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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - A Father's Triangle

Skip Heitzig - A Father's Triangle

Skip Heitzig - A Father's Triangle
TOPICS: Father's Day

I want to say Happy Father's Day to you, all of us dads. It is Father's Day. And everybody knows that Father's Day is a lot like Mother's Day, only you don't spend as much. And that's OK, we can concede that. Because we know that moms are special, and we dads love that fact. When I was a kid growing up, my dad, we didn't always get along. We had some tough moments. And there was even a time, I didn't think he was all that bright, I didn't think he was all that smart. I kind of outsmarted him. I think all boys go through that.

But Mark Twain said, that when he was a boy of 14 years of age, he said, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand being in the same room with the old man. Then he said, then I turned 21. And I was astonished at how much that old man had learned in seven years. And it's a funny thing, the older we grow, we start understanding and learning to appreciate the wisdom that our fathers were trying to give us.

Today is Father's Day, and I also understand that for some people that's not a good day. They hear the words Father's Day, and because of the bad upbringing they may have had, or tense relationship with their dad, they cringe. On one hand, that's understandable. If you had an abusive father, or if your dad was an alcoholic, if he was a very harsh father, if he made you feel like you never measured up, Father's Day can be difficult. You don't have fond memories. I spoke with one girl who had been sexually abused by her father for years. And she said, Father's Day is the worst day of the year.

Now, I want the opportunity to speak to parents, in general, but to fathers, in particular. And I want to speak to you out of Proverbs 3, two verses, then we're going to read a few more. Two verses pop out. Proverbs 3, verse 11 and 12. "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father, the son in whom he delights."

Now, Solomon wrote these words. He wrote the book of Proverbs. And Solomon also wrote one of the Psalms. Not all of them are ascribed to David, one is ascribed to Solomon, the son of David. That's Psalm 127 in which Solomon says, "Behold children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward." One translation says, "Children are God's best gifts." I like that translation.

Dads, you borrow your kids. You don't own them. They belong to God. They're not yours to keep, they're yours to rear. And those children you have are not put here to bring you fulfillment, you are here to help them fulfill the plan of God in their lives. Now, there are two verses that we're going to look at. In these two verses, there are three ingredients to balanced fatherhood, balanced fatherhood. And I'm calling this message "A Father's Triangle." You'll notice at the bottom of your outline in your bulletin, you have a little graphic of this. And we're going to put it up here on the screen. This is "A Father's Triangle." These are the principles that emerge from the text.

Now, I've done it in a triangle because a triangle is a basic shape. And one of the things fathers do is bring shape to a child's life. But notice the three parts. The foundation, the bottom part, is a father's instruction. Instruction is what informs a child. It's what equips the child for life, by the principles laid down. Second, there is the correction. That is needed. You have to add correction to instruction, because it is the correction that will adjust the attitude, adjust the choices that are being made, and add strength. And then, finally, affection. You need to add that dose of love, which brings assurance and stabilization to a child's life.

So I look at it this way. Since kids are the only earthly possession we can take with us to Heaven, it behooves us to do it right. There were two children. One boy was told, you remind me of your dad. When the boy heard that, he stuck out his tongue in disgust. Another boy was told, you remind me of your dad too. But he thrust out his chest in delight. Dads, we are the ones that will determine which of those two reactions will be experienced by our children.

So let's look at this text, let's drill down a little bit deeper. And let's begin with, "A father's instruction." Notice that verse 11 begins with a two words, "My son." That's because Solomon, as a father, is pouring out instruction to his son. If you don't mind, go back to verse 1 of chapter 3. He says, again, "My son. Do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands." That's his instruction. "For length of days and long life in peace, they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man."

And then, go down to chapter 4, verse 1, "Hear my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding. My son, pay attention to my wisdom", Chapter 5, verse 1, "My son, pay attention to my wisdom. Lend your ear to my understanding." And so goes the entire book. That is because, the book of Proverbs is essentially that. It is an instruction manual given by a father to train his children. Aren't you glad, dads, that God has given us a whole book in the Bible filled with wisdom on raising children? That is what the book of Proverbs is. It's instructions for life.

That is why 47 times in the book of Proverbs, the word son or sons appear. Another 16 times, the word child or children appears. You see, Proverbs is not a book of philosophy or a book for philosophers to ponder, it's a book for parents to practice. Such good practical wisdom is given in this book.

It's interesting that it's an Old Testament book. And even though it's an Old Testament book, New Testament Christians love this book. It's one of the most read books by Christian believers in the world. Inf fact, if you go to a Bible bookstore, you can buy a Bible. But sometimes you can get a New Testament with Psalms and the Proverbs. Because some of us have made it a practice to read one proverb every day. There are 31 Proverbs, there's 30 days in a month, sometimes 31. You could do one proverb a day for one month, and go through the whole book of Proverbs 12 times a year to get the wisdom that is in this book.

