Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on fathering; Date: 18 October 2009

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The following message is taken from John Eldredge: “You Have What It Takes”, Nashville: Thomas Nelson 2004.

 

The One Question

 

Every boy asks himself one basic question in life. What is the question? Every girl asks herself one basic question in life? What is the question? If you know what a boy or girl are asking – and what they need to have answered as they are growing up – then you know how to be a good parent. This morning we keep it simple and practical. This morning we learn the nature of the questions and – then – what to say to every man growing up and every woman growing up.

First the boys. What do they need to know? Look at them. They love adventure. Give a boy a bicycle and you know what is going to happen. Many a time it is not enough to learn riding the bike. No. (Boring.) As soon as those training wheels are coming off (no, sooner), he’s seeing how fast it can go, riding with no hands, jumping it off the curb, making skid marks on the sidewalk, racing against friends. Noises go with it, too, noises that no one needs to teach a boy – he just knows how to make them. Loud engine noises and speedy, whooshing noises and screeching, crashing noises and a soundtrack to go with it all. That is no mere bike he’s riding, and he’s no mere boy. He’s a motor-cycle racer, a figher pilot, a starship captain.

Boys – most of them (not all) – are full of battle and adventure and danger. They love to build things … and then blow’em up. They love to jump off stuff. What does a boy wear, if you let him wear what he wants to wear? Let him get out of his school clothes and there will be camouflage, army style, or being dressed up as a cowboy, a fireman, a superhero, a Jedi knight. Every boy wants to be a hero. Every boy wants to be powerful, he wants to be dangerous, and he wants to know – here come the one basic question in his life: Do I have what it takes?

And when the boy grows a little older, he turns to fast cars (the louder, the better), computer games of battle and adventure, and making the sports team. If he’s more academically inclined, he wants to win at chess, ace the test, come out on top. A boy wants to prove himself. He is looking to impress. Do I have what it takes?

This is the question and therefore this is the answer that every boy needs to hear – especially from his dad: You have what it takes. You will make it. You’re the man.

A father took his two sons rock climbing. His oldest son, Sam, went first. He was about eight years old at the time. Things were going well until he hit a bit of an overhang, which, even though you’re roped in, makes you feel exposed and more than a little vulnerable. So the dad helped him up the overhang with a bit of a boost, and on he went with greater speed and confidence. The dad said: “Way to go, Sam! You’re looking good. That’s it. Nice move! Way to go, Sam. You’re a wild man!” The eight-year-old finished the climb, and as he walked down from the back side, the dad began to clip in his brother. Ten or fifteen minutes passed, and the story was forgotten to the dad. But not to Sam. While the dad was coaching his brother up the rock, Sam sort of sidled up to him and in a quiet voice asked: “Dad … did you really think I was a wild man up there?”

Miss that moment and you’ll miss a boy’s heart forever. Sam did not simply ask a question. He was asking the question of every boy: “Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful?” Until a man knows he’s a man, he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time he will shrink from anything that might reveal he is not (lacking confidence). Most men – according to the research – live their lives haunted by The Question or debilitated by the answer they’ve been given.

Now the girls. What do they need to know? They ask a very different question from the boys. You can observe it there in nearly everything she does. Little girls are usually not into bloodshed. There are not large numbers dying on a regular basis. On the other hand, boys don’t love to brush each other’s hair. They don’t go to tea parties – sitting down over make-believe china, being very polite and having “grow-up” conversations. Girls play relational games – “wedding day” and “mommies and daddies” and “rescue the princess”. You don’t have to teach them to do it – it comes naturally. It’s part of the design.

This is not to say that girls dislike adventure. But – trapped inside the house on a rainy day – they do not terrorize the cat or play urban commando. They play dress up”. Give a group of girls a chest of gowns and shoes and Mom’s costume jewelry, and they are captured for hours playing princessand movie starand generally being beautiful. At our youth when the girls came together for one night, they would play pamperingand beautifying” – applying nail polish, waxing, doing up their hair, etc. Why? Every girl wants to know: Am I beautiful? Am I attractive?

And when she grows a bit older, she talks on the phone for hours and wants to know who is dating whom. While the guy is clueless (many a time) what to wear for graduation night, it is a very big deal for a young woman. She watches shows about relationships, pores over fashion magazines and bridal magazines, and loves to get cards and flowers from a secret admirer. Why are flowers such a big deal for women (most of them)? Because of what they say. I am thinking of you … I delight in you. All through those years when she’s dressing up and doing shows for you and playing princess and trying to look beautiful and shedding tears over the fact that she might not be, she is trying to capture your attention. She wants to know – she needs to know: Am I beautiful? Am I attractive? That’s the question every little girl is asking – especially from her dad.

