To have a meaningful communication with God, we need to know what kind of Father God is. What kind of relationship can we have with Him? Understanding who God is and what He's like will affect every area of your life. It'll help determine your happiness in life.
Before we start, I'd like for you to picture in your mind your father. Think about your dad. Think about what he was like. Think about what your relationship with your dad is or was. Think about some descriptors of your father, something that would describe him to someone else if you were describing him. Think about your relationship with that father and what he meant to you — or means to you — or didn't mean to you — or doesn't mean to you. What comes to mind when you think of the word, father? What was your relationship — or is your relationship — with your physical father?
When one mentions the word, father, there is often a wide range of reactions. There are many pleasant thoughts from the past that some of you are thinking about — going fishing with your dad, your mom driving you to school and that type of thing — your relationship with your parents: some very pleasant things. There are other memories that come to mind for others of you. Some of you have some painful memories. Some of you, when I ask you to think about your dad were probably getting angry. For some of you, your dad was always there for you. For some of you, you maybe never even knew your dad. Some of you will have tears of joy. Some of you will have disgust and revulsion or fear.
I'm going to give your four quotations written by children about their fathers when asked to write down some things about their dads.
The first one says, "My dad is a spiritual leader. He has been there when I've taken a fall. He's a great father! To me, he's the father any kid would want. He's a God-given gift to me. He's my Dad."
Another young person wrote this. He said, "My Dad still lives with us, but seems as though he doesn't. He doesn't come to any of my games and shows little love for my Mom. I think his job is more important to him than me."
Another child wrote, "I just want to thank my Dad. Every time I've fallen, he's caught me. I love him very much. He taught me how to work hard and, most importantly, how to love God. He raised me to be a Godly son and I know that sometimes we fail and sometimes we both don't do what's right, but I've always known he loves me — no matter what."
And, finally, "Dad who? I've never seen my dad. I've seen my dad three times in my whole life," he says. "He left my mom when she was pregnant with me and he's never been around. I don't even think I care to see him anymore."
Now, you probably relate to one of those comments. Certain things come to mind when we think of our dads. These different quotes from kids show us that fathers can bring tremendous joy or intense pain.
What does all this have to do with the Arizona Church Family Weekend featuring the subject of communication? Well, as I think most of you noticed on the schedule you've got, that we're going to talk today about communication with God, the Father. What does our relationship with our physical fathers have to do with our relationship with our spiritual Father?
One time in a theology class the professor on the first day of class sent a survey out to all of his class and the questionnaire asked what their perceptions of their physical fathers were. What was he like? What was your relationship with your physical father? And the surveys were collected and no more was said about it through the whole semester. And as this professor in the theology class talked throughout the year about God, about who He was, about what He did, about what God's thoughts were as well as he understood, about God's work, His attributes, His Word. And near the end of the course, the professor handed out another survey. This survey had very similar questions to the first one. The students had forgotten about the initial survey that was handed out, taken up and then never sent back again. This one had the students answer questions about what their perceptions of God were; about what their relationship with God is; and how they perceived Him to be. Again, the questions were approximately the same as on the first survey, but this one directed towards their heavenly Father. When the professor turned those sets of surveys back to the students and they examined their responses, the students were fairly amazed to find that their answers about God and their perceptions of Him were approximately the same as their answers about their fathers and their relationship to their physical fathers. The way children see their parents is oftentimes the way they will see God.
If we're to have a meaningful communication with God, we need to know what kind of Father is God. What kind of relationship can we have with Him? Your understanding — or your misunderstanding — of who God is and what He's like will affect every area of your life, particularly in relation to your spiritual growth. It'll help determine your happiness in life.
It's significant that Jesus Christ came to earth not only to reveal who God is, but He came to show what a good Father is really like. Turn to John chapter 17. In John chapter 17, we see Christ speaking one time of many about His Father, His heavenly Father.
John 17:25 John 17:25O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me.
American King James Version× — The New Living Bible says, O righteous Father! Notice how He addresses God.O righteous Father, the world doesn't know you, but I do. And these disciples know that You sent Me.