It was written, as I mentioned, by Solomon. Solomon was quite a guy, on a number of levels. And one thing we know is that he was a man of wisdom. The Bible tells us God gave Solomon more wisdom than any of the other leaders in the Middle East. He had more wisdom and understanding, the scripture says, than all of the sand on the seashore. And what did he do with all that wisdom? Well, he wrote books. He wrote, the Bible tells us, 3,000 Proverbs. 3,000 Proverbs. And 1,005 songs. Wouldn't you love to hear a tune written by Solomon?

One of his songs, we don't have any of them, we only have one. And it must have been his best song, because it's called the Song of Songs. It's like the magnum opus. The Song of Solomon is the only surviving song, but the book of Proverbs is also full of his writings. So it's the instruction of a father, especially to his sons. Now, if you know this book at all, you might have this question, if this is a book of instruction by a dad to his son, why is it written in such flowery language? I mean, what dad talks like this? Hearken you my son. Who does that?

It is written in Hebrew poetry. It's written in beautiful form. Here's why. To make it memorable, that's why. Truth has no value, unless you can remember it. And one of the great truths is about the truth that is found in Proverbs. It is put in such a concise manner in a proverb form, like a little maxim, that you can commit it to memory, store in your brain, and at the right time, call it to memory. Like a truth bomb, B-O-M-B. It explodes at just the right moment, and brings that thought.

So look at a Proverb as a short saying that takes the place of a long sermon. You're thinking, I know, you're thinking, Skip, you could learn from that. Perhaps. But we're doing a sermon on these sayings. This then is a father's instruction, an instruction manual given to the sons or the children of Solomon. Now that is a principle that isn't just in the Old Testament, but we find it in the New Testament.

You know that section in the book of Ephesians where it's all about family roles? You know, chapter 4 and 5, 5 and 6? It says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her." Followed by, "Wife, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord." Followed by, "Children, obey your parents." Followed by this, "Listen carefully, fathers. Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord."

Isn't that curious? Why doesn't Paul write mothers and fathers? Or, parents? No, he writes, "Fathers, bring them up." That doesn't mean sit back and watch them grow. It means move them toward maturity. That's what the word bring them up means. Move them on toward maturity, nourish them.

How? Well, we're given two ways by Paul, in the training and the admonition of the Lord. Training is instruction. Admonition, that's sort of like intense instruction. It's like in your face instruction. That's an admonishment. And sometimes dads need to do that. "Bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord."

I made an interesting discovery linguistically this week. I'd never really noticed it before. And that is, in Hebrew, the word for parents is horim. Horim is the Hebrew word to say parents. Ask any kid in Israel. They'll say, those are my horim, my parents. The word for teacher in Hebrew is "moh-REH." What's fascinating is that horim, the word for parents, and "moh-REH," the word for teacher, have the same exact root word. At the root, it means the same thing. Why is that? It's simple. A parent is the first teacher in a child's life. And here, it says, "Fathers, bring them up."

Now, in Hebrew homes in antiquity, the education of children was primarily done in the first three years by the mother. It's not hard to figure out why. She nurtures the child, she breastfeeds the child, and that child for three years is weaned. At age three, after three years, the child is said to be weaned. After the third year, the father now steps in and takes a role of instruction. If it's a son, it is the father's job to teach his son a trade so we can work with his hands, as well as teaching that son the laws of God, the Torah, to love the scripture, to memorize the scripture, to apply the scripture to one's life. That's the dad's duty.

If it's a daughter, the mother will train that daughter in domestic duties, and so forth. But listen to these words, Moses speaks to the children of Israel and in addressing them in chapter 6, he's speaking now to the men of the congregation, the dads of the nation. And he says this, "The words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."

In other words, the training of children should be just a natural, normal part of everyday life. You get up in the morning, have breakfast you do what you do around the house, you include in that training, instruction. I remember reading that as a young dad trying to figure out, how am I going to do this? And so, every morning, I had my devotional time. And my son, Nate, would come down the stairs and he would see me with my Bible open and a cup of coffee. And so, he got the idea, that's what you do as a grown-up believer. You open that book.

But I wasn't connecting with him on his level. So I told you this before, I developed a little system that I called say, play, and pray. First of all, we say it. That is, we read a story in the Bible. And after saying it, we play it. We dress up in full costume, whatever it takes, towel on the head, be like a shepherd. A long dress, which you can, to have a robe. Whatever it takes. You dress up like the character and you play act it.

