Michael Youssef - The Fatherhood of God
Many people confuse the fatherhood of God with their earthly fathers, whether their earthly fathers were good or they were not as we expect. And I've done this. As a young Christian, I confused the fatherhood of God with my earthly father. Regardless of your experience... and that's really what I pray that God will do his work in every one of our lives today. Regardless of your experience it would be a terrible mistake to equate the heavenly father with your earthly father, regardless of how wonderful your earthly father may have been or is.
Now to be sure, those of us who are fathers need to desperately imitate, we need to emulate our heavenly Father. I have tried to do so, but I failed again and again and again, and yet that's our call, to emulate our heavenly Father. But even the best of our efforts will not do justice to who the heavenly Father is and the way he loves us because even the best of our effort will not do justice to him for God is far great a father than any earthly father ever hoped to be.
Now I don't want to depress you, but I want to encourage you. Lift up your eyes to the heavenly Father. God our Father loves his children far more than earthly fathers are capable of loving their children, and I know in my early days as a father I used find this very hard to believe because I know my love for my children. But my heavenly Father loved us even more than we love our children, far more in far greater ways. God our Father is incomparable to the best of earthly fathers, and that is why Jesus in answering the disciples' question of how to pray, he said, "Pray this way: 'Our Father.'" Do you know how unique that is? "Our Father".
Let me show you how the fatherhood of God outpaces the kind of fathers we get here on earth. First, just about all the research have shown again and again and again verbalizing our love for our children produces a more mature children than those with fathers or mothers who cannot verbalize their love. The verbalizing of love for children makes a tremendous difference for the children growing up, but you and I know that there are some earthly fathers who just have a hard time verbalizing their love. Many of us in the older generation grew up with fathers who have a difficulty verbalizing their love for their children, but when it comes to our heavenly Father, you can be absolutely sure that he is constantly, constantly saying to every one of his children, "I love you".
Through the pages of the Scripture, through his provisions, through the resources that he places in our hands, through the blessings that we receive, through the families and the friends and the brothers and sisters that we have, God is saying, "I love you, and nothing is gonna stop me from loving you. You can't even stop me from loving you". Secondly, while the research shows that the average American father spends between 38 seconds and 60 seconds a day being totally attentive to the needs of his children, your heavenly Father is attentive to your needs 100% of the time. His children are the center of his attention, that his children are the subject of his concern. His children are the recipients of his time, all of his time, that they are the focus of his planning. They are the object of his love. They are his total occupation. An "amen" belongs here.
Every second of every day our Father gives us his full attention, and that is what the psalmist meant. A lot of people don't understand this. In Psalm 121, verse 4, that's what the psalmist meant when he said, "He never slumber nor sleep". His attention is on you 24/7, and here's the amazing good news that you can come to him and become a son or daughter to him today. He cannot become your heavenly Father by you trying harder or by you trying to earn his love or by trying to work at it. You can never do that because it's a gift from God, and he gives it to you with your adoption papers when you come to Jesus and receive him as your only Savior and Lord.
In Galatians chapter 3 Paul tells us that only by faith can we be made sons and daughters of the living God. No amount of good works are ever gonna do this. No amount of righteousness can do that. No amount of good breeding can do that, only by faith. It's frightening how the vast majority in our culture today are okay by saying "God" but never "Jesus," even so-called prayer breakfasts. I don't know why they call them prayer breakfasts. They will say, "Oh, we have Muslims, and we have Buddhists and Hindus, and we want them not to feel uncomfortable. Don't mention Jesus". I said, "You better not invite me to pray," because without Jesus we could never call God our Father. Without Jesus, God can never be that personal God, that intimacy we have with Daddy. Without Jesus, God can never be our Father.
