Dads that Make a Difference
1 Thessalonians 2:4-13
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - June 15, 2014
*To all of the dads here this morning: I hope you have a great Father's Day. We thank God for you! And we should. Garrison Keillor reminds us that Father's Day goes back to a Sunday morning in May of 1909. On that day, a lady named Sonora Dodd was sitting in church in Spokane, Washington.
*Sonora was listening to a Mother's Day sermon, and she thought of her father who had raised his children after Sonora's mother had died giving birth to her. Sonora thought that fathers should get recognition, too. And she asked her pastor if he would preach a sermon to honor fathers on her dad's birthday that June. The pastor agreed, and that was the start of Father's Day.
*But the tradition caught on much slower than Mother's Day. Mother's Day became an official holiday in 1914. But Father's Day was not officially recognized until 1972. That's hard to believe isn't it? (1)
*On this Father's Day of 2014, I hope you are thankful for your own father. I hope you can look back and say: "I had a dad who made a difference in this world. I had a dad who made a difference in my life!"
*And if you have the privilege of being a father this morning, I've got some great news for you today: God wants to help you be a dad who makes a difference. Today's Scripture shows us how.
1. First of all, God will take away your guilt.
*This wonderful truth is for all of us here today: God wants to take away our guilt! Paul reminds us of this truth in vs. 4, when he mentions the gospel or good news about Jesus Christ. There Paul said: "But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts."
*In other words: "God has trusted us with the gospel, and we speak the gospel, because that's what God wants us to do." God wanted them to speak the good news, because He wanted us to hear the good news. God wants everybody to hear the good news: That He loves us, that He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins, that Jesus Christ died on the cross, and rose again to take away all of our guilt, if we will trust in Him.
*Paul knew all about guilt. Before he met Jesus, he was full of self-righteousness and murderous hatred. But Paul met the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, and he trusted in the good news of the cross.
*Paul was guilty, but he found out that God can take away our guilt. And that's what God wants to do in your life, because you are guilty too. All of us fail, all of us fall short, all of us need to be forgiven, and God wants to take our guilt away.
*Please understand that I am not just talking about feelings of guilt, although Jesus Christ will take those away too. But some guilty feelings are good for us. The Bible calls those feelings godly sorrow: The guilty feelings that help us turn away from sin, and turn toward the Savior. The people in the greatest danger today are the ones who feel no guilt before God.
*But I am not just talking about guilty feelings. I am talking about facts. And the fact is that you are guilty, and so am I. Without Jesus Christ, we all stand guilty in the Court of Heaven. And it doesn't matter how we plead. Without Jesus Christ, we are guilty before the highest court in the universe. But Paul found forgiveness, and so can you.
*God will take away your guilt right now. But what do you have to do? Just do what these people did down in vs. 13. There Paul said: "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."
*God's forgiveness is found in the Word of God! You just have to receive it and believe it. Receive the good news about Jesus Christ. Believe in Him, and receive Him as your Lord and Savior.
*You know I'm not just talking to Dads right now. But Dad, God will take your guilt away. And that will help you be a dad who makes a difference.
2. God will also give you the goodness you need.
*God can fill us with all the goodness we will ever need in life! That's how Paul got his goodness, and he was surely a good man. We see this so clearly in vs. 5-10. Please listen to these verses again from the New Living Translation. There Paul said:
5. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you very well know. And God is our witness that we were not just pretending to be your friends so you would give us money!
6. As for praise, we have never asked for it from you or anyone else.
7. As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children.
8. We loved you so much that we gave you not only God's Good News but our own lives, too.
9. Don't you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that our expenses would not be a burden to anyone there as we preached God's Good News among you.
10. You yourselves are our witnesses, and so is God, that we were pure and honest and faultless toward all of you believers.
*Paul was a good man, and by God's grace, the Lord can give us all of the good things we see here: Honesty, humility, holiness and a big heart. God can turn us into hard workers. He can give us kindness, love, and all of the courage we will ever need.
 How does He do it? -- One way is by the fruit of His Spirit in our lives as Christians.
*Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness & temperance." And Ephesians 5:8-10 says this to Christians:
8. You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
9. (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),
10. proving what is acceptable to the Lord.
*We all need more of this God-given goodness to be the people He wants us to be, to be the fathers He wants us to be. And the world needs more good, godly fathers!
*This past week, our Becky saw a tweet from Brenna Norwood. Becky used to work with Brenna at HBU. She and her husband, Grove, serve as volunteers in one of the Christian prison ministries over in Texas. Right now they are leading a year-long course for male prisoners on how to be a godly father.
*Recently they had the first meeting, and in that class they asked the prisoners about their own fathers. Twenty-eight out of 31 raised their hands to say they had never even met their own father.
*The world needs more good, godly men. Our families need good men. Our children need good fathers. And God can fill us with all the goodness we will ever need!
 How does He do it? -- By the fruit of His Spirit in our lives, and by the work of His Word in our lives.
*Listen to vs. 13 again, as it says: "When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also EFFECTIVELY WORKS in you who believe."
*Believers: The Word of God works in our lives. Let me give you an example from one of my favorite family verses: Ephesians 5:25. There the Bible says: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it." This verse is extremely important for all husbands, but in an extra way for dads, because one of the most important things we can do for our children is love our wife.
*"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it." I've got to tell you that after 39 years, I'm still working on that. And I fall far short of that perfect goal. But I can honestly tell you that I love my wife a whole lot more than I used to. How did that happen?
*Well, I look at God's Word in 1 John 5:14-15, and see that:
14. . . This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
15. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
*I know it's God's will for me to love my wife, so I can pray: "God please help me love my wife as You love the church." And I can pray that prayer with complete confidence, because God has promised to answer.
