Some years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote a book entitled: "It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It." It is a collection of essays that point out the joys of lighheartedness, and describes ways to deal with absurd situations. You might recognize his name. He is also the author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
In "It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It," he tells the story of Molly, age 7. It was her job to pack the lunches for her family. She would put in the sandwiches, cookies, fruit and so on in a paper bag. One day, in addition to the paper bag she usually packed for her father, she gave him a second bag—enclosed by duct tape, staples, and paper clips. The dad, in a hurry to get to work didn=t have time to ask what was inside, quickly thanked her, gave her a kiss and took both bags with him to work. At lunch time, as he was eating his lunch, he remembered his daughter's gift and brought it out. Since it proved too difficult to open any other way, he tore it open on the side, and out spilled these objects:
- 2 hair ribbons
- 3 small stones
- 1 plastic dinosaur
- A pencil stub
- A tiny seashell
- 2 animal crackers
- A marble
- A used lipstick
- A small doll
- 2 chocolate kisses
- & 13 pennies
Unsure of what she meant by this gift, he smiled to himself and thought "how quaint." Then realizing the lateness of the hour, he hurriedly swept his desk clean, including the "gifts," and put them in the wastebasket. He thought to himself, "There was nothing in the pile that I needed."
That night, as he sat in his easy chair, his daughter approached him and asked, "Where is my bag?" "Your bag?" he asked uneasily. "Yes my bag of treasures I gave you this morning. I thought you might like to play with them." "Oh, that bag. Well, it's still at the office." "I want it back," she said. "Those things are very important to me." "Of course, honey. I'll get it for you tomorrow." "Oh, and daddy, there is something I forgot to put in your bag," and she handed him a note. Unfolding the paper he read "Daddy, I love you." Slipping out to his car, he drove hurriedly to his office and frantically checked his wastebasket and found to his relief that it had not been emptied yet. Quickly, he dumped its contents onto his desk and sorted thru them for the "treasures." Just then the janitor came in and, asked, "did you lose something." "Yes," he replied, "I think I've lost my mind." The next day, at home, he asked his daughter to explain the meaning of the items in the bag and patiently listened as she explained each item in detail, how they each meant something special to her, a special event, or something he had given to her.
Paul, writing to the Thessalonian church, notes that the congregation in Thessalonica was renowned for its powerful witness and its reputation as a strong church. Part of the reason for their reputation is revealed here in vv. 2:10-12 B Paul, Silas, and Timothy had exemplified for the Thessalonians what a father ought to be.
The church whose men are strong father figures, not just in their own families, is a church that can be a mighty force for God.
I. GOD CONSIDERS THE ROLE OF FATHERS SO SIGNIFICANT, HE BUILT HIS CHURCH AROUND IT
"for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:13-17, NASB95)
- Jesus taught truths that were revolutionary and revelatory to his disciples and the crowds who followed him
- the most revolutionary thing he taught them was the Fatherhood of God
- God is not some mean ol man with a scowl on his face waiting for people to sin so He can throw lighting bolts at them or toss them into Hell
- He is a loving Heavenly Father who longs for His children to return to Him
- there is no better place to see this than in what we=ve come to call the Parable of the Prodigal Son
- it really ought to be called the Parable of the Loving Father
- Paul uses the same metaphor of fatherhood with the Thessalonians
- "You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children," (1 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NASB95)
- they behaved toward the Thessalonians just as God behaves toward us
- devoutly—in a holy manner and emphasizes who Paul, Silas, and Timothy lived before God
- uprightly— they were honest, and moral in their conduct before men
- blamelessly—B they were exemplary in their spiritual demeanor
II. GOD CONSIDERS THIS IMAGE OF FATHERS IMPORTANT THAT HE MODELS HIS LEADERSHIP AFTER IT
"It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)," (1 Timothy 3:1-5, NASB95)
- as far as God is concerned Church Elders are to be the image of what fathers should be
- according to this passage, fathers are to be two things
- they are to be examples
- I'll speak to this in a moment
- they are to be instructors
- they are to be a personal teacher and motivator
- this fatherly instruction is conveyed in three verbs describing what fathers do and what Paul had done continually
- Exhorting literally means "to call alongside"
- it is a word that is related to the noun parakletos, "one who comes alongside which is one of the titles for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-17
- the apostle referred to coming alongside children for the purpose of aiding, directing, and instructing wisely as a source of character conduct
- Encouraging means to encourage in the sense of comfort and consolation
- it is so critical in assisting toward spiritual growth because of the many obstacles and failures Christians can experience
- ILLUS. The word is used in John 11:19 and 31 for the consolation given to the grieving family of Lazarus. It is a word that was reserved for the tender, restorative, compassionate uplifting needed by a struggling, burdened, heartbroken child.
- the word is a participle which is usually translated "testifying, or "witnessing"
- is related to the word martyr because so many faithful witnesses died for their boldness
- Paul warned the Thessalonians that any deviation from the divinely prescribed course of conduct of the Christian life had serious consequences
- the warning was an admonishment that if they did not follow the course laid out for them, they, as disobedient children would receive from a father, could expect to receive spiritual discipline from the apostle
III. GOD CONSIDERS THIS IMAGE OF FATHERS SO IMPORTANT THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A FATHER TO BE A FATHER FIGURE
- I Thessalonians 1:1 tells us that Timothy, Silas and Paul were the father figures for this church
- I don't know about Timothy or Silas, but we do know Paul had no wife or children
- what that means is that you don=t have to be married or have children to influence the lives of others as a father figure
- if you want to be a father figure you must realize these things
- while discipline is critical, discipline is not the primary purpose of a father
- their primary role is that of being an EXAMPLE
- 1 Thessalonians 2:10 tells us, these evangelists reminded the Christians there \"how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed."\
- they intended to leave a good example for the Thessalonians to follow
- my father was a good example in so many ways
CLOSING ILLUSTRATION: Johnny was perpetually late for the evening meal. He always was waylaid by activities on the way home from school and his parents finally laid down the law. The next time he late for dinner, he would receive nothing but bread and water. Sure enough, he arrived late for the evening meal and found, as they had promised, the plate of bread and the cup of water in his appointed place. In sadness, he sat and began to chew on the piece of bread. And then the father did something extremely unusual. His dad reached over and took the son=s plate and replaced it with his own, full of food. Then the father ate the bread in silence. In that one act he showed his son what God showed us in His fatherhood. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son for us, though we did not deserve it.