“Lessons from the Archer” – Psalm 127:1-5
How many of you got your dad something for father’s day?
ILL.: A PRACTICAL GIFT FOR DAD I heard about the family that gave their dad a very practical gift. Dad told the family to get him something that the whole family could get something out of. So they did. They got Dad a new wallet.
Today is Fathers Day. And seing that I am a father too, it’s almost like Mattias said to me when he watched me prepare this sermon – “Dad, you shouldn’t be preaching on father’s day.” Since he wasn’t ready to take my spot up here today, I decided to invite all of you in to listen to a lesson that I’m learning from a master archer. I want to take some time today to encourage myself and all the dads by looking in the mirror a bit and also learning some lessons from the Archer. And while we’re at it, I think it’ll be healthy to laugh a little at ourselves.
ILL.: In Dads Say The Dumbest Things, by Bruce Lansky and K. L. Jones, we find some of the dumbest things that we as dads say to our kids. (Feel free to recite them with me if they seem familiar). And when I say "no," I mean "NO!" (p. 3) I'll tell you why. Because. That's why. (p. 4) I'm your father, that's why. (p. 4) As long as you live in my house, you'll live by my rules. (p. 7) If all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you jump too? (p. 7) You want something to do? I'll give you something to do. (p. 11) OK, You go hide and I'll count to a million. (p. 19) I know it's your game, but right now your uncle and I are playing. (p. 20) Look. Fluffy left you a little present - right in the middle of the oriental rug. (p. 31) It's either you or the dog, and I'm leaning toward the dog. (p. 31) When I said "feed the goldfish," I didn't mean "feed them to the cat." (p. 31) If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don't come running to me. (p. 35)
Let me read Psalm 127 to give us the context for today’s message.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat-
for he grants it in their sleep to those he loves.
3Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
In Psalm 127 the relationship of parents (fathers) to their children is compared to the relationship of a skillful archer with the arrows that he shoots with his bow.
The Psalmist said that children are God’s gifts to their fathers (and, off course, also to their mothers). Our children belong to God, who has entrusted them into our care to teach, to value, to respect and to guide. The question we need to ask as fathers is this: “How can we as fathers be good stewards of our children?”
To answer that question lets observe the Archer as he prepares to go into battle:
I. Just as the Archer needs to determine the purpose for is arrows, so fathers need to determine God’s intended purpose for the children that God has entrusted to him.
There are different types of arrows, but all have a purpose. Likewise our children are also “wired” differently, and we have the task of discovering with them the purpose that God has for their lives.
How can we determine their purpose? By spending time with them and asking God to show us His purpose for their lives.
ILL.: FULL-TIME FATHER Teddy Roosevelt once said about his 16 year old daughter, "I can either be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot do both." That gives us an idea how great the task of a father is.
ILL.: RAISING KIDS, NOT GRASS When Harmon Killebrew was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, he said, "My father taught me and my brother to play ball in the front yard. One day my mother came out and told him we were ruining the lawn. My father told her, 'We're raising kids, not grass.'" It’s important for us to keep the wider perspective in mind.
I remember a sermon by Steve Masterson that I heard at a Men’s conference. He pointed out that the greatest responsibility of fathers toward their children is to show them the Father-heart of God through their own example of love, compassion and discipline. He also said that the way our children will spell love is T.I.M.E.
Sometimes it is our children themselves who remind us of the importance of spending our time wisely.
ILL.: HELPFUL ADJUSTMENT A child's father kept bringing work home from the office just about every night. Finally his first grader son asked why. Daddy explained that he had so much work he couldn't finish it all during the day. The boy reasoned, "In that case, why don't they put you in a slower group?"
ILL.: A DAY WASTED In a book called The Effective Father, Gordon MacDonald wrote: “It is said of Boswell, the famous biographer of Samuel Johnson, that he often referred to a special day in his childhood when his father took him fishing. The day was fixed in his mind, and he often reflected upon many things his father had taught him in the course of their fishing experience together. After having heard of that particular excursion so often, it occurred to someone to check the journal that Boswell’s father kept and find out what had been said about the fishing trip from the father’s perspective. Turning to that date, the reader found only one sentence entered: ‘Gone fishing today with my son; a day wasted.’”
Fathers: spend time with your children. Waste your time well! Invest yourselves emotionally, spiritually and physically in the lives of your children. Show interest in them – genuine interest. Talk to them. Listen to them. Find out what makes their world go around and what breaks their heart. Show them the father-heart of God.