And then He says in verse 26, And I have revealed you to them and will keep on revealing you... One of His purposes in being here was to reveal who the heavenly Father is so that you and I can have the same type of relationship with the heavenly Father that Jesus Christ, as the Son, has with the Father because, as He continues, ...I will do this so that your love for Me may be in them and I in them.
God wants to have a love for you that a proper father has for his children and He wants you to have the type of love for Him as a Father that a normal, natural relationship between a child and father should be.
It's interesting that in Luke 11 verse 1 when one of the disciples said,
Lk. 11:1 — Jesus, teach us how to pray.
What is the first thing that Christ did when He wanted them to be able to pray in a meaningful way? And what is prayer? Prayer is communication. We are here talking about communicating with God the Father. And when He was asked, ...teach us to pray... He answered them in this way. The New Living Bible says,
V. 2 — This is how you should pray. It starts off by saying, Our Father in heaven... Implied here is that if you're going to have a good communication with God, you need to have a concept of Him as a good father, as a loving father that you can relate to, so that you can have a good conversation with Him. You can pray to Him and have meaningful prayer.
Although the Old Testament does, indeed, reveal God as Father in many instances, (with relatively few references to it) but when Jesus came to reveal God as the Father, Jesus, alone, refers to God as Father over 150 times. It's something that was very much on His mind — very much on God's mind because He taught what the Father wanted Him to. And the Father wants you to have a relationship with Him as the supreme Father of the universe.
Now this is pretty good news if you had a good relationship with your father. If you can relate to your dad and have a positive parent/child relationship with your father or had that then you know that you can be emotionally intimate with your Father that can be extremely positive. You know that you can talk to your Father. You know that you can confide in your Father. You can trust your Father. You know that you can have fun with your Father if you had that good, positive relationship as God intended for it to be.
Now we know that if we practice these things we can have a great spiritual communicationship and relationship with God, our Father, if we transfer that positive relationship with our fathers onto the heavenly Father. But the bad news, for some, is that not all have had that type of relationship. Not all know a good relationship with their father as demonstrated by those young people who were talking about their dads and the one said, "Dad who? I don't think my dad cares anymore." For some, the word father brings up painful memories, as I said, brings up anger, can bring up deep resentment, fear, can bring up thoughts of abuse, of neglect, of abandonment. And many of you, just as I talk about it and use the word, father, are distracted by some of those things. And I know that. Satan knows it well and he uses that. And that's why Christ came to reveal the Father so that you could have a positive relationship with God, the Father.
There was a scientific study done of fifty of the most famous atheists in the world. And in this study of the world's most famous atheists such as Sigmund Freud and others, they have one big thing in common. Every one of them hated their dad. Was this an accident? They didn't believe in God. They didn't like their parents because of what their parents had done, how they were or whatever. And Satan knows that a warped and twisted human relationship can affect our relationship with God.
Christ asks us to take the view of what a father should be. He says for us, if we want to have communication with God, He said, pray: "Our Father in heaven." Okay, if you've got a good relationship with your dad and can relate that and make your relationship with your Father in heaven more effective because of it, God wants you to use that. If you didn't have that type of relationship, He wants you to rethink; He wants you to reconfigure your mind so that you can have that relationship with your Father in Heaven that you couldn't have with your father here on earth. God is different than human fathers. He is a heavenly Father. God doesn't make mistakes human fathers do. Well, no matter how perfect our human dad were, they weren't all perfect — and even the best of dads can cause us to have misconceptions that God doesn't want us to have about Him. And there are some common myths about God that we have projected onto God from our experiences here on earth.
One of the myths about God is that God is unreasonable. 'There's no way I can please God. His rules take away all my fun.' And so, people begin to twist the scriptures a bit and say, well, you know, obeying God is legalism because He wants me to do all these things and that's too hard. No, that's Satan's mind, that's not God's mind.
Another common myth is that God is unreliable. You've been hurt by people who have made bad choices. Some of you have had things done to you that are virtually unmentionable. They are beyond what a normal mind would think so you end up blaming God. 'Why did God allow that?" "Why did God allow the death of a loved one?" "Why did God allow this or that to happen to me?' And so, we begin to think that God's unreliable. I can't trust Him. No, you can't trust people, sometimes. You can trust God.
