Portrait of a Loving Father
Luke 15:11 through Luke 15:32 (NIV)
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Introduction: Where do we get our idea of Father? For many, the term father has been colored by their own father. God himself shows what our idea of Fatherhood should be. Our idea of human fatherhood should not define the Fatherhood of God. As Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son, He paints a beautiful picture of Fatherhood from God's perspective.
I. A Father is Pictured Giving Room To Grow
A. At the expense of rejection
---Without choice, there is no love, for love is given, not demanded, and without a choice in the matter a person becomes nothing more than a robot.
*A soldier received a box of home-baked cookies from his girlfriend. Several were thick and lumpy. He ate the thin ones and left the others for his buddies in the barracks. To his chargrin, he learned that his sweetheart had placed intimate love notes in some of the cookies - the thick, lumpy ones that he had rejected and left for his fellow-soldiers.
Are we sometimes like that soldier? Are we sometimes guilty of rejecting God's expressions of love and carelessly tossing them aside?
B. At the expense of riches
A Sunday School teacher was teaching her children the benefits of unselfishness. She concluded by saying: “The reason you are in this world, children, is to help others.”
After a moment’s silence, a little girl piped up: “Well, then, what are the OTHERS here for?”
C. At the expense of failure
Failure has been correctly identified as the line of least persistence, whereas success is often a question of simply sticking to the job and working and believing while you are sticking. If a particular job is harder than you might wish, just remember you can’t sharpen a razor on a piece of velvet and you can’t sharpen a man by spoon feeding him. --- Zig Ziglar
II. A Father is Pictured Hoping for a Return of the Lost
A. Longing Compassionately
---Not an attitude of "you made your bed, now lie in it."
B. Losing Composure
--No brave front, but at the first sign of return from being lost, even the most dignified of fathers finds in themselves a grinning idiot, running to meet the wayward child.
C. Loving Completely
---Even at their worst, a Father never stops loving his children.
III. A Father is Pictured Seeking Restoration
A. Restoration Through Repentance and Confession
One pastor writes of a man he had in his congregation, a Christian worker, a man used of God, but who unfortunately at an evil hour slipped badly. Oh, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. This man fell and he was serving a 7 year sentence in one of our penal institutions. Through his encounter with a Godly Barnabas-like pastor this man was led to know the recovering power of the precious blood of Christ. On the fly leaf of his bible he wrote: "The soul that comes to Jesus through failure, shame, or pain, by His wondrous love and mercy may soar as high again." A sense of need and the spirit of repentance is a vessel into which God wills to pour himself in recovering grace.
B. Restoration To The Rights of Fellowship
A father and daughter were especially close. They enjoyed spending time together. If he went for a walk or made a social call, she wanted to go along. But then he began to notice a change. When he asked her to accompany him on errands, she made excuses. As the weeks passed, he became concerned about it.
When his birthday came, she presented him with a pair of slippers she had made. Then he realized that she had been working on them while he was out of the house. "Darling, I like these slippers very much," he said gently, "but next time buy the slippers and let me have you all the days. I would rather have you than anything you can make for me."
A. Restoration To The Relationship of Family
"It was right that we should...be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again." Luke 15:32 R. Mactavish was gone. I wanted to wait until morning to see if he would come back on his own. But the look on the other family members faces vetoed that idea. So we climbed into the car to begin looking for our stubborn Scottish terrier who was far more interested in being lost than found. As we slowly drove down street after street, calling his name and peering intently into the darkness, even I became sentimental. What if he got hit by a car? What if someone else picked him up? What if we never saw him again? But we found him. And by the time we did, I was as happy as the rest of the family to see him. Even though he was a mess mud-soaked, foul smelling, too dirty to be anywhere but the floor Mac was a sight for sore eyes. In fact, you could say that at that moment all three of us, my wife Diane, my son Ben, and I, appeared to be far happier about finding and being with that dirty dog than we were about being with one another.
Conclusion: Do not let the World color your picture of father. When this happens, a father is often seen as one who is restrictive and confining, who is unforgiving and unyielding, and more punishing than loving.
If we allow Christ to paint the picture of Father for us however, we begin to see a portrait of a father who hates to see his children make mistakes, and is devastated by the effects of sin upon one's life, but who is longing to see the return of the wayward child and is quick to restore them to fellowship within the family.
As Father's, our example is not to be set by our earthly father, but our heavenly father. If our heavenly father has been the one to shape your earthly father, so much the better, but in cases where our earthly fathers have not been true to the heavenly image, do not let the counterfeit image color your picture of Father.