A ten-year-old son asked his dad – with big eyes and a sweet face: “Dad … can I ask you a question?” The dad knew that something was coming. He said: “Sure. What’s up?” “Dad … can I have a chain saw?” Yes – of course. We all – as men – pretty much want the same thing. We want power. We want to have an impact. Therefore, what is our worst fear as men? Isn’t it some version of failure? To royally blow it? To really screw things up? Lose your job. Drive your company into bankruptcy. If you’re a doctor, you fear misdiagnosing a patient’s fatal disease. If you’re an attorney, you fear losing the big case. Because all those things in some way prove that you don’t have what it takes.

However, a woman’s worst fear is abandonment. Most women survive a career setback far better than men. Failure doesn’t seem to matter as much (generally speaking) because a woman fears that she won’t be loved. It shouts to the world: “She wasn’t worth pursuing. She wasn’t worth fighting for.” But for men, the dog at our heels is failure. We need to know that our lives mattered. That when the time came, we had what was needed. We came through. There was something powerful about our lives.

So what do you need to do as a parent – especially as a dad – and I say this on purpose: especially as a dad, because – according to the research and our own experience – identity is bestowed by the father. Moms are not unimportant. Not at all. They teach us about unconditional love – about mercy. She is a comforter. But when boys and girls want to do something adventurous, they usually go to Dad – while they usually go to Mom, when they cut their finger or get their feelings hurt. A boy learns if he is a man, if he has what it takes, from his dad. A girl learns if she is worth pursuing, is she is beautiful and attractive, from her dad. That’s just the way God seems to have set up the whole thing of parenting. (Expand with modifications.)

So what do you need to do? It’s simple. Tell the boy: “Yes, you have what it takes.” And tell the girl: “Yes, you are beautiful.” Answer their one question a thousand times in a thousand different ways – as they are growing up – and you will have done your job. You will have been a great dad. Again – it is simple. One answer for a boy and one answer for a girl.Yes, you have what it takes.” “Yes, you are beautiful.”

How are we going with this? Men – have we done a good job in raising our boys and girls? Have we answered their one question adequately? Mothers – have you stepped in and made sure of the answers? When a young woman hasn’t heard from her dad that she is beautiful, nine times out of ten she will turn to a young man to try and get the answer to her question – and then often gives herself away far too cheaply (because she is unsure of her identity – what she’s worth). When a young man doesn’t hear from his dad that he has what it takes, he’ll struggle to be bold or he’ll always be trying to prove himself (no matter how much he has achieved). How successful have we been as parents? If your children are older, maybe ask them: “What was my message to you, about you, as you grew up? Did you feel loved and pursued by me (as a daughter)? Did you feel loved and respected by me (as a son)?” And when your children give you some honest answers – if need be – ask for their forgiveness. Don’t just say that you’re sorry – ask for their forgiveness.

It’s never too late. One dad was not really into sharing his feelings and did not encourage his son but his son became an author and when the son was forty-three and the dad was passing seventy-seven (gray-haired), the dad wrote him a short letter – four sentences, the words were not particularly moving, put on paper with the help of an old typewriter because some years earlier the dad had a stroke which made his handwriting too shaky – but this short letter reduced the son to tears. It simply said: “I think that you are doing a great job.” All his life the son had longed to hear these words from his dad and they finally came. It’s never too late. We say them now.

How are we going with this? Maybe some of us are struggling right now. The simple fact of life is that you cannot give something that you don’t have. What did your dad tell you? Did your own father ever tell you – his daughter – that you are beautiful or tell you – his son – that you have what it takes? Have you experienced good fathering which enables you to pass the blessing to the next generation? One son – Dave – still remembers the day he was wounded by his father. His parents were having an argument in the kitchen, and his father was abusing his mother – with rather mean words. Dave took his mom’s side, and his father exploded. He yelled: “You’re such a mama’s boy!” Then he walked out. Perhaps if Dave had a strong relationship with his dad most of the time, a wound like that might be lessened, healed later by words of love. But the blow came after years of distance between them. Dave’s father was often gone from morning till night with his own business, so they rarely spent time together. What is more, Dave felt a lingering disappointment from his dad. He wasn’t a star athlete, which he knew his dad highly valued. He had a spiritual hunger and often attended church, which his dad did not value. Those words fell like a final blow, a death sentence.

