It was Father’s Day, and my friend Dave and I were making the most of it. We had our two families together for a picnic. He’s a father too, and we expressed our needs shall we say, we let everybody know what we needed and wanted. And every once in a while somebody even paid attention. Well, we were all gathered around the picnic table and we were explaining to everyone why it was a day of special privilege for Dave and me. And I said, “Hey, it’s Father’s Day! That’s why we’re planning everything.” I’ll never forget what Dave’s son said. He said, “Hey, at our house every day is Father’s Day.” Well, in a sense – probably a different sense than our teenage friend had in mind – it is very much that way in many things.
The Bible seems to say that Dad is the thermostat of the family; the one who sets the temperature, and then everyone else kind of responds to the temperature that the thermostat sets. Dad has this tremendous power to make his family feel loved, or to feel small, or to feel big, or confident. Dad can really make everybody feel tense, or relaxed, or frustrated. In that sense, every day is Father’s Day.
It’s a father’s power to frustrate that is addressed in our word for today from the Word of God. Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Then it goes on to talk about how to be a wife in the name of the Lord Jesus, how to be a husband, and here’s how to be a father. “Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.”
Okay, if there is sort of a “dad sin” it must be along these lines of embittering our children. How does a father do that? Certainly he doesn’t intend to, but there is a great desire in a child to please Dad. You remember that in your own life. And that power that he has because of that…He may not even know he has it, but it can really crush a spirit if that power isn’t exercised gently.
If you’re a dad, I know you don’t want to commit that dad sin. Well, there are four ways we do it: number one is with our expectations. So often, as a father, because we want our kids to be all they can be, we end up majoring on what needs improving instead of what’s been accomplished. We talk about what they didn’t do instead of what they did, and they can become embittered.
Secondly, we can do it by our neglect. We’re just not there to hear about their day, or to watch them in their important moments, or to discipline. We forfeit so much to mom. And after a while, our kids become discouraged – embittered. Insensitivity – that’s the third way we can make that mistake; just kind of running in, busy dad, drop a bomb on the kids without being there enough to find out how they’re feeling, what’s really going on under the surface.
And there’s a fourth way we can discourage and embitter our kids called inflexibility – never able to be wrong, never able to forgive, never able to be the one who needs forgiveness and to say, “Hey, I was wrong. Can you forgive me?” You don’t forfeit authority when you do that, you gain it. You don’t lose respect, you gain respect. It’s a good time to look in a mirror if you’re a dad, and evaluate, “Am I creating a healthy child, or am I frustrating a child?”
In terms of making a child feel loved and competent, every day is Father’s Day.