Developing Christian Joy
Erma Bombeck shares the following story about the creation of Fathers.
When the good Lord was creating Fathers he started with a tall frame. And a female angel nearby said, “What kind of Father is that? If you’re going to make children so close to the ground, why have you put Fathers up so high? He won’t be able to shoot marbles without kneeling, tuck a child in bed without bending, or even kiss a child without a lot of stooping.” And God smiled and said, “Yes, but if I make him child-size, who would children have to look up to?”
And when God made a Father’s hands, they were large and sinewy. And the angel shook her head sadly and said, “Do you know what you’re doing? Large hands are clumsy. They can’t manage diaper pins, small buttons, rubber bands on pony tails or even remove splinters caused by baseball bats.” And God smiled and said, “I know, but they’re large enough to hold everything a small boy empties from his pockets at the end of a day…yet small enough to cup a child’s face in his hands.”
And then God molded long, slim legs and broad shoulders. And the angel nearly had a heart attack. “Boy, this is the end of the week, all right,” she clucked. “Do you realize you just made a Father without a lap? How is he going to pull a child close to him without the kid falling between his legs?” And God smiled and said, “A mother needs a lap. A father needs strong shoulders to pull a sled, balance a boy on a bicycle, and hold a sleepy head on the way home from the circus.”
God was in the middle of creating two of the largest feet anyone had every seen when the angel could contain herself no longer. “That’s not fair. Do you honestly think those large boats are going to dig out of bed early in the morning when the baby cries? Or walk through a small birthday party without crushing at least three of the guests?” And God smiled and said, “They’ll work. You’ll see. They’ll support a small child who wants to ride a horse to Banbury Cross, or scare off mice at the summer cabin, or display shoes that will be a challenge to fill.”
God worked throughout the night, giving the Father few words, but a firm authoritative voice; eyes that saw everything, but remained calm and tolerant. Finally, almost as an afterthought, he added tears. Then he turned to the angel and said, “Now, are you satisfied that he can love as much as a Mother?”
The angel shuteth up.1
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” (Galatians 5:22–23, CSB)
As we celebrate Father’s Day, we are reminded today of the joys of fatherhood. The joys of fatherhood are rooted in the very character and nature of God.
The Bible shows us that God is a Father.
God had a biological Son.
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, CSB)
The phrase for one and only Son is literally “begotten.” This means that the Son came from the essence of the Father. It wasn’t just that God had only one Son. It was also the fact that it was His Son.
“For to which of the angels did he ever say, You are my Son; today I have become your Father, or again, I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?” (Hebrews 1:5, CSB)
This is supported by other Bible verses that describe the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. The angels are not the children of God. The angels are servants of God. In contrast, Jesus is God’s Son. God is Jesus’ Father.
God has adopted children.
“He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5, CSB)
“to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:5, CSB)
In two places, Paul describes the plan of God that people who follow Jesus will become children through adoption. When you and I have a relationship with Jesus, we are now brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are adopted into God’s family.
God’s role as Father gives fathers an example to follow.
The way that God related to His Son shows us how we as fathers can relate to our children. The fact that God has adopted Christians into His family gives us an additional reason to follow God’s example. This relationship between God the Father to Jesus and to His adopted children, also shows us how we as children of Earthly fathers should relate to our Heavenly Father. The example of God as Father shows that it is based upon joy.
I learn Christian joy when I learn to see how God enjoys being my Heavenly Father. I learn to experience joy when I learn from God how to experience joy.
We see this joy in the very first chapter of the Bible, in creation.
“So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:27–28, CSB)
Pronouncing a blessing on humanity was the first indication that God enjoyed creating us.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31, CSB)
Everything God made was good. However, one indication of the joy that God had in creating us was the fact that we are called very good. So early in Genesis, we detect the joy of God in creation. The story sets the pattern about the way that God thinks about His children.
Jesus never mentioned Joseph by name. However, Jesus always made the distinction when He spoke with others that He (and we as well) have a Heavenly Father.)
So when we look at God as our Father, I want to focus on today about how we can learn to be better Christians by watching what God did and how God teaches us to imitate Him. There is joy in being a father. God illustrated that joy. God wants me to enjoy Him and God also wants me to share that joy that I receive from Him towards my wife and children. For those of you who are not fathers, you may have a different experience. I want you to see in this message the power that God can have in being a Father to you. Let’s explore five ways that God enjoys being my Heavenly Father, and in turn, how fathers can learn to enjoy being a father to their own children.
5 WAYS THAT GOD ENJOYS BEING MY HEAVENLY FATHER
1. God enjoys modeling how to be a father.
God decided to identify Himself as a Father. He illustrated to everyone who believed in Him that He exists as a Father.
“They will come weeping, but I will bring them back with consolation. I will lead them to wadis filled with water, by a smooth way where they will not stumble, for I am Israel’s Father, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:9, CSB)
God identifies Himself as Israel’s Father, as the father of an entire nation of people. God doesn’t identify as their king. He doesn’t identify as their ruler. He doesn’t identify as their CEO. God identifies with His people as their father. But notice the context. The reason is because God is a father to those who are sad. God is a father to those who have struggled.
“God in his holy dwelling is a father of the fatherless and a champion of widows.” (Psalm 68:5, CSB)
God is a father to those who do not have a father. He champions the cause of children and those who are alone.
A father watched through the kitchen window as his small son attempted to lift a large stone out of his sandbox. The boy couldn’t get enough leverage to lift the rock over the side. Finally, he gave up and sat on the edge of the sandbox with his head in his hands.
“What’s wrong, Son? Can’t you lift that rock out?” the dad asked.
