The Significance of a Father
We have just celebrated Father’s Day. Fathers were both appreciated and challenged. And some of us also considered again the reality of calling God our Father. We remember how Jesus not only modeled the importance of addressing God as Father in His prayers but also how He has told us to follow His example.
Can you appreciate the risk Jesus took in telling us to address God as our Father (Matthew 6:9)? Though all fathers are supposed to reflect the character of our wonderful heavenly Father, Jesus knew that none would do so perfectly. He knew that the best father in this world is only a marred reflection of His Father. And He knew that some of us would have fathers who were so far from reflecting His character that they would distort His image to the point of being unrecognizable. But Jesus also knew that no matter how inaccurately our fathers reflected His Father, there are certain things we can know about His Father simply from the inherent concept of fatherhood.
Learning from Our Earthly Fathers
Your father, no matter how he acted toward you, taught you about the Heavenly Father. Sometimes it was by way of comparison and sometimes it was by way of contrast, but either way, our earthly dads have taught us much about our Heavenly Father. So if your earthly father did a great job, don’t settle for that level of awareness of your Heavenly Father. And if your earthly father did a very poor job, don’t let that limit you from experiencing deep relationship with the best Father ever!
Your father, no matter how he acted toward you, taught you about the Heavenly Father. Sometimes it was by way of comparison and sometimes it was by way of contrast, but either way, our earthly dads have taught us much about our Heavenly Father.
Jesus often referred to God as His Father. It’s the most common way He began His prayers. At the crucial points in His life, like His passionate prayer of John 17, and in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39), Jesus was especially aware of being the Son of His Father.
If your earthly father did a very poor job, don’t let that limit you from experiencing deep relationship with the best Father ever!
Father and Son Meaning
The Father also interrupted what was going on and addressed Jesus as “Son” on at least two occasions. He actually spoke out of heaven and affirmed, “This is My beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5)!
Here’s the point: The closest and most meaningful, important, and significant relationship in the entire universe is between the Father and the Son — and this is the relationship that we, as His children, have been invited into. This is the relationship that forms the basis for and the direction of Jesus’ prayers and our prayers.
The closest and most meaningful, important, and significant relationship in the entire universe is between the Father and the Son — and this is the relationship that we, as His children, have been invited into.
To Be Like the Father
Calling God our “Father” also implies a sharing in His nature. When Jesus called God His Father, we read in John 5:18 that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him. In their minds, this was a claim of equality with God. Their understanding of a father/son relationship was far more profound than ours today; they saw it as something ascribing the father’s character to the son.
The disciples John and James were referred to as the “Sons of Thunder” because of their character (Mark 3:17). Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”) was a name given to Joseph from Cyprus because of his encouraging nature (Acts 4:36).
Don’t get me wrong here; in calling God our Father, there’s no way we’re equal with Him. But it was in this profound Jewish context that Jesus told us to address God this way. Too often we don’t take that concept far enough (see 2 Peter 1:4). We lose the meaning of it.
Furthermore, since we’re to call God “Father” as Jesus does, it means I can call Jesus my Brother! Hebrews 2:11 says that He’s not ashamed to be known as our Brother. At times, we’ve given good reason for even our earthly brothers and sisters to be ashamed of us, to say nothing about Jesus. Yet He’s very clear that we, as sons and daughters of God, are accepted by Jesus as His siblings.
Even though He was aware of all these “risks,” He still invites us to address Him as our Father.
If God is our Father, then we’re His children — sons and daughters of God. What a deal! We all have many titles. I’m a husband, father, and “gramper.” I’m a minister, a worshiper, a teacher, and a pray-er. But my primary identity is none of these. My primary identity is that I’m a child of the heavenly Father!
My primary identity is that I’m a child of the heavenly Father!
Wonderful privileges come with this identity, as Romans 8:15-17 spells out: We have the privilege of approaching God boldly and calling Him Abba (Daddy!); we’re His heirs — in line to inherit (with Christ) all He possesses (see also Galatians 4:6-7); and we get to walk in a new-found freedom (see Romans 8:21).
In 1 John 3:1, the old apostle can hardly contain himself when he thinks about this reality. Listen to him slowly as he speaks to us: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” John saw that one of the ways the Father lavishes His love on us is that He does everything necessary for us to be called His children.
One of the ways the Father lavishes His love on us is that He does everything necessary for us to be called His children.
With this high calling there are also responsibilities. Because we’re His dearly loved children, we’re to sacrificially imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). Romans 8:14 says we have a responsibility to follow Him. And in Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus says that because we’re His children, we’re to act completely differently from the way we normally would, loving not just our neighbors but even our enemies! We’re to pray for those who mistreat us and do good to those who don’t do good to us. Why? Because that’s how our Dad would do it! In fact, Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) How’s that possible? When we understand that the word for perfect here means “mature,” we learn to ask the Spirit of God to let us act consistently with who we truly are. We really are His children. So we can say, “When I grow up, I want to be just like Daddy!”
What a privilege to call the God of the universe “Our Father!” He has risked, we get to receive the rewards, and He has given us everything we need to fulfill the responsibilities.
Adapted from Living Prayer ©2010 Dennis Fuqua http://www.livingprayer.net/
Dennis Fuqua has been the director of International Renewal Ministries since 2000. Prior to that, he pastored for 25 years in Gig Harbor, Washington. In 1989 IRM (under the direction of Dr. Joe Aldrich) gave birth to the Pastors’ Prayer Summit movement. Now Dennis helps shepherd this movement, which has spread to at least 40 states and nearly 30 nations. He not only facilitates Prayer Summits for pastors in cities, but also for congregations. He is a member of America’s National Prayer Committee and Mission America Coalition. Dennis and his wife, Marilyn, live in Vancouver, Washington.