In 1 Thessalonians 2:11, Paul explains how new believers progress toward maturity. In doing so, he addresses three favors every father can do for his children.
“As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children.” (Italics mine).
One has to be careful not to make too sharp a distinction between the three words Paul uses: “exhorted”, “comforted”, and “charged.” They overlap each other in meaning. At the same time, when we dig into each one, we can see why Paul chooses to use fathers as the perfect analogy to bring his point home.
Fathers are to exhort toward godly living
Exhort has the idea of laying before a person a course of conduct and urging them to pursue it. Paul did that for the new converts by leading them down a path where they would abstain from sexual immorality that was so prominent in the Thessalonian community and urging them to mind their own business and work with their own hands (1 Thessalonians 4).
A father does that for his children when he lays before them the instruction from God’s Word on how to live a life that is pleasing to God. He explains to them not only the need for such a life, but shares in practical terms what that kind of life looks like. The course of conduct he lays before them helps them understand what to take out of their lives that should not be there and what to put into their lives that should be there.
Fathers are to comfort in times of trial
Comforted conveys the idea to “cheer up: and “encourage”. When the new converts suffered persecution and were tempted to give up on their faith, that kind of comfort from Paul meant everything. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)
Children growing up in today’s world do not find it easy to live for Christ. Children today face struggles and temptations often greater than their fathers ever faced. A father’s greatest ministry to his own children can be to let them know he is on their team. Even when they go off to college and are tempted to give up on their faith, a father as their biggest “cheerleader” can make all the difference.
Fathers are to charge by living as an example to follow
Charged conveys an earnestness, an urgency, behind both of the above. Paul spoke with such passion to new converts when as he laid before them the path they needed to go, and cheering them on, they saw his own excitement, and passion to see them “walk worthy of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12)
How excited are you about what you are sharing with your children and what you see for them if they pursue the path you have laid before them? Do they see through your own passion and enthusiasm that living for Christ cannot be an option; it has to be a necessity? I have personally stepped into the homes of children whose father taught and cheered with that kind of excitement and urgency about him. I can honestly tell you that the way he shared it meant as much to steer them in the right direction as what he shared. His passion backed by his own instruction and example left them with no other alternative.
To wrap this up, here are three helpful questions to ask yourself this Father’s Day:
- Have I laid before my children the course they ought to follow to live a life honoring to God?
- Do they see me as their biggest cheerleader 24/7?
- Is there contagious passion behind what I share and teach?
Feel like you failed or perhaps need help in one of the above areas? Take heart! God is a God of grace. He saves us on the basis of what His Son did on the cross, not on the basis of our own merit or goodness. Eternal life is a free gift that comes through trusting Christ alone to save us. Jesus so plainly said in John 6:47,
”Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”
Once you have trusted Christ that same God of grace is there to help you be the best dad you can be. He tells us,
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
What would mean more to you than to one day hear your child say, “What a dad! He sure knew how to teach me, cheer me on, and excite me.”? Do your children these three favors. They might never be the same – and neither will you!
Copyright © 2021 R. Larry Moyer, used by permission.