Stouthearted Fathers

Happy-fathers-day-proverbs

Brave…Determined…Courageous…Gallant. These are the words that come to mind when you speak of being stouthearted. It’s also what comes to mind when you describe the characteristics of good fathers.

A child’s natural image of a father, for example, is usually one of admiration, trust, and respect. A child tends to think, My Daddy can fix anything. Daddy is my protector. Daddy is my provider. Now, of course, there might be exceptions to this situation in some homes. But for the most part, families with stouthearted fathers have not become extinct yet.

Being a good father requires the kind of qualities that call for strength and boldness. It all starts from the time one becomes a father. Regardless how many children a father has, he must strive to be a model of stoutheartedness to each one from the day they are born. Of course, the more children one has, the more of a challenge it could turn out to be. This reminds me of a joke:

Four men are in the hospital waiting room because their wives are having babies. A nurse goes up to the first guy and says, “Congratulations! You’re the father of twins.”
“That’s odd,” answers the man. “I work for the Minnesota Twins!”
A nurse says to the second guy, “Congratulations! You’re the father of triplets!”
“That’s weird,” answers the second man. “I work for the 3M company!”
A nurse tells the third man, “Congratulations! You’re the father of quadruplets!”
“That’s strange,” he answers. “I work for the Four Seasons hotel!”
The last man is groaning and banging his head against the wall. “What’s wrong?” the others ask.
“I work for 7 Up!” (boyslife.org)

I can’t say I ever had more than one child born at a time. But when my wife was about to give birth to our first child, there’s one moment I’ll never forget. I remember the nurse at the hospital sending me and a friend of mine, whose wife was also in labor at the same time, to the waiting room designated for expectant fathers. Meanwhile, the two mothers-to-be were getting prepped for the labor room. When the nurse directed us guys to the waiting room, I vividly remember her saying, “Okay you fathers, follow me to the waiting room until your wives are ready for you to go in to the labor room with them.” Though I’d been looking forward to this blessed event, no one had really called me a father until that moment. The word, father, just jumped out at me! I’m thinking, “I’m about to be a father!”

Being a father, as well as a grandfather, presents both a privilege and a responsibility. It’s a privilege because it’s a blessing to see your children and grandchildren grow to become successful and happy in their lives. It’s a responsibility, as well, because it requires setting a good example and doing whatever it takes to keep their trust. As a family, we depend upon the support and love of one another in spite of any difficulties any one of us might face. A father plays a vital part in setting the tone of such support. A father needs to have a stouthearted spirit to maintain his fatherly duties and reflect a Christlike character—a demanding yet rewarding task that never ends.

As a father fulfills his fatherly role, he will enjoy the recognition and honor he fittingly deserves. In fact, this is how Father’s Day got started in the first place. According to tradition, Father’s Day originated in 1910 due to the efforts of Sonora Louise Smart of Spokane, Washington. A year earlier, she’d heard a sermon about a recently recognized Mother’s Day at the church she was attending. The subject led her to thinking about fatherhood—something about which she felt so strongly.

sonora-louise-smart

1882 – 1978

Sonora wanted to honor her father whom she held in high esteem. She was the daughter of William Smart, a sergeant in the Union’s First Arkansas Light Artillery during the Civil War. Sonora’s mother, Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart, died when giving birth to her sixth child when Sonora was only 16 years old. Being the only daughter, Sonora along with her father, helped raise her five younger brothers. We can imagine the bond she must have developed with her father as she helped him with this demanding task.

Following through with her plan to recognize fathers, Sonora approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance. She proposed that June 5 be the day all fathers were to be honored. Why June 5? Because that was the date of her father’s birthday. However, the Alliance chose the third Sunday of June, instead. The very first Father’s Day was set for June 19, 1910.

In the following years, this special day for fathers became more and more popular throughout our nation. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson was so impressed with the celebration of Father’s Day services in Spokane that he sent a telegraph that praised it highly. Many years passed as Father’s Day became a part of American culture. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. And in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon established Father’s Day as a permanent national observance to be held on the third Sunday of June.

We appreciate what began with one grateful daughter who was so devoted to her father and the respect she had for fatherhood. Had it not been for her good efforts, Father’s Day might not have become the kind of day we’ve come to celebrate. It has become a wonderful occasion for honoring our fathers in a way that makes it special and meaningful to families from one generation to the next.

Honoring our fathers falls in line with the scriptures. “Honor thy father,” (Exodus 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:2) is a command to commend our fathers with honor in the Lord. Even if your father is not all that you’d like him to be, as imperfect as he might be, he is still your father and you are still his son or daughter. The fact that we are required to honor our fathers, as well as our mothers, brings the benefit of God’s blessings: “And it shall be well for you and your life shall be long on The Earth,” (Eph. 6:3, Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

Naturally, it’s the stouthearted fathers who are honored with our praises and respect. They are hailed as heroes in their own right. They are there when we need them. They provide the discipline that corrects us. They show us the right example for which to pattern our lives. They are honest to admit their mistakes. And they are bold in their convictions yet willing to change as needed. And they are admired as men of faith in God and his Word.

Stouthearted fathers stand strong in their commitment toward serving the Lord, making him first in their families. In the words of Joshua, the commander and leader of Israel as well as a father, himself, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Was Joshua perfect? No. He had his weaknesses, too. Even though Joshua always sought God’s instruction, one time he failed to do so when the Gibeonites deceived him into entering a peace treaty with them. Joshua could have spared himself and the nation the grief of falling into this trap if he’d followed God’s command to destroy all his opponents. Nonetheless, Joshua spared them and it caused some serious repercussions. Had God not intervened, it would have been a bigger disaster. (Joshua 9-10)

Joshua, however, was still a strong, stouthearted man of faith and he encouraged his people to be “strong and of good courage,” too (Josh. 1:7; 23-24). When the walls of Jericho fell down (Josh. 6), Joshua was the courageous leader as he and his army put their faith into action (Heb. 11:30). Among those valiant warriors, there were many stouthearted fathers including Joshua, himself, fighting in the name of the Lord.

Yes, we still need stouthearted fathers today. And we highly honor those who are. In the daily battle against sin and evil, God is looking for believers willing to join his army, to win against “the schemes of the devil,” (Ephesians 6:10-20). The Lord is especially looking for fathers with spiritual backbone and grit—men who are not afraid to show courage in the face of disaster, passion for upholding the truth, and compassion for helping the helpless. Their highest priority? To strive for the perfection that can only be found in our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). Their relentless faith, their respected character, and their remarkable example inspire us to recognize them for the men they genuinely are: Stouthearted! Like the song calls forth, “Give me some men, who are stouthearted men….” https://youtu.be/1vjqfvZVReM

Good News to YOU!
And to all our fathers: Happy Father’s Day!
Pastor Michael

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