Shelby G. Floyd
Today is the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day originated with God. He gave us this day, the first day of the week, to honor his Son Jesus Christ. He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have honored Him today by singing these wonderful songs of praise, hymns, and spiritual songs. We have honored Him by remembering the death, burial and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. We have honored Him through prayer, through our contribution to promote the work and now through our study and mediation of His word. Also, today is Father’s Day.
Father’s Day originated with man. About a month ago we had Mother’s Day and we honored our mothers. After mother’s day was setup, there was a lady who thought that since we honored our mothers, we also ought to honor the fathers. Fathers ought not to be left behind. They set up a day once a year to honor the fathers.
Even though Father’s Day is something originated by man, there is nothing wrong with it because the bible teaches that we ought to honor our fathers and mothers. In Ephesians 6:1-4: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” which is the first commandment with a promise “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” In that wonderful passage children are commanded to honor their father and their mother, and the fathers are commanded not to exasperate their children, but bring them up in the way that they should go so when they are old they will not depart and leave the right paths.
THE FATHER IMAGE
All of us have a changing and evolving image of our father. Sarah and I really enjoyed having Trent and Grant up here with Evan and Trevor for ten days. Sarah heard them talking and they were bragging about their fathers. My dad can do this and my dad can do that. Finally, Sarah heard Evan and Trevor say, “my dad beat some guys and he was running backwards.” Isn’t it wonderful when children are younger that they have this image of their father and that he can do anything. In the mind of the child, the image of the father kind of changes as the years goes by.
The Changing Image of the Father
At four years old—my dad can do anything;
Seven years old—my dad knows a lot—a whole lot;
Eight years old—my father does not quite know everything;
Twelve years old—oh well naturally father does not know that either;
Fourteen years old–oh father, he is so helplessly old-fashioned;
Twenty-one years—oh, that man he is so out-of-date;
Twenty-five years old—he knows a little bit about it, but not much;
Thirty years old—I am going to find out what Dad thinks about it;
Thirty-five years old—before we decide, we will get Dad’s idea first;
Fifty years old—what would Dad have thought about that;
Sixty years old—my Dad knew literally everything;
Sixty-five years old and upward—I wish I could talk it over with Dad once more.
My father died when he was 51 and I wish I had my Dad around to see all of my children and my grandchildren. I wish I had my dad around to talk with him about things. When I was about 16 or 17-years old, I decided I was going to build a gun cabinet. My dad was a carpenter, and he never gave me any training on how to be a carpenter or to build anything. I had watched him do things and I guess I had more of his spirit and learned more than I realized, so I decided I was going to build a gun cabinet. The 12-inch boards were not wide enough to make the base of the cabinet, and I had no clamps to glue two of them together. So I got out in the barn and laid down some boards and I put my two boards together and I had to figure out a way to clamp them together without clamps. So I nailed some pieces on each side of them and made some wedges, and I drove the wedges in there and I think my dad was impressed with my ingenuity, because I came up with that on my own. After I got the gun cabinet completed, I didn’t know how to make doors. I guess he felt sorry for me and he made the doors on the cabinet. I still have that cabinet today and would not take anything for it, because my Dad had a part in helping me make that. We love our fathers and we embody more of their spirit than we possibly can know.
GOD IS THE ARCHITECT OF FATHERHOOD
God is our Father. He is the perfect Father. The Bible says: “Be you perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Many times the word perfect does not mean sinless, it means complete or mature. God was sinless and He was complete and mature. He wants us to be complete and mature. We can not be sinless, because all of us make mistakes. God is the perfect Father. God is the architect of fatherhood. He is the original and if any of us want to be a good father we have got to go and study the fatherhood of God, because He is the perfect Father. Paul says to the Ephesians: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in Heaven and earth derive His name.” (Ephesians 3:14-15). God is the Father, he has always been the Father, and He will always be the Father. He is the perfect God and Father.
Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us that children have a concept of God as a Father mirrored by their view of their own father. So if a little child has a father who abuses the mother, berates and shows no love and affection to the mother, how is that child going to have a good image of love, marriage and sex. A child’s image of love, marriage and sex mirrors what he sees in his mother and father. If he does not see a good example there, he will grow up and think that is the way husbands and wives ought to treat each other. If a little child has a father that divorces, abuses his mother, drinks alcohol, leaves the family, then that is the image that the child is going to have of what a father ought to be. He will grow up and say that is what a father is supposed to be. He will duplicate the same idea in his fatherhood that he has seen in his family.
I had a good father. I will tell you, I never heard my father curse. If he mashed his finger with a hammer, he would say “sugar” instead of a bad word. That takes a lot of willpower. When we lived out on a farm my Dad’s family would come out on Sunday afternoon to visit us. We would sit around and visit and talk all afternoon. When it would come about 5:30 my dad would tell his own family, “Now it is time for us to go to church, we have an appointment with the Lord and we invite you to go with us, or, you are welcome to stay here, and when we get back we will visit some more.” My Dad would let them know that he was not going to stay and miss worship in order to continue his visit with his family. So they knew where my Dad stood, and they would usually leave at that time. So that is the kind of example I had in a father who would be faithful to the Lord.
My Dad’s father was not a good father. He drank all of the time, and he abused my grandmother. My Dad told me one time that his dad was drinking and he was abusing my Grandmother and she had about all of it she could stand, and she took a butcher knife and threw it right at him, and it stuck in the door right beside him. She almost nailed him. My Grandfather divorced my Grandmother and went off to California for 20-years and I didn’t even know I had a Grandfather except on my Mother’s side. When Sarah and I were going together, my Grandfather came back from California, they told me this is your Grandfather. He looked like a Floyd, he was handsome, good looking, but I didn’t know him from Adam. He was a total stranger to me. He did change his life in his final years. He started going to church, but he could not bring all of those years back when he was away from his children and grandchildren. I was asked to preach his funeral and I did so. I hope and pray that the Lord will have mercy upon him as He must have mercy upon all of us, because all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. The consequences of some sins are much greater than others. Being a bad father can sometimes bring about bad consequences. The point I want to make here is my dad broke the cycle. He had a bad father, but he didn’t have to be a bad father. Even though he didn’t have a good example in a father, my Dad became a good father, because he studied the fatherhood of God. He became a good father because he did not imitate his own father, but the perfect father—God the Father in heaven. The same thing can happen in reverse, sometimes children grow up and they have a good father and mother, they bring them to church and they bring them up in the way that they should go and when they become an adult they become a bad father. That shows us if it shows anything at all, that we all have free choice. We can have good examples and bad examples, but when it comes down to the final word it is how we chose to live our life and the kind of example we ought to set.
THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD VERSUS FATHER FAILURES
Whether you have had a good father or a bad father, this morning I want to show you the contrast of the fatherhood of God and father failures, the contrast between father failures and the wonderful fatherhood of God.
God as a good Father always listens to His children
A good father listens to his children. He takes time to let them talk. We have all gone through this when our children want to talk to us. We say well that is just child talk and it is not very important or doesn’t mean very much. To a child when they want to talk to their father and their mother what they have to say is just as important to them as it is when we want to talk to an adult. A good father when his children come up to talk, no matter how busy or how much is on his plate, he is going to say okay let’s set down and talk awhile. I will listen to you. Sometimes they just want you to sympathize with them if they are having a hard time. They don’t want you to give them all of the answers. “I can understand how you feel like that, I have felt like that sometimes.” John Kennedy was a good father in many ways. There were a lot of things about John Kennedy I did not admire and I do not admire now, but the one thing I remember about him even though he was the President of the United States we have pictures of him playing with his children, doing things with his children, and talking with them. He took time out of being the President of the United States to listen and talk to his children and to do things with his children. That is important. His children respected him because of that. So a good father always listens to his children and takes time to hear what they say. God is the perfect Father and that is why He listens to us and that is the reason we ought to pray at all times. “Pray without ceasing” the Bible says. He wants us to come to him and pour out our hearts petitions, our feelings, and emotions. He wants to hear from us. He wants to listen. In 1 Peter 3:12 Peter says: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Do the right thing and go to your heavenly Father and he will listen to you. He wants to hear from you in your prayers.
