Excerpted from Dear New Dad.
And he said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father...’” (Luke 11:2)
Recently, on a Sunday morning, a time when I am usually thoroughly engaged in teaching, preaching, and personal ministry, I found a quiet moment to observe and reflect on the people God has entrusted into our pastoral care. As I sat and watched, I saw laughter and friendship, pain and endurance, joy and challenge. I saw generations on the move, generations desiring to honor Christ with their lives. And I saw pregnant women. Lots of them. I thought to myself, “Someone did that to them. If I can, I would love to help those fathers.”
Over the ages various tides of thought and influence have churned throughout the world, but some realities remain constant. One of those constants is the importance of the role of the father in the family and society. While a male will contribute to a pregnancy, a father contributes to a legacy. Every person on earth is shaped in some way by his or her father. Like the church, family is an entity created and designed by God, and fathers play a huge role in the development and leadership of the individual family.
Unfortunately, the definition of what a father even is has come under much duress in recent years. The role is seen by some as dispensable, redundant, and occupied by the moronic. Dads are needled and ridiculed in pop culture as mindless numbskulls with misogynistic tendencies. Needless to say, God’s view of the role is a high one, evidenced by the fact it is a title He reserves for Himself. He calls Himself our Father. All who are covered by the blood of Christ have a Father in the God of heaven.
I know firsthand how overwhelming, exciting, nerve-racking, and pressure filled those first years of fathering can be. I congratulate you on beginning this journey, whether you planned on it or not! The reality is that this role is one of the most important roles you will ever fill, one of the most world-changing and generation-shaping responsibilities you will ever carry, a task that will likely leave its mark on the earth well after you are dead and gone.
Most of us want to do it right. We want to be a blessing. We long for the areas of influence God has given to us to be better off as a result of our being there (see 2 Corinthians 10:13–16 for Paul’s area of influence). Sadly, however, we often lack the simple tools needed to get the job done. Poor models, misperceptions regarding our role, or our own lethargy can distract us from the great task at hand. I pray this little read will help you in some way to find some of the tools you need to get the job done right and to get started on the right foot.
Your Father in Heaven
The funny thing about fathering is that even though the influence is so great and the responsibility so intense, billions of us have done it. Some have fathered well and some have fathered poorly, but it isn’t exactly a role you go to school for. There is no small segment of professional fathers for the rest of us amateurs to look up to. No, we all have to figure it out and learn and grow as this role in life comes our way.
If there ever was a professional father, it would have to be God Himself. He is the ultimate Father. He defines. He protects. He teaches. He leads. He loves. He delights in His children. He gives an identity and a heritage to all who become His own.
One of the strongest words I could give to you is the encouragement to experience God as your Heavenly Father. This comes first by placing your faith and trust in the work of Jesus on the cross in dying substitutionally for your sin and rising from the dead. Secondly, however, this comes through a practical and experiential relationship with the God of heaven, a relationship made possible exclusively by the blood of Jesus. Day by day, week by week, and year by year, as you experience the wonderful fathering ministry of God, you will become strengthened as a man to become a greater father than you ever would be in your own natural ability. Over time, his nature will change and transform you (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). You will always become more like the God you worship.
The Lord delights in you as His child. He longs to serve you and care for you personally. “The Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). Perhaps for you, up to this time, a relationship with God, called by some a walk with God, has been a foreign concept. Perhaps you are yet to discover the joy of receiving direction, correction, and identification from your Father in heaven. If there was ever a time to get on that bus, it’s when a man begins a family.
Your family needs you to begin interacting with your Father in heaven like crazy right now. They need you to press in. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do once a baby comes into your life. When my second daughter was born, it felt like she didn’t sleep for two years. My poor wife was extremely worn out. I was very fatigued. Time with God was extremely hard to come by during that season, but every time I fought for it I found it to be greatly rewarding (see Hebrews 11:6). A little time in His Word always went such a long way toward directing me and speaking into my heart. Often in His Word I would find the encouragement, correction, or perspective I needed for that particular day. Like the manna falling daily from heaven in the Old Testament era, my Father in heaven fed me spiritually on a daily basis.
