with God is why we were created. “In Him was life and that life was the light of men.” When we examine man’s eternal essence as he was created by God it brings us back to that little question that you may have learned from your catechism. Q: “Who made you?” A: “God made me.” Q: “Why did God make you?” A: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him and to dwell with Him forever in Heaven.” This is who we are and why God made us.
In the Scriptures, God frequently reveals Himself as our “Father.” Christ taught His disciples, “When you pray, pray on this wise, ‘Our Father who are in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.’” The first point of reference to God in our prayer life must be that we are coming to our Father. Now we have already explored the fact that man has a universal desire for life; however, we must recognize that “all that glitters is not gold.” We must copy our Heavenly Father’s example as light keepers.
John 1:9 says Jesus “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Think about that true light. If there is a true light, then there is also, by implication, a false light. Do you remember the Proverb that says “there is a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death”? This is why we fathers are needed in our homes to be shepherds to our children.
There is a true light that lights every man that comes into the world and, there is that which seems right but it is a false light. If something is not light, what is it? Darkness! Although Jesus is the true light that lights every man that comes into the world, men see darkness and they call it life because they are evil by nature. Our children need help in discerning the light from darkness. This is the training that must take place in their souls every day.
Fathers Can Shine the True Light
The home is the essential place where God wants to nurture, train, develop, preserve and pass on the light of life from generation to generation: from parents to children.
First, fathers must consider their children. Fathers need a personal vision for each of their own children. Nothing can replace the vision of a father for his own children. Is not our heavenly Father always considering the needs of His children; does He not care for them? The whole nature of salvation springs from God who stretched forth His arm and brought forth salvation. His fatherly initiative, oversight, and leadership looks upon the sheep of the pasture and says, “These lambs need help, and I shall bring it.” This is that sense of vision: to recognize a need and commit necessary resources in order to help those who are under my care. However, this is easy to miss. It is so easy to focus on the function of the every-day routine that the father fails to relate to his children in a personal, caring manner.
Second, fathers must relate to their children. A father must take wisdom and skill from himself and apply it to the need of his child so that it gives help and life. The father must give life from himself. His acceptance and acknowledgment of his children is life-giving to them. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘My Father works hitherto and I work’.” Active relationship with the Father gave the Son His identity.
The identity of the Son is found in sharing the identity of the Father with the Son. Notice that shared work is the means of significance of relationship. Christ focused on shared work as the evidence of His sharing the essence of God the Father. In verse 19, Jesus continues, “Verily, verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” In the sphere of the father’s work, duty and responsibility, there is a sense of connectedness and empowerment given to the son when the father brings him into that privileged inner circle. This is an important spiritual principle of relating to our children. Our children need the sense that they are a welcome partner in their father’s work. Belonging to dad is a critical need that children have.
Let us summarize: God made us and gave us life and that “life is the light of men.” As life is extended from the father to the son, the nature of true light is awakened in the heart of the son. It is the sharing of life by the father that causes the son to have light in his eyes from his father. That is the critical need of our homes. Redemption is the experience of acceptance; it is life and love from the Heavenly Father. It is this acceptance that empowers earthly fathers to give the light of life to their children. This is sonship!
What causes us fathers to miss connecting in relationship to our children? What can it be? “there is a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death.” How do we avoid this pitfall? Copy Christ! When Christ went home at age 12 to be with His parents and was subject to them until age 30, He lived in His father’s house and worked in his father’s little wood shop.
Jesus stayed where His father was and learned the skills of his father’s work. By sharing his father’s geographical location, He could share in all that the father was doing. Such sharing in work may require unusual efforts to make meaningful accommodation for our children. The key to such creativity is love!
Once upon a time there were fathers in this land who were concerned about their family and passing on a heritage to them. Note John 5:20: “For the Father loveth the Son and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth and He will show Him greater works than these that ye may marvel.” The key is love. The father loves the son. The love of the father stops, contemplates, considers and extends help toward his children. Love will make a way!
Dad, your children are either going to find their sense of life and being in relationship to you or you are going to be a major source of discouragement to them. Acceptance draws children toward the light of life. Sharing our work with our children gives them true acceptance. This is the heritage of life!