God is a loving and compassionate Father with his children
Good fathers are loving and compassionate with their children. One way that we can transfer the blessing to our children is to tell them how much we love them verbally. Put our arms around them and show them affection. This is the sign of approval and acceptance. Let them know that we have high expectations of them. When your children are growing up and you keep saying to them that “one day you are going to end up in jail” that is where they may end up. The father should say: “I have high expectations of you that you are going to grow up and be somebody, you are really going to turn out to be a fine person.” We like to hear those kinds of things and live up to the expectation that people have of us. Give your children love, affection and compassion and let them know that you have great expectations of them. God is that kind of a Father with us. In Isaiah 40:11: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isn’t it wonderful to serve that kind of a father who loves us, who takes care of us and who is so affectionate with us?
God as a good Father talks to his children
God talks to His children and good fathers talk to their children. Father failures do not talk to their children. They do not give their children much time. Therefore, the children never have any communication with them. A father that is good will sit down and talk to his children and let them know what the boundaries are in the family, what the rules are, and what he expects out of them and how he expects them to live and conduct themselves and what kind of children they ought to be. God is the same way with us. The Bible says: “In times past, God spoke unto the Fathers by the Prophets, but in these last days He has spoken unto us by His Son.” God speaks to us and talks with His children through his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the center of all communication. God talks to us through Christ and through His blessed word. In Psalms 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” That is the reason God is a perfect Father. He talks, instructs, trains, and counsels His children.
God as a good Father disciplines his children
Father failures do not discipline their children. A good father will let his children know there are rules. Every time I got a whipping as a boy, I deserved it. I know some parents march their kids in and say I am going to give you a whipping today whether you deserve it or not. That is not the right way to treat children. Every time that I was disciplined, I needed it because I had done something that I should not have done, or I failed to do something I should have done. I respected my father. Boys especially need a father who will “haul them in.” Boys do not respect their mother as much as they do their father when it comes to discipline. I remember when I was a little boy and my Mom told me to do something and I said in my heart, “Old girl I am going to run and you are not going to catch me.” I started running around the house and I would look back every once in a while and I was running off and leaving her, and thought she is never going to catch me. She was smarter than I was. All of a sudden I ran into her arms and she gave me a good whipping. She changed directions on me. I did not try that with my Dad, because I knew my Dad would “haul me in.” The way that he disciplined me was that he would cut a keen switch and he whipped my legs real good. I learned how to do the Apache war dance. When I got older, I appreciated what my dad did, because he kept me from making a lot of mistakes that I would have made. I probably would have suffered a lot more had my Dad not disciplined me.
Good fathers will discipline their children, chastise them and punish them when they do wrong. But if we, as fathers, do not do that, let me tell you society will. When we get out into the world we are going to be disciplined one way or another. God disciplines his children because he is the perfect father. We read in Hebrews 12:5-6: “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” So I think a good question to ask when something is happening in our lives that may be negative, maybe we ought to say, could that be that the Lord is disciplining me so I will improve my life. It is a good question to ask. I only got a whipping when I did things that I shouldn’t. If we are being disciplined in some way we have to interpret that maybe the Lord is giving me some discipline because I need it. Let me look into my life and see what is going on. Basically, that is how you become a good father. You listen to your children, you love and show compassion to your children, you talk to your children and you discipline your children. That is the reason God is a good heavenly Father. He does all of those things and if we want to have a good fatherhood then He is the example we should follow.