And then, after you say it, and after you play it, then we would get together and find the principle, the main principle in that story. And we would pray that into our lives. So say, play, and pray. My son loved when I came home. He'd say, let's do say, play, and pray. Well, now I have grandkids and I'm trying to work that into their schedule. And Seth said to me the other day, hey, pop-pop, let's do that dress up thing. That's all he knows it as just now, but I love that thought that he looks forward to it.

So fathers bring them up, this is a father's instruction. Question, what are fathers supposed to bring their children up to be or to do? Which is a good question to ask yourself, in terms of what your goals are for your children. You want them just to go to college. Is that your goal? Or, find the right person? Or, have a good career?

You know, my dad had goals for us. He had four boys. I'm the baby of those boys. And he said that he wants his sons to do three things. He wants us to go to college, learn how to be public speakers, and learn how to play golf. Those was his three values in life, and he instilled those values into us. And to this day, I can hit a golf ball. I mean, I used to play golf OK, but now I hit the golf ball. But you better stand behind me, because I don't exactly know where it's going to go. But those were his values.

But Paul tells us no you bring them up in the fear and the admonition of the Lord. There is always to be a spiritual emphasis. Simply put, lead your kids to Christ, disciple your kids to follow Christ, show them what it means to be a Christian man or woman. I've often quoted Charles Spurgeon's little Proverb. He said, "Before a child reaches seven, tell him all the way to Heaven. And better still, the work will thrive, if he learns before he's five."

Dads, tell your kids the gospel. Share the gospel with your children. They're not too young. Show them what it is to live a life pleasing to God in a world that doesn't want them to live a life pleasing to God.

Listen to this sad confession of a father after raising his children. He said, I took my children to school, but not to church. I taught them to drink, but not the living water. I enrolled them in Little League, but not in Sunday school. I showed them how to fish, but not to be fishers of men. I made the Lord's day a holiday, rather than a holy day.

You see, a father is simply a partner with God in making disciples of his children. Think of that. God wants your children to follow Him, to believe in Him, to love Him, to serve Him. And so, He has put you in their life to show them how you're a partner with God in making disciples of your children. And the first and foundational part, the bottom of that triangle, is instruction that informs and that equips.

There is a second ingredient. It's the side of the triangle, and that is a father's correction. Correction is what adjusts behavior thought patterns and strengthens the life. In fact, that is really the thrust of the entire passage. "My son", verse 11, "Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction. For whom the Lord loves, He corrects just as the Father, the son, in whom He delights."

The point Solomon is making is that correction is what C.S. Lewis referred to as a severe mercy. It is proof that a father loves his child, not hates his child. It's that correction that is part of the proof, the demonstration, that he really cares. In fact, C.S. Lewis spoke about correction, and he gave a great illustration. He said, an artist does not take much time in drawing a picture that he would use to just amuse a child. He'd just throw something together, and here. And a child will like it. But that same artist will spend endless effort, painstaking energy, and time over a great work of art that he loves and he wants to display.

So C.S. Lewis' conclusion was this, when we complain about suffering, and we're saying, God, take this suffering away. We're actually asking God not to love us more, but to love us less. Because God is working a deep and great work, and it's painstaking, and it's troublesome, and it's hard, but whom the Lord loves, He corrects. So love your kids enough to discipline them, to change, to correct their thinking and their behavior.

I know. I know what happens if you step in to discipline, your child will say, you don't love me. They see that correction or that spank as a proof. And I've even had parents say, well, my child says, I don't love them. Well, how old is he? Five. OK, he's five. And that means a lot to you at this point. I said, what your child thinks of you at five is not nearly as important as what he thinks or she thinks when he's 25. And he has had all of the years of that structure poured into that child, and watch what he can become. So it's a proof of love. You go to a doctor with a broken arm or leg, the doctor will correct and set that limb. You go to an optometrist for glasses, he or she will give you what is called corrective lenses so that you can see better.

A set of parents sent their son to college and they paid the bill. It was not easy for these two parents. They were barely getting by, and to write a check to a college took a lot of sacrifice. But they wrote a check, sent it in one month, only to get an email back from their son at college. It was addressed, the email, to the mother. And the son said, "Dear Mom, I'm writing to inform you that I flunked all my courses. I had an accident and totally wrecked my car. And I owe the clothing store in this town $2,000. I have also been suspended for the next semester because of misconduct. I'm coming home. Prepare Dad."