One way of fully understanding what our heavenly Father is like is to understand what Jesus is trying to tell us about his Father. Nobody could reveal the Father better than the Son, right? Nobody can tell you... now people say to me, "Well, how do you know God"? You take a good look at Jesus. That's how you know God. And Jesus is the only one who could truly describe his Father perfectly. Nobody else could, and that is why in Luke chapter 15 he paints the clearest picture of our heavenly Father that you can find anywhere in the Scripture. There are many other things in the Scripture. This is the clearest of them all in Luke chapter 15.
I know this story is so familiar to everybody here, I think even familiar to some people in the media because you hear them talk about the prodigal. Even the nonbelievers know the story of the prodigal, but the picture of God the Father cannot be missed in what Jesus is trying to tell us. In fact, in telling the story Jesus does not begin by the sons. He began with the father because that's what the burden of his heart is for us to get to know his Father as our Father. And so in chapter 15 of Luke, verse 11, he said, "There was a father". Some translations say, "There was a man," but the implication is very clear. There was a father who had two sons.
You see, the father is the central character here. The description of the father is the key. It is the character of the father that is the heart of the story. "There was a father". That's the burden of Jesus. If you've always read the story with the focus on the prodigal, I don't want you to miss what I'm gonna tell you. Jesus wants us to know his Father, and that is why he began by teaching the disciples to pray, "Our Father". Now this is unique in the Christian faith. No other faith ever called God, "Father". We all know the problem of the prodigal, and we all can understand the prodigal. You know why because we were all prodigals.
In fact, very few of us can grasp the indescribable character of the Father, but we understand the prodigal. And Jesus wants us to know that his Father, now our heavenly Father, is a deeply caring Father, that he is a generously compassionate Father, that he is a longsuffering and slow to anger Father, that he is quick to forgive a repentant sinner. Whenever repentance takes place he's quick to forgive, that he always welcomes a repentant sinner, always. In fact, those stupendous qualities cause us to take him for granted. Are you with me? Do you know what I'm talkin' about? We demand our blessings, and we expect his provision. We take all of his kindness for granted as if he owes it to us.
Now that's the kind of entitlement mentality that we take into the Scripture, hello. The son could not return to the father until he came face-to-face with his depravity, until he came face-to-face with his desperate need for salvation, and that's what God waits for. It's the case for all of us who now know God is our Father. Every one of us, every one of us had broken relationship with the Father. Every one of us turned our backs to the Father. Every one of us has demanded our share of the Father's inheritance. Every one of us went off and squandered our blessings in the far country, but only those who came back and said, "Father, forgive me," will they experience the joy and the forgiveness from the hand of the Father.
And that's what the Father in Luke chapter 15, Jesus' Father, did for every one of us and he will do for everyone who will come to him and repent of their sins and receive Jesus as their only Savior and master. Here's something that I hope to God you'll never forget. Don't even miss what I'm going to tell you. When you come to him, he does not scold you. He does not stay aloof from you for a while to make sure that your repentance is for real and you're not just faking it. No, he does not shame us, which he could 'cause he knows the secrets of our hearts.
No, no, no, you notice that in the father in Luke 15 he doesn't do any of this. He would not let us sit out in the gate as would have been the time for that culture until he's humiliated, then bring him into the house. He did not do that. He does not take us to the woodshed and give us a licking before he lets us in, or he waits until we do all the right things and jump through all the right hoops before he accepts us, no. In fact, the way Jesus was describing his Father and this father in Luke 15 absolutely gave the Pharisees who were listening a case of the epilepsy. How can the father do that? That is just so un-cultural. That is not part of what they know.
Listen, there are four things that I want you to take away about the heavenly Father. If you're taking notes write them down, four things that our heavenly Father teaches every one of us who are his children. First, when God becomes your Father, when he is your Father, and that's when you come to Jesus, all fear is gone. How many of that fear? All fear is gone. I'm not afraid of my heavenly Daddy. I revere him. I respect him. I bow to him out of love and out of deep appreciation and thanksgiving, but I'm not afraid of him. I'm not terrified of my Daddy.