RUDYARD KIPLING AND HIS SON JOHN
Generally, I do not like poetry. There are only a few poets that I really enjoy reading and quoting from. Rudyard Kipling is one of my favorite poets. He was born in 1856, in Bombay, India. He wrote children’s books and the Jungle Book is one of them. When he was about 6 or 7 years old his father and mother shipped him back to England along with his sister Trix, and put them in a boarding house. The lady at the boarding house abused him, berated him, and locked him up in a damp cellar for hours. Later on in his life, he said that he learned that he had to will himself to be joyful and happy in those dire circumstances. He also said that he lost all ability to hate people growing out of that experience. He never hated anybody, or despised anybody, even though he went through that terrible experience.
He grew up and wrote a lot of children books. Most artists and most authors do not get much encouragement when they first start painting pictures or writing literature. The critics talked about his works, they said they were no good, nobody would buy them, but he did not let that discourage him. He kept writing those children’s books and they became more and more popular.
Later on he married an American wife and had two daughters, Josephine and Elise. He prayed to God that he would give him a son and God gave him a son. He named him John. He and his American wife visited America in the late 1800’s. While in America, Rudyard Kipling and his oldest daughter Josephine came down with pneumonia. In a few days Rudyard was able to overcome the pneumonia and regain his health, but Josephine died. It broke his heart. He said, “I cannot even stand to hear her name mentioned, or look at her photos.” He went into a deep depression. Then finally one day he said: “I have got to pull myself out of this, for the sake of my other daughter and young son.” He decided I am going to devote myself to writing children books and to raising my two children that are left. He became a very popular author.
In the early 1900’s, he started going around Europe warning France and other countries along with England, that there was going to be a war with Germany, which was the First World War. They made fun of him just like people are making fun of our President today, because we are in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting radical terrorists. They said he was a warmonger, and he was an imperialist. He did not let those kinds of criticisms bother him. He kept warning them that there was going to be a war and sure enough the First World War broke out and England started calling up the young men to fight the German Army. His son John was 17-years old and had bad eyesight. He could not get in the regular English Army. He kept working and working and finally got John in as an officer in an Irish Regiment. Young John went off to fight the Germans. He loved his son John. He was a wonderful boy and he had great character. He was in sports. When he would lose in sports he would not whine or cry. When he would win he did not brag and be boastful. He was just an outstanding boy. He was the kind of boy anyone would want to have to raise up in their family. Since he was such an outstanding young man, Rudyard Kipling sat down one day and wrote a poem in honor of his son John, because he was such an outstanding young man. The poem is called,
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Most fathers would want that kind of a son! My mom used to say, “If” is a big word. Most of the things in life are conditional. You will turn out to be this if you do this or that. He was a good boy, but not long after he went off to war, Rudyard Kipling got notice that his son John had been killed in battle. No one knew what happened to the body of his son. He went to the regiment and asked everywhere. After many years of searching he found one solider that had seen his son killed in action. They never found his body and Rudyard Kipling came up with the phrase that is inscribed on the monument to the unknown solider, “His name is known eternally to none but God.” He spent the rest of his life trying to do things to help those families that had lost their sons in warfare and in battle.
Not long after he lost his son he got a box from France. In this box was a French copy of his novel called KIM. There was a bullet hole in this copy up to the last 20 pages. The French solider had received the highest medal of honor from France, and he sent the French translation to Rudyard Kipling. “I want you to have these, since I had your novel in my pocket, it saved my life. The bullet would have killed me if the novel had not been in my pocket.” Rudyard Kipling said, “That was the greatest honor he ever had.” He was a Nobel Prize winner and this meant more than any of the other honors, because through his writing he had saved the life of that French soldier and he received and accepted that. Then he got to wondering, I wish I could have saved the life of another young man, my son John. I am sure today that every parent who has lost a child in war is asking the same thing. Why did I have to give up my son? Why did I have to make that sacrifice? He asked that same question. Why could I have not saved the life of my son? I saved the life of the French solider, why could I not have saved my son? I only had one son John, why couldn’t I save his life? He wondered about that and years went by. He had kept in communication with this French soldier. The French soldier sent him a letter, and wanted to share some good news with him. “My wife is giving birth to a son and I want you to be his Godfather.” All of a sudden it hit Rudyard Kipling why he lost his son. He wrote back hurriedly and said: “Yes I will be the Godfather. Your son must be named after my son, John.” The French equivalent to John is Jean. It made him realize why he lost his son and why he had to give him up, my son died for the unborn. My son died, so the unborn sons and daughters can live a life of Freedom.