*God will fill you with all the goodness you will ever need. He can even make a brand new man out of you!
*Pastor Jay Piper got saved on his wedding day. His bride's mother actually led Jay to the Lord that day. And Jay later said: "My wife went to church to marry one man. But she wound up marrying (another) man." (2)
Church: That's absolutely true! Because when Jay received Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he was born again by the Holy Spirit of God, and 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
*Jesus Christ can make a new man out of anybody. He can turn any life around! And God will give you the goodness you need.
3. He will also give you the guidance you need.
*As a spiritual father, the Apostle Paul gave great guidance to these Christians in Thessalonica, and Paul summed up this guidance in vs. 11&12. There the Apostle said:
11. . . You know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,
12. that you would have a walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
*Paul gave good guidance, and he was able to do that, because Paul was guided by God. God wants to guide us too, and man, how we need it!
*In Psalm 73, Asaph was envious and overwhelmed when he saw the prosperity of wicked people. He even began to think it might be useless to follow the Lord. But God guided Asaph back on the right path. And in Psalm 73:22-24, Asaph gave this testimony:
22. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
23. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.
24. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
*God guided Asaph, God guided Paul, and He wants to guide us too, so we will be able to guide our children in the way they should go. Every dad is a guide for his children. Where are you leading yours?
*Our Heavenly Father wants to guide us, so we can guide our children. And even if you don't have children of your own, like the Apostle Paul, God will put you in the place where you can help other people. You too can give words of comfort and encouragement like Paul talks about here in vs. 11&12, calling people to join you in the journey of following Jesus Christ.
*God wants you to give hope to other people by telling them the story of how He has worked in your life. Let God guide you, so that you can guide others, and especially so you can guide them to Him. This is so important for fathers, because as Austin Sorensen once said: "A child is not likely to find a Father in God, unless he finds something of God in his father." (3)
*Pastor Al Serhal once asked the preschoolers in his church to draw a picture of God. He wanted to use the pictures as an illustration for his Sunday sermon. Toward the end of class the children were excited to show their work to Pastor Al. They came up with rainbows and men with big hands. (God's got big hands. Amen?) Finally, Al's daughter showed him her picture. It was a man with a suit and tie on. And she said: "I don't know what God looks like, so I just drew my daddy instead." (4)
*Al's daughter saw a picture of God in her earthly father, and that's what all children need to see. Dads: They need their earthly father to resemble our Heavenly Father. And God will guide you, so that you can guide them to Him. God will give you the guidance you need.
4. He will also give you a grateful heart.
*Paul was so thankful down in vs. 13, where again He said: "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."
*Paul said: "We thank God without ceasing." And we have so many reasons to be grateful today! I thank God for my wife and my children. I thank Him for our church. And I thank Him for saving my soul! But as we focus on Father's Day, I want to say how grateful I am for my dad.
*Of course my dad wasn't perfect, but he really was a great guy. My dad helped raise his two little sisters when his father abandoned the family. My dad was only 8-years-old, when he became the man of the house. My dad went off to war to help save us from the Nazis. And he really was like Prince Charming when he rescued my mother from a horrible home. Dad was compassionate and kind, hard working, funny, and full of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am so thankful that he didn't treat me like a fool, when I was one of the biggest fools in town.
*Most of all, I am thankful for what my dad went through for me, even though at the time, he didn't know it was for me. Dad took early retirement from Sears with a good bit of money, and he tried to start several new businesses. But he hit a brick wall every time, and he basically lost it all. One time he told me he used to lay awake all night, worrying about how he had failed, and how he hadn't provided for his wife and children.
That stress helped put Dad in an early grave at the age of 55. But if he hadn't gone through that, I wouldn't be standing here today. I never would have applied for the Teacher Corps to pay for college. I never would have come out here, never would have met my wife, never would have had our children, and I don't think I ever would have gotten saved. But I did get saved 10 months before my dad died, in large part because my dad suffered. I am sure that it all made sense to Dad as soon as he got to Heaven.
*Sometimes being a dad means paying a high price. So thank God for Dad! And remember the sacrifice our Heavenly Father made. He was willing for Jesus to die on the cross so that we could live forever.
*On this Father's Day of 2014, I hope you can look back and say: "I had a dad who made a difference!" But even if you can't say that, you can still have a Father in Heaven who loves you more than we can measure! Trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and His Father will be your Heavenly Father!
*And if you have the privilege of being a dad this morning, God wants to help you be a dad who makes a difference. Trust Him to do it.
-God will take away your guilt.
-God will give you the goodness you need.
-He will give you the guidance you need.
-And God will give you a grateful heart.
*Let's go to the Lord in prayer.
(1) Garrison Keillor, on his "Writer's Almanac" on National Public Radio - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Sowing Good Seed - Father's Day" by King Duncan - Mark 4:26-34 - 2006
(2) Adapted from Cross & Crown Sermons - "If Apostle Paul Were My Dad" by James McCullen - Acts 26:11-29
(3) Austin L. Sorensen in These Times - June 1979 - Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 13 - Source: “Bible Illustrator for Windows” - Topic: Fatherhood - Subtopic: Of God - Index: 1246-1247 - Date: 12/1997.1872 - Title: God, Our Father
(4) Al Serhal, Oakford, Ind. "Lite Fare," Christian Reader - Leadership - Source: “Bible Illustrator for Windows” Topic: Fatherhood - Subtopic: Of God - Index: 1246-1247 - Date: 12/1997.1872 - Title: God, Our Father