Fatherhood Is…

I love this old preaching story. It has been told and retold for years. In Spain, a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an advertisement in a Madrid newspaper. The advertisement read:

Dear Paco,

Meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you.

Your Father.

On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. Don’t tell me, the relationship between a father and their children isn’t important! That simple story takes us to our scripture lesson.

We find ourselves in the eighth chapter of Luke.  Jesus and the disciples are in Galilee. That fact is important because the Master was extremely popular there. The crowds followed him everywhere. One of the people in the crowd on that day was a man by the name of Jairus. His name means “God enlightens.” In his little corner of the world, Jairus was a significant man. Luke tells us he was a ruler in the local synagogue. What does that mean? He was not a member of the clergy. However, that does not mean his position was not important. He acted more as an administrator or trustee over the synagogue. Sometimes, the position was paid. Sometimes, it was volunteer. Regardless, the position was always held by a respected good man in the congregation. Jairus was a good man, yet hardship does not discriminate.

This good man was facing his greatest nightmare. His twelve-year-old daughter was dying. Emotionally and physically exhausted, Jairus fights his way through the crowd to ask Jesus for a miracle. Jesus is his only hope. I have read verses 40-42 countless times this week. With every reading, I was more moved by the emotions of the father. It isn’t just Jairus’ nightmare. It is every parent’s nightmare. The death of their children. I do not know how you can read this story and not be moved. She was twelve years old. It is not easy being twelve years old. In a certain way you are nowhere. It is the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. Yet, in this story, it is the end of life, itself. The daughter is dying. Yet, the story is not about death. In the end she lives. The story is about parenthood. This story gives us three divine truths about fatherhood. Let us look at them one at a time.

First, fatherhood is important! In other words, your children must be the top priority in your life. This is an old story about a young man standing in front of a judge. He was about to hear his sentence. It was an awkward moment for the judge. He had known the young man since childhood, for he was well acquainted with his father–a famous legal scholar and the author of an exhaustive study entitled, “The Law of Trusts.” “Do you remember your father?” asked the magistrate. “I remember him well, your honor,” came the reply. Then trying to probe the offender’s conscience, the judge said, “As you are about to be sentenced and as you think of your wonderful dad, what do you remember most clearly about him?” There was a pause. Then the judge received an answer he had not expected. “I remember when I went to him for advice. He looked up at me from the book he was writing and said, ‘Run along, boy; I’m busy!’ When I went to him for companionship, he turned me away, saying “Run along, son; this book must be finished!’ Your honor, you remember him as a great lawyer. I remember him as a lost friend.” The magistrate muttered to himself, “Alas! Finished the book but lost the boy!”

Fathers do much more than pay the bills. Mothers may love their children unconditionally, but fathers add sense of security and stability to the home. That is extremely important. A father’s presence makes a great difference to the life of a child. The statistics don’t lie. These statistics are a few years old, but not much has changed. They are still painful to recite. According to fatherhoodfactor.com:

  1. 43% of US children live in fatherless homes.
  2. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  3. 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes.
  4. 71% of pregnant teenagers come from fatherless homes.
  5. 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes.

Don’t tell me fathers aren’t important. If you want to be a good father, then make your children your top priority. This is a fair question. Do your children know they are your top priority? Fatherhood is important.

Second, fatherhood is challenging! In 1909, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd (1882-1978) sat in church with her father on Mother’s Day. It must have been a difficult sermon to hear because her mother died years earlier during childbirth. She and her five siblings were raised with love and care by their father, William Jackson Smart (1842-1919), a Civil War veteran. The 27-year-old Sonora began to think about the great sacrifices her father made for her and her siblings. Then, she began to wonder why there wasn’t a Father’s Day. The next day, she began a crusade to establish one. She began by enlisting the support of the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA. They declared the first Father’s Day to be June 19, 1910. It was a big success. Soon other communities and states began to recognize Father’s Day. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) supported the idea of a national Father’s Day in 1916 and President Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) did the same in 1924. Some things don’t change. Nothing happened in Washington DC for decades. It took our man in Washington DC Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973) in 1966 to sign a presidential proclamation making the third Sunday in June Father’s Day. Six years later, 1972, 58 years after the establishment of Mother’s Day, Richard Nixon (1913-1994) signed a law-making Father’s Day a national holiday. I tell the history of Father’s Day for one reason.

Senora Smart Dodd recognized what we must never forget. Fatherhood is challenging. Fatherhood has nothing to do with golfing, boating, or cooking out. Fatherhood has everything to do with sacrificing. Fatherhood has everything to do with adapting. Fatherhood is challenging because our children are always changing. Your college graduate does not want to be treated like a newborn babe. In the Bible lesson for today, Jairus is trying to help his twelve-year-old daughter. I have been the father of a twelve-year-old daughter, twice, and it isn’t easy. Enjoy your children at the stage they are right now but be prepared. It is going to change soon. They will change so your relationship with them must change. That is so challenging.Fatherhood is important. Fatherhood is challenging.

Third and finally, fatherhood is eternal! In the story, the twelve-year-old girl dyes. Her life ended just as it was about to begin. Her life would have been over, if not for Jesus. He resurrects her. In other words, he brings her back to life. She is one of a select few in the Bible who were resurrected. Do you remember the others who were resurrected in the Bible? There were nine in all, 3 in the Old Testament and 6 in the New Testament. Except for Jesus, do you know what happened to the other eight? They all died again in time. However, their resurrections were just the foreshadowing of eternal life. The girl lived because her father introduced her to Jesus.

Fatherhood is not just being a positive role model. Fatherhood is not just getting the person ready for life. Fatherhood is getting the person ready for eternity. Children have so many wonderful options today. They can take lessons and join teams. They can take advanced classes and go to camp. There is nothing wrong with any of those things. However, none of those things are preparing them for eternity. If you want your child to live for eternity, then be like Jairus. Introduce your children to Jesus. How could you enjoy heaven without them? Fatherhood is important. Fatherhood is challenging. Fatherhood is eternal.

Fred Craddock (1928-2015) taught homiletics at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. In my opinion, he is one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century. No one influenced my preaching more than Fred Craddock. No one can tell a story like him. Let me tell you one of his stories.

One summer Fred and his wife decided to get away for a few days. They went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One night they found a quiet little restaurant and looked forward to a private meal—just the two of them. While they were waiting for their meal, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.” He didn’t want the man to intrude on their privacy. But the man did come by his table. “Where you folks from?” he asked amicably. “Oklahoma.” “Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there. What do you do for a living? “I teach homiletics at a seminary.” “Oh, so you teach preachers, do you? Well, I’ve got a story I want to tell you.” And with that he pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife. Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly: Oh no, here comes another preacher story. It seems everyone has one.

The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born so I had a hard time. When I started to school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunchtime because the taunts of my playmates cut so deeply. “What was worse was going downtown on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through you. They were all wondering just who my real father was.  

“When I was about 12 years old a new preacher came to our church. Because of my past, I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. “Who are you, son? Whose boy, are you?’ I felt the old weight come on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. “Wait a minute,” he said, “I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God. You come from a great legacy. Go and claim it.” The old man looked across the table at Craddock and said, “That was the most important single sentence ever said to me. Those words changed my life.” With that he smiled, shook the hands of Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends. It was at that moment Craddock remembered something. The good people of Tennessee had elected Ben Hooper, that illegitimate boy, to be their governor. This is the point.

You may have had the greatest dad in the world, or your dad may have been a complete loser. It doesn’t really matter because you come from a great legacy. Never forget it. You are a child of God!