Second thing, when God is your Father, he gives us confidence, confidence to know who we are and confidence to know who we are in him. When we come and he becomes our Father, I know my life mission. I know his expectations of me. It is not something that's going to change from day to day. I know that he gives me protection because that's what he promised. I know he watches over me. I know that I have eternal security in him and with him. I know that when my days are over he's going to receive me into heaven and reward me. That's the confidence I have in my heavenly Father.
Thirdly, when God is your Father, there is a constant companionship, constant companionship. My heavenly Father is never too busy for me, never, never, never too busy to hear me when I come to him in the middle of the night, in the day time, it doesn't matter when, and he never lets me down. He never lets me down. When I pledge my whole trust in him, he lives up to that trust.
And the fourth thing I wanna share with you before I leave you is this. When God is your Father and my Father, he meets all of our needs. Did you get that? He meets all of our needs. All of the resources of heaven are available to the faithful believer. When we trust him fully, he never betrays our trust, never. When we need bread he does not give us a stone.
And as I was thinking about this I wanna leave you with a true story that when I read it about 17 years ago it left such an indelible mark in my life and in my relationship with my heavenly Father, and I wanna share it with you. It's a true story, and it took place back in the 1900s. During the 1900s there was a man who was very powerful, really powerful in our country. Some of you might not even know the name, but he, according to some historians, he was more powerful than some of the presidents of the United States. He served as a speaker of the House of Representatives for 17 years, not just any old speaker of the House. There was not a single bill that ever made it to the floor without his personal approval.
Now that's power, and yet in spite of all that power, all of that prestige, he would again and again and again refers to one overwhelming experience that took place at a nondescript train station in East Texas when he was 18 years old. Here's how the story goes. On a very hot day in the year 1900 in the midst of the windswept Texas prairie Sam's father hitched the buggy and drove his 18-year-old son, Sam, to the town. Sam was off to college, first in the family. His father farmed a very small farm. It barely helped him provide livelihood for his family, just providing enough food.
And while Sam and his father stood at this nondescript railway station experiencing that kind of unique emotions that only those of us who have taken kids to college would understand, between them there was something like a pillowcase tied with a rope, and that represented all of Sam's worldly goods, not like today when college students go with a U-Haul truck. Trust me. I've seen it. That was it. That's all he had. But being men of their generation, they were not very verbal in their description, and in their relationship with each other there was none of this, you know, "I love you, Son," or, "I'm gonna miss you, Dad," or none of this.
In fact, the only sound that broke the silence between the father and the son is the sound of the incoming train. And when the train arrived, Sam had already boarded, and his father reached deep, deep, deep into his pocket and pulled out a fist of single dollar bills, and he thrust them in Sam's hand. There were 25 single dollar bills. Sam would later recite, and I'm gonna quote it because I don't wanna miss it, "Only God in heaven knows how my father saved that much money". He said, "We had no extra money for anything. My father earned barely enough to keep the family alive". Then he said, "It completely broke me up, handing me these 25 dollar bills".
And Sam continued, and he said, "I often wondered what did he and Mother do without to save that much money. What did they sacrifice"? And so with tear-filled eyes Sam boarded the train, and right at that moment his father reached out and grabbed his hand, and he only uttered four words, "Sam, be a man". "Sam, be a man". And that one event transformed a life of a powerful man.
Our heavenly Father did for us far more than his own life savings. He gave us his all. He gave us his only begotten Son, and when he reached out to every one of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ on that day, we became his children. God our Father pointed to the blood-stained cross, and he says to each one of us, "I gave my all for you. Don't you ever forget it. You are mine. Live like it. Bob, Sam, Jean, Sue, you are mine. Be my man. Be my woman. Joe, Bill, Liz, Betty, look at the blood-stained cross, and don't be ashamed of me. Don't just pay me homage for a couple of hours on Sunday morning. Be mine". Be God's man. Be God's woman.