Interesting, he wrote the email to, not the dad, but to the mom, saying, Mom, prepare Dad. Well, she wrote back an email that said, "Dear Son, Dad is prepared. Prepare yourself." Can I just say that God is always prepared to deal with the errant behavior of His children. For whom the Lord loves, He corrects. So dads, get prepared. Be ready for anything that is dished out. Meet it with good, kind, but fair discipline.

Proverbs 13, verse 24 tells us plainly, "He who spares the rod hates his son. But he who loves him, disciplines him promptly." Proverbs 19, verse 18, "Chasten your son", I love how it's written, "Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not be a willing party to his death." Now, these Proverbs are not teaching brutality. They're not teaching just whack your kid whenever you don't feel good. But these Proverbs are teaching loving correction to adjust the faults while there's time. Listen, you do not show love by overlooking disobedience and neglecting to discipline.

I was reading an article once. Tom Landry, the great football coach, was talking about what it's like to be a coach and what it's like to win game, after game, after game. And Landry said, "The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don't want to do in order to achieve what they've always wanted to be." I read that and I said, that's the job of a dad. That's the job of a dad. It's the correction that you add to a child's life that gets them to the place where they can achieve what they've always wanted to be. Or better yet, what God wants them to be.

Now, some people don't believe in discipline. It's not popular anymore to do so. Discipline, especially corporal discipline, spanking, is regarded as primitive and brutal. Let me state for the record, I believe that the lack of this kind of discipline can emotionally cripple a child for life. Two sociologists from Harvard University studied this at length and wrote a little quip on factors that prevent juvenile delinquency. They gave several factors. I'm going to give you the top two. The top two factors that prevent juvenile delinquency, number one, a father's firm, fair, and consistent discipline. Notice the words firm, fair, consistent discipline. And number two, the mother's supervision and companionship during the day.

Now, I realize that this is a sensitive subject. And I'm speaking now as a grandparent. It's very sensitive for a grandparent. And I've sort of rethought the whole thing, just because I'm a grandparent. When Nate was a little boy and I was in father mode, I was all about firm, fair, and consistent discipline. But when I was around my parents, I remember getting up to discipline my son, and my mom saying, oh. Do you have to? I mean, he's perfect. And I'm looking at her like, what happened to you? You, mom and dad, who were so strict with me. What happened to you?

But then, it happened to me. As a grandparent, when my son or daughter-in-law to discipline little Seth and Katie, it's like wait a minute. Really, this is not necessary. They did not mean much by that. So it's a sensitive topic. So let me say that there's two types of discipline. There is corrective discipline and there is preventative discipline. There's corrective discipline, that's physical discipline, that's corporal punishment. But then there is preventative discipline. I am aware, and I have read, and I have heard all of the anti-spanking experts saying that spanking is counterproductive and has antisocial effects. And this literature is very popular.

But I found something interesting in US News and World Report that say such experts base all of their findings on a body of research that is, at best, inconclusive, and, at worst, badly flawed. The article went on to say, "Recent studies indicates spanking will make children less likely to fight with others, and more likely to obey their parents."

Let me add to that. This kind of discipline must be done in a timely manner. Notice it says, do it while there's hope, the Bible says. You don't wait till they're 17, and decide, I'm going to start spanking my kids. You'll have a fight on your hands. You don't begin at 15, or 12. You begin in the formative years while they're impressionable.

And then, something else, and I think it's from the scripture, at least it is my firm opinion. I think discipline requires tools. That is, I never used my hands. I believe my hands were reserved for affirmation and an embrace. And so, the Bible speaks about a rod. You're going, what? It says in Proverbs 13, "He who spares the rod hates his son."

Oftentimes, that word is mentioned in the book of Proverbs. The Hebrew word for rod isn't like a steel rod or a police stick. It's the word shabat, which means a branch, or an offshoot. Something that is flexible, but separate from the body. So the Bible doesn't speak about your hands, or your fist, or a head butt, or a kick, but a rod. I like to save my hands for something other than discipline.

Now, that's corrective discipline, but then there is preventative discipline. And any good doctor knows you need both in medicine. You need corrective medicine sometimes, but there's preventative measures you can take so that corrective measures are not necessary as much. And both are used together. So what is preventative discipline? Playing with a child, praying with a child, and undivided attention, undivided attention. This is key.

When a little child, you've had this happen, says to you, hey, come here. Look at this. Now, when they do that, they're inviting you into their world, and they're saying, I want you to be a part of what I'm doing. I want your attention. So you walk into their room, and you bend down, and they have a ball. And they go, watch this. And they roll it to you. They go weee! They think it's the coolest thing. And so, you roll it back, and you go, weee!