By doing this you will help them to discover and to develop their purpose in life.
II. Just as the Archer sharpens and shapes and fine-tunes the potential of his arrows, so we too as fathers must develop the potential of our children.
ILL.: Arrows do not naturally grow in nature. They are sticks, rugged and knotted that must be crafted until they become smooth and purposeful, requiring time, diligence, tools, etc…
Each of these arrows becomes effective when it is used for the purpose that it was designed for.
How can we develop the potential of our children?
As we spend time with our children we learn to identify their strengths and the areas that need growth. I know from personal experience that it is often a lot easier to critisize our children for what they do wrong, than to encourage them for what they do right.
- \\ ILL.:* Steve & Annie Chapman asked their children to make a list of what they hear them say the most, and here is the list that their kids came up with (Again, feel free to complete the sentences if they sound familiar):
“I’m not talking just to hear my jaws flap.”
”You just ate.”
”It’ll be good for you.”
”Sit back and buckle up.”
”Not another word.”
”I had to walk five miles to school and five miles home and it was uphill both ways.”
”Don’t touch each other.”
”There are starving people in Africa.”
”Were you born in a barn?”
”Don’t you look at me like that.”
”I’ll give you something to cry about.”
”Ask your mother.”
”Ask your father.”
”That drives me nuts.”
”Do you want to live to see your next birthday?”
”If you pick at it--it won’t heal.”
Then there are the mixed messages like:
“Shut your mouth and eat.”
”Hurry up and don’t run.”
”Don’t be smart.”
ILL.: Let me see, what would you guess are the three most frequent things that fathers say to their children?
In a survey of hundreds of children, the three things fathers say most in responding to their kids were: (1) "I’m too tired" (2) "We don’t have enough money" (3) "Keep quiet".
In order to discover the potential of our children, we need to get to know them. That takes time! Each child is different, and it doesn’t really help to say something like, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Rather, we need to find the resources that we need to encourage the positive traits that we see in our children.
III. As the Archer pulles back the bow, takes aim and releases the arrow, so we too must aim high and direct the path of our children.
Each arrow can and should be directed to a target. Charles Spurgeon said, “A man of war is glad of weapons which fly where he cannot; good sons are their father’s arrows speeding to hit the mark which they aim at.”
I don’t know about you, but as a father I have very high expectations of my children – just the same as my father had very high expectations of his two sons. I believe there is a lot of truth in the words of the Rankin Family song: “We look to our sons and daughters to explain our lives.” And also, “We rise again in the faces of our children.” We are proud when our children do well in school, in sports, in their social and spiritual life.
ILL.: A DIFFERENT PLACE TO GO! Two fathers were discussing how each of their sons was doing in college. One father said, "My son is so smart that when he writes home I have to go to the dictionary?" "You're lucky," the other father replied, "When my son writes home, I have to go to the bank."
Fathers, when you direct the path of your children, as a fellow father, I encourage you to aim high. Visualize in your mind what you see in their future and tell them. Give them your blessing daily by telling them that you love them. Even if you have not grown up in a home where love was shown – leave alone expressed in words. Let your children know how much they mean to you, not because of how good they perform, but because they are the arrows in your quiver. They are your inheritance – your future.
Teach them to listen to the voice of God, and model for them a personal relationship with your heavenly Father and his Son Jesus. Give them godly counsel. Austin L. Sorensen said, "A child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father."
IV. Finally, like the Archer, who depends on a power outside of himself – namely the bow – to carry the arrow to its intended purpose, so we too must depend on God’s power and release our children into his hands to bring them to their intended target. Once the arrow leaves the bow, it’s too late to change its course. An archer cannot blame the arrow for missing the target.
However, we must be careful not to be too hard on parents whose children give them a great deal of heart-ache. Arrows in hand often become arrows to the heart, bringing grief to their godly parents. Then we need to entrust them into God’s power who can change the direction of their flight.
Fathers, we have a huge responsibility as builders of our Christian homes, to help our children reach their God-given target.
My paryer as a father is that I will be a faithful steward of the gifts that he entrusted to me – namely my two children. … that I will take the time to get to know them and their intended purpose in life. … to help and develop their potential. … to guide them to make positive and God-pleasing choices in their lives. … and when it’s time to let go of the arrow to release them into God’s power and see them fly to hit their mark. For these mercies I humbly pray.
God bless you on this fathers day.