No, this is not the time to shelve your walk with God. This is a time to pick up the pace. Your children need a godly man, a man focused on the priorities and thoughts of God. Your wife needs a spiritual man, a man who is doing everything he can to crush his sinful tendencies and become a servant to his bride. It is good and wonderful to learn of the practicalities of being a father here on earth, but it is of extreme importance to practice your relationship with your Father in heaven. Place your relationship with Him at the center of everything you are. Don’t allow your walk with Him to be just one part of who you are, but all of who you are. He must color and influence every other part of your life. Don’t be deceived into thinking this isn’t an important part of your role as a father. Without a strong relationship with your Heavenly Father you won’t have the strength to provide all that is needed for your family.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:105)
Allow the Word of God to saturate your mind as a new or expecting father. Sit under Bible teaching, read the Word of God for personal learning and growth, and write down various truths that have become meaningful to you as you study and read. Each day, even if only briefly, give God permission to speak into your life regarding the attitudes, perspectives, and issues you are carrying within your mind and heart, then read His Word to see what He says. Purchase a good study Bible to help you with various questions as you read through Scripture. Find encouragement in the lives of God’s men in the Old and New Testaments. Learn what the Father in heaven says about you in the letters of the New Testament. See the urgency for righteous living in the prophets. Let your heart become opened up to God and learn how to pray as you study the Psalms. Receive God’s precious and practical wisdom for life in the Proverbs. Discover the nature of God as you observe Jesus in the gospels. Get into the Word.
If this is brand new for you, I would encourage you to start in the book of Matthew. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in order. Saturate your mind with the life of Christ. Upon completion of those four books, commonly called the gospels, read through the rest of the New Testament. Once finished with that, put a bookmark in Genesis, Matthew again, and the Psalms, and read a little portion of God’s Word each day, starting over once you complete it.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41)
The Holy Spirit can help you pray like never before as a new father. I know that when my first daughter was born a renewed sense of urgency entered into my prayer life. I knew the world she was entering into was a broken place filled with hurt and turmoil. I began to pray. As a father, pray hard. Spiritually lead your family by frequently heading to that quiet and private place of prayer. The Bible teaches that all who are covered by the blood of Jesus, all who have placed their faith in His finished work on the cross, can have boldness in approaching God. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Jesus taught us to pray in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:9–13). He taught us to:
Approach God as a loving and perfect Father. Worship and honor him. Pray for the expansion of his kingdom, including inside your own heart and family. Depend on him for your daily provision through prayer. Ask him to cleanse you of any and all unrighteousness in your life and heart. Petition him to keep you from and through temptation.
However imperfect and incomplete your prayer life might feel, understand that you are praying to a perfect Father in heaven who is gracious in all His ways. He isn’t dependent upon the awesomeness of your prayers but is faithful to work in our lives even when we are weak and faithless. Still, struggle earnestly to grow in your prayer life, making time daily to cry out to your Heavenly Father.
”And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
As we noted earlier, both the family and the church are institutions created by God for His own glory and mankind’s great benefit. Unfortunately, many families have a less than symbiotic relationship with the church, and vice versa. Some see the church as a place that should/will fix their family, while others see it as a community of far lesser importance than their own family, like a social club or a gym membership. God, however, longs for the church and the family to view each other as mutually and highly beneficial, working together for God’s best in both the home and church environments. We should “not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
Obviously, new dad, there will be a time and season for rest and recovery for you and more importantly your wife, but this is no time for you to pull away from the body of Christ, the church. Sickness and schedules will make it hard enough for your family to prioritize a church life, but as a father lead your family to your local church community. You likely don’t need to take a year off from fellowship and another five years off from church service of any kind. Don’t be an MIA guy, removing your family from the church family for the sake of ease. Fight for your family by getting them plugged into your local church community as much as possible. In future years especially, this will be vital. Dear new dad, allow your family to be refreshed in corporate worship of God, to be instructed in the Word of God, and to be encouraged by the people of God.
”If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
In all of this it is extremely important for a new father to be encouraged by the grace of God. To be a man, a husband, or a father is to continually run up against your own limitations. I’m sure there are many men out there who could sound like experts in the realm of family life...until they had a family. By the very nature of these callings and relationships you will be tested and stretched beyond your current capabilities. Fortunately, we serve and know a God of wonderful grace and mercy. He lovingly and gently restores us and helps us grow to become the men we long to be. Allow this loving God to have as much access into your life as possible. Avail yourself to Him. By the blood of Jesus, you are His son. He will continually prove His faithfulness to you, helping you become stronger than ever before, the father you’ve dreamed you could be for your children and family.