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A Father's Prayer

Col. 3:12-21 

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"And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; [13] bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. [14] And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

[18] Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [19] Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them. [20] Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. [21] Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart." (NASB) 

These are confusing times to be a man-it seems that popular culture can't make up its mind. Are men supposed to be strong providers, or are they supposed to be soft and sensitive? While culture is saying it wants its men to be sensitive, it appears to want it in moderation. In his book, What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently, John Townsend writes, "In many romances, there is a man hanging around who is sensitive, devoted and willing to commit, but the heroine can not truly love this man…because he is simply not the man in her eyes that the hero is. She may be very fond of the hanger-on, but basically she sees him as a wimp." So the message is clear-men are supposed to be sensitive, but not too sensitive, at least not so sensitive that they are "wimps." Laurence Stains agrees. In his book, What Women Want : What Every Man Needs to Know About Sex, Romance, Passion, and Pleasure, he writes that women want, "a man who's sensitive, but not sensitive and weak-that's a loser." And that's where the rub is. How can a man be sensitive without being perceived as weak? On one hand men are criticized for being macho, so in reaction to that criticism they soften up then culture criticizes them for being wimps and losers. 

Regardless of how far the pendulum swings on the strength vs. sensitivity issue, and it appears to be in constant motion, one universal theme emerges, there is a connection between the strength of a man to his ability to control his emotions, especially when it comes to showing grief. Think about it. What emotions can men show? For years, anger was the only acceptable emotion for men

So how is a man supposed to act? Is it somewhere between the traditional, strong and rational male and the new caring and sensitive man? Men are living with mixed signals. Some applaud the stereotypical strongman, who fulfills the traditional role of independent infallibility, while others criticize him for his inability to engage in meaningful relationships. Without consistent reinforcement, men are left shaking their heads, wondering who they are supposed to be.

In his song, "Grown Men Don't Cry," Tim McGraw writes about the parent-child relationship and the strong bonds it creates for a lifetime. He describes seeing a homeless woman with her child clinging to her. He didn't just immediately dismiss the scene as commonplace, but was able to get past what the woman didn't have to see how blessed the two were to have each other. This scene causes him to flashback to his own childhood where he laments the missed opportunity to have really known his father, because his father was "a slave to his work." In one way, his father provided for him, but in another he didn't. In the final verse, McGraw reflects on how blessed he is to have his wife and his kids and to be able to enjoy the simple things of life like hearing them say they love him and being able to do things with them. Between the verses, is the succinct statement: "I don't know why they say grown men don't cry." The refrain gently rebukes conventional wisdom-there are times when grown men do cry. Like when they stop to consider powerful family ties, and when they do, their eyes begin to moisten.

Some of the strongest men in the scripture were men who were incredibly soft toward their children as is illustrated in the way they pray for them. We often applaud Job for his patience, but have you ever thought about how tough a man he was? He was able to withstand everything Satan could throw at him, and in the end he was victorious. Job, this man of amazing strength and endurance, was very tender when it came to his children. He constantly prayed for them and was concerned about their spiritual health. Let's eavesdrop on his prayer in Job 1:5: "And it came about, when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said,'"Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did continually." (NASB) 

Job wasn't the only strongman who was tender with his children. David was undoubtedly the greatest King of Israel, and arguable her greatest warrior. His heroic feats went unchallenged by other strongmen in the Bible. Yet, this strong man had a tender heart towards his children. There are three occasions where David prayed for his children that I want to underscore today. 
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