Fathers love your children because you never know when you are going to lose them. I had a wonderful Mom and she would baby-sit with children after my Dad died at 51. She was an amazing woman. She kept little children. She loved little children and they loved her. She had two little boys that she kept from the time they were little and they grew up to be fine young men. She loved those boys and even after my mom moved in with us, they would come over on her birthday, bring her presents and hug her and kiss her. They loved my Mom just like a Mother or a Grandmother. After my mom died, I am glad she did not live to hear about this. Young Greg Lee was 21-years old, an outstanding young man. He was a man of character. He was like Rudyard Kipling’s son. He worked two jobs and had already bought a house at 21-years old. He loved sports and was playing up here at the sports park. He was the pitcher. Today with these modern bats, you can hit the ball so hard. Somebody hit a line drive and it hit him right behind the neck and immediately he fell over and collapsed and he died a short time afterwards. Something like that is not supposed to happen. Very few people are killed in baseball. He died. Many people came to his funeral because of the man he was. I only mention that because he had a wonderful Dad, and he raised those boys by himself. I tell you from these examples my friends and fathers, love you children, be the kind of father you need to be to them, because you never know when you are going to lose your children. Right now we are in a state of war, and I read this statement in a book called TEXAS. “In times of peace, sons bury their fathers, but in times of war fathers bury their sons.” Young people, honor your fathers today and fathers honor your children because we never know when we will lose a son or daughter. They mean so much to each of us and we need to let them know how much we love them.
HOW DOES A GOOD FATHER TREAT A CHILD THAT GOES WRONG?
Not all children turn out good. Are there any fathers here who have never made a mistake? I have made many; I make fewer mistakes now than when I was young. I have made my share and I think many can say we have taken some wrong turns. Fathers how do you treat a child when you have done the best you could and he turns out bad? We have a Bible answer for that—“The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Luke 15 shows how fathers should react when children go wrong.
In the first place, the father in the parable did not disown his son when he took his inheritance and went off to a far country and wasted it. There is no trace of anger or retaliation; he just kept on loving and looking for the return of his son.
Next, the father did not allow himself to become overcome with grief and depression. Some parents fall apart when a son or daughter go astray. The father in the parable went on with living. He did not allow a wayward son to ruin his own life and neither should we.
Third, the father did not chase after his son. Over zealous parents can push their children farther away by hounding them all of the time. The father allowed his son the freedom to go away and chose a different lifestyle, an ungodly one at that.
Fourth, the father did not hold material goods from his son. The son said, “I want my inheritance.” He gave it to him.
Fifth, the father never gave up hope on this boy. In Luke 15, we see the father looking for the return of his son. Through it all he believed in his son and that he would someday come to his senses and return home. So should we.
Sixth, there is no evidence that the father said anything like “I told you so.” He did not put the mistakes of his son back in his face. He forgave his son and welcomed him back home. He killed the fatted calf, put a new robe on him, a ring on his hand, shoes on feet and they had a celebration.
Finally, the father involved others in the celebration in the return of his son. The older son acted in an unloving way toward his brother because of a bad attitude. His father reminded him: “This, my son was dead, but now he is alive, he was lost but now has been found.”
CHOOSE THE LORD
We have some wonderful fathers and mothers here at Heartland. We can have even better fathers and mothers, if we will be like Joshua. Joshua, when he got toward the end of his life, said to the children of Israel: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15). That is what every father here should be saying this morning. We must join in with Joshua and choose the Lord for us and our families.*
Copyright © 2008, 2021 Shelby G. Floyd All Rights Reserved
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon June 18, 2006, and June 20, 2021, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142