“No, sir,” the boy said, “I can’t do it.”
“Have you used all the strength that’s available to you?” the father asked.
“Yes, sir,” the boy replied.
“No, you haven’t,” the father said. “You haven’t asked me to help you.”2
Fathers by definition have strength. Yet, they share that strength with their children. Just as God led the Israelites by His strength, God also leads us today by His strength. What is the basis of that strength? The joy of the Lord:
“…Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10, CSB)
The basis of the strength of God as Father in my life is joy.
2. God enjoys spending time with me as His child.“At that time he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was your good pleasure.” (Luke 10:21, CSB)
God enjoys spending time and sharing secrets with His children. You know a father enjoys spending time with their children, sharing experiences, and enjoying that time with them.
Ben Patterson shares in his book Deepening Your Conversation with God, the following story and example:
When my children got old enough to wrestle with me, we played a game we called “Jabba the Butt.” The name came from a disgusting, evil character in the Star Wars trilogy called Jabba the Hutt.
I would play Jabba and roar around the room as the kids would shoot their laser guns at me and try to wrestle me to the floor. Sometimes I would get too much into the role. The kids would feel my great strength and hear my booming voice, and Daddy would become Jabba. Then I had to stop the game and hold them tenderly, reminding them I was Daddy.
The juxtaposition of overwhelming strength and tender love is as hard for a child to grasp as it is for an adult. But addressing God as Father can be electrifying if we can think of him as infinite love and tenderness combined with infinite holiness and power.3
3. God enjoys watching me grow.
You know as a father, I enjoy watching my children grow. It is amazing to see them develop their own unique personalities. Watching four girls go from little children to now teenagers and soon young adults has been a real joy.
It happens quickly. God wants to see His children grow.
“that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which was entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:11, CSB)
Here, Paul reminds us that God’s children by adoption, in Christ, conform to Christ because of the glory of the happy God. To put it another way, God enjoys watching me become more like Christ.
A son who grows in wisdom brings joy to a father. Proverbs tells us this.
“Solomon’s proverbs: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son, heartache to his mother.” (Proverbs 10:1, CSB)
Just as a father enjoys watching his son grow and become wise, God enjoys me as I conform to the Gospel. What does conforming to the Gospel mean? I grow to become like Jesus Christ. This is a lesson that God teaches fathers. We should enjoy watching our children grow to become like Jesus Christ. The problem with many children is that the growth is very slow or non-existent.
What do you do as a father? You do two things. First, you model that growth for your children, even if they are grown. Because remember, as a father, you are always teaching your children. Even if you are seventy years old, you are still teaching your grown children, and your grandchildren, and even your great grandchildren. As you grow, you teach. Second, you pray. You pray that God touches your adult children in such a way that they will desire to grow.
4. God enjoys teaching me good lessons that I need to learn.
““Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:7–11, CSB)
Here, Jesus compares the asking of God to a son who asks his father. He says that just as a son will ask for something good and the father will give what he wants, God will do the same in our lives.
A child would not ask if they did not think they would get something good from their father.
Fathers know how to give good gifts to their children. Where do they learn this trait? From God Himself. As Father, God teaches us how to give. He teaches us how to give good things to those we love.
Prayer is an expression of building self-esteem and character. Just as a father teaches children to ask so that a father can provide for them, God teaches me when I ask. He teaches me never to give up. In this section on prayer, Jesus is saying that I should “keep” asking, and “keep” knocking, and “keep” seeking. The lesson is about perseverance in getting know God and seeing how He provides. God doesn’t just want me to ask one time and give up. If really want something, I need to keep after it.
I don’t just expect my kids to get just by asking once. Instead, I expect them to be persistent. I provide when my kids continue to ask for help. I’m not being cruel. If they keep asking for something they really want, I won’t give them something they will hate. Instead, I give what they want to them because of their persistence.
Jesus used this illustration to show that even evil fathers give to their children and God is a much better Giver. However, I can also learn from this that God wants me to keep coming to Him because He wants to share with me good things. He wants me to learn good lessons from Him. In turn, I teach these good lessons with my children.
5. God enjoys seeing me succeed.
God is modeling how to be a Father. God is spending time with His children. God enjoys watching His children grow. God teaches His children to be persistent in asking. God also enjoys seeing that His children succeed.
These are lessons that God teaches His children. God said that He wanted His children to succeed. God takes joy in the prosperity of His children.
“The Lord your God will make you prosper abundantly in all the work of your hands, your offspring, the offspring of your livestock, and the produce of your land. Indeed, the Lord will again delight in your prosperity, as he delighted in that of your fathers,” (Deuteronomy 30:9, CSB)
God takes joy and delights in His children. God does good for them.
“I will take delight in them to do what is good for them, and with all my heart and mind I will faithfully plant them in this land.” (Jeremiah 32:41, CSB)
The reason that God says that He will do what is good for them is because He wants His children to succeed. If God faithfully plants His people in a place, then He wants them to succeed. Just as God wants His children to succeed, I should want my children to succeed. That is the goal of any parent is to see their children succeed in life, as God designed it for them.
“Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, CSB)
This is a proverb that as parents we all want to see fulfilled in the lives of our children.
As God leads us as fathers, let us today decide to:
Model how to be a father. Spend time with our children. Enjoy watching our children grow. Teach our children to be persistent in asking. Enjoy seeing that my children succeed. Happy Father’s Day!
1 Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002). From Erma Bombeck, in Christian Child Rearing, P. Meier, Baker, 1977, p. 29ff.
2 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 298. From: Bob Russell, Louisville, Kentucky
3 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 301. Originally from: Ben Patterson, Deepening Your Conversation with God (Bethany, 1999).