A Severe and Tender Father

fatherdisciplineTwo decades ago, when my children were teenagers, I found it necessary to correct one of them and to take away privileges for a time. In anger, that 17 year-old spat out the words at Bev and me– “Right now, you two are not my favorite people!” It’s a memorable line, one that makes us laugh today.  My response to the anger was “I’m not your friend, I’m your Dad.”

I wanted to be liked by my kids as much as anybody else, but I knew that my parental role required me to courageously risk anger to provide direction and discipline.  My desire to see them safe and protected from their teenage impulses outweighed my need to be loved and made me willing to endure angry conflict.  I worked to provide consistent, loving, firm leadership for them and I think those 4 wonderful adults appreciate it today, even if they did not understand it then.

Do you realize that your Heavenly Father loves you so much that He is willing to correct and discipline you, even at the risk of your anger and rejection?  Seems to me that many of us miss that point.  Some think of their Father as an indulgent Dad, unaware of their misdeeds, fooled by their words of professed love that are unmatched with sincere devotion Others make an equally wrong assumption, that their Father is a cruel tyrant, bent on making their lives miserable just because He can.

Truth is that He is wise, insightful, with unmatched authority, and full of tender mercy! The Word says, “My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children.” (Hebrews 12:5-7)

I loved my children to such an extent that I would have willingly died for anyone of them. Because of that love when I saw them hurting under discipline, I sometimes secretly wept for them, sad that they had to endure the sting of correction. My discipline was sometimes unjust, my conclusions based on faulty judgments, because I am just a man. But, my goal was not to be ‘right,’ but to be good for them! Even when they were disobedient, it was not my desire to cut them off, but to draw them close, to help them to grow.

Our Father always loves us and NEVER makes a mistake!  When we feel His rebuke, when He takes us aside for correction, we must trust Him. He is not venting, He is training us. “While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” (Hebrews 12:10-11, The Message)

The best Christian experience grows out of a balanced view of our Father in Heaven. We need to know His severity is matched by His mercy! A profound respect for Him, proper awe of Who He is, does not make Him distant; it makes Him trustworthy.  Knowing the depth of His love, displayed best at the Cross, makes us want to love Him in return, causing us to run to Him, not away from Him.

This passage captures that balance so well.  Yes, He sees all, knows all, is never fooled by hypocrisy, or taken in by half-hearted professions of devotion. At the same time, His arms are wide open to us, even in our worst moments, because He wants to help us get it right.  Look at these lines carefully –  “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  If that were the whole story, you and I would be hopeless, deserving only His rejection, wouldn’t we?  But, the very next thought reveals more of His nature.  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:11-16, NIV)

Know your Father! Love Him! Trust Him! Do not try to become overly familiar with Him! Reverence Him! And, run to Him with child-like trust. Here is a word from the Word. Revel in the amazing truth. “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3, NLT)

_____________

Good, Good Father  (Chris Tomlin sings)

I’ve heard a thousand stories

Of what they think You’re like.

But I’ve heard the tender whisper

Of love in the dead of night.

You tell me that You’re pleased

And that I’m never alone.

 

I’ve seen many searching for answers

Far and wide.

But I know we’re all searching for answers

Only You provide.

Because You know just what we need

Before we say a word.

 

You’re a Good, Good Father,

It’s who You are!

It’s who You are!

It’s who You are!

And I’m loved by You,

It’s who I am!

It’s who I am!

It’s who I am!

 

You are perfect in all of Your ways,

You are perfect in all of Your ways,

You are perfect in all of Your ways to us,

 

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak,

Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think.

As You call me deeper still,

As You call me deeper still,

As You call me deeper still,

Into love, love, love.

 

Anthony Brown | Pat Barrett

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