There are countless stories like that – and then we struggle with our own fathering. Some fathers wound by their silence. One son shares that his dad had his own issues but never faced them – except by drinking too much – and when he was eleven or twelve – a very critical age – his dad checked out, went silent. He had a workshop out back, attached to the garage, and he spent his hours out there alone, reading, doing cross-word puzzles, and drinking. This was a major wound for the boy. Another absent father. Therefore the question remained unanswered: “Do I have what it takes? Am I a man, Daddy?” The silence is the answer: “I don’t know … I doubt it … you’ll have to find out for yourself … probably not.”

How are we going? We cannot pass on what we have not first received. The good news is that right now – if you are wounded – there is healing available. We have a God that we can turn to and he is in the healing business. Here is the journey that you can take. Jesus Christ is making us this offer – I read from the Bible – Revelations 3:20: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” Invite Jesus into your wounds because he comes with healing. Something powerful happened when he died on the cross for us and then rose again to life after three days in the grave. The curses of life have been overcome – sin and death – stunted emotions and judgement. Jesus rose to new life and this new life he is now offering to all of us. The old can safely die and the new can come.

You may find that when you invite Jesus into your life, first of all you need to grieve. The wounds you received were not your fault but they mattered. One man said: “Oh, what a milestone day it was for me when I allowed myself to say that the loss of my father mattered. The tears that flowed were the first I’d ever granted my wound, and they were deeply healing. All of those years sucking it up melted away in my grief.” It is so important for us to grieve our wound; it is the only honest thing to do. For in grieving we admit the truth – we were hurt by someone we loved, we lost something very dear, and it hurt a lot.

Then, allow God to love you. Let him get close. Lower the barriers to your heart. A man once asked his friend: “Brad, why don’t you just let God love you?” He squirmed in his chair: “I have such a hard time with that, just being loved. It feels so naked. I’d rather be in control.” However, later he wrote: “After it all came crashing down I was overwhelmed with sadness and grief. The pain is incredible. In the midst of that God asked me, ‘Brad, will you let me love you?’ I know what he is asking. I feel anxious that I need to go e-mail all these schools and secure a future. But I’m tired of running away. I want to come home. I flipped through the Bible and came to John 15, ‘Just as the Father has loved you, I have also loved you; abide in my love.’ The battle is very intense. At times it is all clear. At others it is a fog. Right now all I can do is cling to Jesus as best I know how and not run from all that is in my heart.”

Another man wrote: “My father never left; he just never had time for me or words of encouragement. He has spent his entire life making himself the center of attention. For the first time I understand why I am highly driven, why I never let anyone get close to me – including my wife – and why I am an impostor to most people. I broke down and cried. I feel the presence of God in my heart like I have never felt him before … the beginning of a new heart.”

We will return to what God is doing here but the next stage in the process is to forgive your father. The Bible says – Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger … forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” A husband was sorry to think of all the years his wife endured the anger and bitterness that he redirected at her from his father. As someone has said, forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and then discovering the prisoner was you.

Choose to forgive. It is not a feeling, but an act of the will. “Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving; you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made” (Neil Anderson).

The last step is coming back to the point of allowing God to love you. Let him father you. God is good and he knows what we need. On the day that Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit and commissioned to begin preaching the kingdom of God and demonstrating the kingdom with healings and miracles (he was about thirty years old), God the Father knew that even at this time (being that old), Jesus needed encouagement. Jesus needed to hear that he had what it takes – that he would make it as a man. This is what happened – from the Bible – Luke 3:21-22: “ … as Jesus was praying … the Holy Spirit descended on him … And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Even Jesus Christ needed to hear these words – and he was without sin – the Son of God from heaven. Therefore, how much do we need to hear these words? And God will do the same for us.

He speaks to us in loving variety and women may like Bible passages like this one – Isaiah 62:3-5: “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah for the Lord will take delight in you … as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” In other words – God is saying: “You are beautiful. You are attractive. I love you.”

Even as a church many a time we are not that good in accepting love. We may talk a lot about the love of God but then struggle accepting it. We are like the church which received the following letter from God in the Bible – Revelations 2:2-4 – I read: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance … You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love!” Deeds, hard work, perseverance … This can be so easily us. We strive and prove ourselves with busy schedules and a full diary. There is work, work, work – but God says: “Stop. You are missing what is most important. I think that you are wonderful. I love you.”

