June 17 I Sunday
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” —Colossians 3:21
The opening verse warns of two strong emotions fathers need to watch out for in raising their children. “Embitter” means “to arouse bitter feelings,” and “discourage” means “to deprive someone of courage, confidence or energy.” These are words about disappointment, disillusionment and lack of hope. Those with absent fathers understand this, for they know what it is like to feel abandoned by the man who was supposed to raise them, but present and well-meaning fathers can unintentionally cause bitterness and discouragement in their children as well.
The opposite of disappointment and disillusionment is hope—our forward-looking present confidence. It is helpful to encourage our children to do well in school, to pursue good jobs and to achieve a level of professional success, but a problem occurs when we emphasize too strongly the need for academic achievement as essentials for their future. Not every child is academically inclined, nor will they all attain six-figure salaries, but many young adults feel distressed because they think not achieving these high standards will disappoint their parents.
We must teach and show our children that life does not consist of possessions, performance or position. These are not the goals of our lives; God is the goal of our life. Paul gives a catalogue of things in Philippians 3 that his parents would have been proud of; for instance, his obedience to the law and zeal for the faith, but then he writes, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7). Our hope is to be in Christ and in the outworking of His will and purposes.
If we could ask Paul what freedom from discouragement he would want our children to have, he would probably say something like: “I want them to be free from the discouragement that God is not guiding and directing them. I want them to be free from the discouragement that God will not forgive them or may not be sufficient for them in whatever circumstance they find themselves.”
As fathers, we are called to live by and exhibit to our children attitudes and values that are consistent with God’s will and His Word. This means being fathers to our children as God is Father to us. It means teaching them to find their confidence in Christ, to live in obedience to Him and to seek His will for their lives. Proverbs 14:26 says, “Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” With so many outside influences, our children will wander and may rebel, but because we have planted the seed of the Gospel they will know they always have Jesus to fall back on.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray on behalf of all fathers this Father’s Day that they would rise to the calling You have given them, knowing they cannot do so apart from You. Thank You, God.