Number 1 – Good Dads Know the Power of Affirmation
Several years ago, I was preparing to speak about fatherhood at a men’s prayer breakfast and I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I needed a fresh word from God. So, I started thumbing through my Bible and came across Matthew 3:13-17 through 4:1. Check out what it said below:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Having been a Christian for a long time and I had read this passage many times, but now it struck me anew. As I considered what was happening here, God gave me this notion of “affirmation before temptation.” You see, here was Jesus – fully God and fully man – but God the Father knew that in Jesus’s humanity, it was important that he received his Father’s affirmation.
The timing of this affirmation was significant. First, Jesus was about to set out into the world on the mission for which he came to earth. The words of the affirmation confirmed Jesus’ identity, purpose, and destiny. Second, Jesus was about to enter a time of tremendous temptation. Matthew 4:2-11 tells the story of how Satan tried to tempt Jesus in three ways: “lust of the flesh” or the desire to enjoy, “lust of the eye” or the desire to obtain, “the pride of life” or the desire to accomplish. And, as we know, Jesus faced all of these temptations and did not sin.
Note this: everything that Satan tried to use as temptations were imitations of the real thing and were things that Jesus already possessed and were under his dominion. He had true “enjoyment” through his relationship with God the Father. He had “obtained” all that there was through his relationship with God the Father. He was sure to “accomplish” the most important task of all creation when He died on the cross and took the sins of all humanity onto his shoulders. You see, Jesus had a divine clarity when he faced Satan’s temptation. The Father had affirmed him, so he knew who he was and whose he was. Once you know the real thing, no imitation will do.
So, in this passage about baptism and temptation, God the Father has modeled one of the key actions that every earthly father should emulate. That is, he must affirm his children. Why? Because one thing that we know for sure is the tempter will come—in one form or another. You may recall that I believe a child has a “hole in his soul” in the shape of his or her dad. Well, this is the exact place where a father’s affirmation is supposed to go. If a father is unable or unwilling to affirm his child and fill this void, Satan is sure to try and fill it with imitations of God’s goodness, just like he tried to do with Jesus.
Now, consider for a moment how a father’s failure to affirm his children manifests itself in our world. Our news headlines are filled with stories about adults and children who have caused tremendous harm to themselves and others because they never heard their fathers say, “This is my son (or this is my daughter), whom I love; I am well pleased.” No doubt, every pimp, drug dealer, gang leader, and those who would encourage our kids to sell their bodies and forfeit their souls know how to tap into the void left by absent fathers. Remember, DC sniper Lee Malvo’s words, “He [Muhammand] knew exactly what motivated me, what I longed for, what was lacking…I couldn’t say “no.” But when our kids are affirmed, they know who they are and whose they are; then, like Jesus, they won’t settle for anything less than the real thing. And, like Jesus, they will be able to say “no” to the temptations of the Evil One, and “yes” to the will of God.
Some years ago, a good college buddy of mine passed away unexpectantly, leaving behind a twelve-year-old son. In the weeks and months after my friend’s funeral, I spent a lot of time talking to this young boy about his father. Indeed, he clearly missed his dad a great deal. As I listened to him share his heart, I could not help but wonder about what lay ahead for him. He was about to enter the tumultuous teen years, a time when the guiding hand of a good father was especially needed. Although I could never replace his dad, I was committed to doing what I could to help this young man navigate successfully through this important time. Nonetheless, I must admit that I was a bit worried. However, as we were ending one of our many conversations, he said something that gave me confidence that everything was going to be just fine. He said, “My father was a hero to me. The look of approval on his face was better than any trophy that I could ever receive.” You see, in the years before my friend’s death, he had invested mightily in his young son’s life to make sure his son knew who he was and whose he was. That’s the power of affirmation before temptation. That’s the power and influence of a good dad.
Excerpt from Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid. You can order your copy of the book here.