One pastor reports: “When renewal started happening in our church during the ministry time on January 20, 1994, almost 80 percent of the people were on the floor, laughing, rolling and having the greatest time. I thought, ‘Lord, this is great. I am glad we are getting a little happier and more joyful. We needed to lighten up, but let us get on with the job of getting people converted!’ Others would even say to me, ‘This is supposed to be a move of God? How many people are getting saved?’ ‘People are being saved. We had five saved last night,’ I responded. ‘That’s not a revival. A revival is when hundreds of people get saved and the community is impacted!’

At first I agreed. I told the Lord I wanted to see people come to Jesus, to see them healed. So I started preaching more on salvation, but after the sermons, I noticed that the ministry time was difficult. I didn’t understand that. The Holy Spirit was not flowing, and the people were not receiving from the Lord the same as before. The number of people who came to Christ was not as great as it was when I had talked about the joy of the Lord or the love of God or phenomena in the Bible. I asked the Lord why. I was surprised by his response: ‘It is because you are pushing me.’ ‘Lord, I don’t want to push you. What do you mean?’ His reply floored me: ‘Is it all right with you if I just love on my church for a while’” (John Arnott: The Father’s Blessing, Orlando: Creation House, p20).

God know that first and foremost we need to be loved. And before any of us can move in life we need to have our most basic question answered. As a man – do I have what it takes? As a woman – am I beautiful? Am I worth pursuing? God says: “Yes. Yes, you will make it. Yes, I delight in you.”

This can be experienced. The love of God is real – right now – in our midst – this morning. Open yourself to him. Allow him to touch you. One pastor came to the church which experienced renewal and this is what he experienced: “ … I was just drained and exhausted. I came here really desperate … I felt like the Father was holding me in his arms, playing with me, tossing me on his knees … just waves of love … (the pastor started crying softly) … He’s telling me that he loves and he cares for me.”

Another testimony – this time from a woman: “Jesus and I were in my mother’s hayfield. We were holding hands, and I was skipping along beside and in front of him. I was about eight to ten years old with my hair in pigtails. He was absolutely delighted with me, as I was with him. I could hardly believe he was enjoying himself. Every so often I would turn around and look at him as if to say, ‘Is this OK? Am I allowed to do this?’ His eyes, filled with love, said, ‘I am as thrilled with you as you are with me.’ Something pierced my heart during this vision … ”

God told this woman that he delighted in her. She was beautiful. Hear it for yourself now. God is telling you: “I love you. You will make it. You are lovely.” Then – I conclude with this point – according to the Bible – the church (the people of God) are a family and in our family – by God’s design – there are father figures who pass on God’s affirmations to us. For instance, one church leader in the Bible writes – 1 Corinthians 4:15: “ … in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” 2 Corinthians 6:13: “ … I speak as to my children … ” If your natural father is not answering – or has not been answering – the question for you (and no human father is perfect), then hear from God and let him use the fathers in the church to say to you: “You will make it. You are beautiful.” We can always speak these words with the utmost confidence because whatever is before you, you will make it. The promise is – Philippians 4:13 – from the Bible: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

[Ephesians 2:8-10: “ … it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” And the workmanship of God is always beautiful because God does not make junk.]

Then, your beauty is also assured because God himself designed you according to his delight and pleasure – Psalm 139:13-16: “ . you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body … ”

God uses fathers (and mothers) to answer the one basic question in our life. Will I make it? Or, am I beautiful and worth pursuing? However, when fathers fail and even when churches fail, he never does. Hear him speak to you now: “You will make it. I love you.” “You are so delightful to me. You are beautiful. I love you.” We have a good Father in heaven. Amen.

 

 

Romans 5:5: “ … God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

 

We allow the Holy Spirit now to minister God’s love to us.

 

Would the “fathers” in the congregation please come forward (men on the leadership board and active in ministry).

And now, would all the boys and young men please come forward (up to the age of 25).

 

Pastor: “ … (words of affirmation and answering the one question for them in the name of Jesus Christ) … (we want to be there for the next generation – we notice them – we are proud of them – they are precious) … ”

 

The “fathers” lay hands on the boys and young men for prayer and blessings. First, (repentance) there is a general prayer from the pastor and then individual prayers from the men.

 

And now, would all the girls and young women please come forward (up to the age of 25).

 

Pastor: “ … (words of affirmation and answering the one question for them in the name of Jesus Christ) … (we want to be there for the next generation – we notice them – we are proud of them – they are precious) … ”

 

The “fathers” lay hands on the girls and young women for prayer and blessings. First, (repentance) there is a general prayer from the pastor and then individual prayers from the men.

 

Another general prayer for all men and women in the congregation. Opportunity to come forward and receive prayer.