You are giving them a gift of undivided attention. You are telling them this, you are the most important thing in my world right now. Now if the phone rings and you pick it up while you're playing with your child, and you start talking, and start engaging, but you're still rolling the ball, because, after all, you can multitask, you're giving them a message. You're not the most important thing right now to me. Other things are more or equally important. But when you give them undivided attention, that is a great gift and that is preventative discipline.

One report I found, a few of them put together, 53% of teenagers report spending less than 30 minutes a day with their fathers. 1,000 teenagers were interviewed, 25% of them did not discuss their daily activities with their parents, 42% received no words of praise from their parents in a 24-hour period, 50% received no hug, no kiss. And 54% did not hear the words I love you from a parent in that 24-hour period. All of those things would have been preventative discipline. Correction.

So both are needed. A father's instruction, it informs and equips. A father's correction, it adjusts and strengthens. There's a third ingredient, and that is affection. A father's affection. That completes the triangle. Affection assures a child. It brings stability, it settles a child down. That child is aware the love will always be there. Notice a word in verse 12, "For whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a Father, the son, in whom he..." what? "Delights." It's a good word. All of the translations I compared, all of them, translated the same word delights.

The Hebrew word, ratson, means to enjoy, to approve, or to favor. But most translations like the word delight. And I like the word. So instruction informs, correction adjusts, affection stabilizes. A father's love is central to the emotional well-being of a child. You say, did you say father's love? You meant mother's love, right? No, I said a father's love. A father's love is central to the emotional stability and well-being of a child.

In an analysis of over 100 studies on parent-child relationships, it was found that having a loving, nurturing father was as important for a child's happiness, well-being, and social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother. In fact, some studies indicated a stronger contributor to the outcome of a child's well-being. I have a question. Why is so much laid on dads in the Bible? And it is, by the way. It's all over the Bible.

Why does so much get put on dads for instruction, for correction, for affection? Let me answer that three ways. Number one, a child's view of God is formed by their father. Again, a child's view of God is formed by their father. That child, if that child becomes a believer in Jesus Christ, is going to learn the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father, who art in Heaven."

They'll read the words of Jesus, "Your Heavenly Father feeds them. He will take care of you." All that language, it speaks about the father, the father, the father. The only father the child has known is his or her earthly Father, for good or bad, whether absent or present. So when they hear the word father as pushed on now to God, the flood of memories of their earthly father preoccupy their minds. It may have to be corrected and adjusted. Mine was. I discovered there is only one perfect parent, and that's God. But a child's view of God is formed by his or her earthly father.

There's a second reason. Your daughter's going to grow up and marry a man one day. She needs to know what to look for. Dads, you provide the model. And it's interesting that girls will often choose, even subconsciously, Mates are very similar to their earthly fathers. Again, that can be a good thing or a bad thing.

There's a third reason. Your son is going to grow up and marry a woman. He needs to know what kind of a man he's supposed to be. He needs to know what a real man looks like, and you are setting that standard. This is from, of all places, the Huffington Post. Again, sometimes I get surprised by articles in the Huffington Post, but it was a whole article on children and parents, and love of parents. But there's one sentence that sort of summed it all up. It said, "Boys look for their fathers approval in everything they do, while girls will look for men from the patterns set by their father."

So I look at it this way, dads. It's easier to prepare a boy than it is to repair a man. It's much easier to prepare a girl than to repair a woman. And we've all met people with broken lives, broken in many cases, from their upbringing. 100 years from now, it won't matter what cool car you were driving. 100 years from now, it won't matter how much you had in the bank, or what cool clothes you were wearing. But 100 years from now, it could make a huge difference. The world could be a better place because the children under your care, dads, received instruction, correction, and delight affection that brought shape to their lives. A triangle of strength that bettered this world for the glory of God. Let's pray:

Father, thank You for the simplicity of the principles of Your word. They just emerge. They're just there to be picked, and noticed, and pondered, and applied. All right, I think of Solomon. He wrote about it, but he was not a perfect person. He failed in many ways. But under the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, he provided clear instruction that we can learn wisdom from. And Lord, I just want to come before You with my fellow brothers in this fellowship who are dads. We come as imperfect men speaking to You, our perfect Heavenly Father. First of all, Lord, forgive us for the times we have failed, and they have been many. But then, thank You Lord for the grace of the gospel that picks us back up, instructs us, and just like what we read about here, You are like that. You instruct us. You adjust our behavior by correcting us, as a proof of Your love. And You delight in us. And we just thank You for that kind of stabilizing love that is the love of the cross of Jesus Christ. I pray, Father, You would bless dads in this day and this week. Thank You for their hard work, their commitment. And thank You, Lord, for their willingness to be instructed over these issues, and to go out by your strength and grace, and be all that You want them to be. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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