Another one is that God is unconcerned. "Well, yeah, I believe that there is a God, but God is too busy for me." And you find people that have a hard time relating to God because, "Yeah, God likes ministers or God likes deaconesses or something. But God doesn't like me. I'm not good enough." That's a myth, too. "How could God possibly be interested in the likes of me?" It's like the Bette Midler song: "God is watching me — from a distance." A long distance. Now, He's there and He's watching me, but He's not close to me.
Another one is that God is unpleasable. No matter how hard you try, you can't please God. He's just so far off, why... And then people get the 'why try' attitude from that sometimes. If you get B's, God wanted you to get A's. If you got A's, God wanted you to get A+'s. Now, where does that come from? Well, it didn't come from God, but there were some parents that had that, right? And some of you lived under that. No matter what your grade report was, it wasn't quite good enough. Most take the weaknesses of our parents and transfer them on to God.
Well, today let's see how Christ, the Word, reveals the Father — to see how God wants us to view and relate to Him, how He wants our relationship with Him, as our heavenly Father, to be. What does the Bible say God is really like? What kind of a father is God? Turn to Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 17.
The New International Version of Ephesians 1:17 Ephesians 1:17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
American King James Version× says, I keep asking that the God of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the glorious Father — I keep asking the glorious Father that He may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better. The New International Version.
God wants you to know Him better and He wants it done, it says. And we ask Him, we pray to Him for the spirit of wisdom and revelation because in order for some people to have a good relationship with God, that's exactly what it's going to take: the spirit of wisdom and revelation, the holy spirit, guiding and directing us so that we can reconfigure our minds to put out the garbage, to be able to accept Him as our heavenly Father and have the relationship that He wants us to have with Him that, maybe, we wouldn't normally be able to have — particularly if we didn't have the type of relationship that we could have had or should have had with a human father. So let's attempt to get to know our heavenly Father better.
Let's begin, first of all, by understanding that God, our Father, loves us and cares for us.He loves us and cares for us. If you had a loving, caring father and mother — that meant everything. You know you can always go to them and crawl up in their lap and know that they are there. You can cry on their shoulder. You know that they are going to be there for you. That's God with us. Ephesians chapter 3, we will begin with verse 14, reading from the New Living Bible. He says:
Ephesians 3:14 Ephesians 3:14For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
American King James Version× he says — When I think of the wisdom and the scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father.
I communicate with the Father, I talk to Him and what does He say? He, the Father, the creator of everything in heaven and earth says,
V. 16 — I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you the mighty inner strength through His spirit.
And V. 18 — And may you have the power to understand... as all God's people should ...how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love really is.
You notice what he is doing here? He says, I'm praying to the Father and I'm asking Him, "Help me with Your spirit to understand just who you are. And help me to fully comprehend just how wide and long and high and deep Your love is for me." That's something that is a gift from God the He can give us, but we have to pray and ask Him for that, and that's, maybe, a difficult thing. But if you've got God's holy spirit, God can help you to do that if it's working with you. It can help you to do that. Part of our communication with the Father should be to ask Him to help us fully comprehend who He is and the type of relationship that He wants us to have with Him and to understand the concern that He's got for each and every one of us.
You know, sometimes we doubt. Depending on your background, some of you doubt more than others. Some of you have cause for doubt because of some things that you experienced.
Mark chapter 4 verse 37 is an example of the type of doubts that sometimes we have. And this is a relationship, of course, with Jesus Christ in the boat, but it typifies sometimes, I think, what our attitude is and how we need to really go to God to get help.
Mark 4:37 Mark 4:37And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
American King James Version× — The New International Version says: A furious squall came up and the waves broke over the boat that it was nearly swamped.
V. 38 — Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said, Teacher, don't you care if we are going to drown?
Now here was the Son there, and there were a lot of waves and there was a lot going on. It looked as though it was the end and they said, "Don't you care that we're going to die here. Don't you care that our lives are about to come to an end?" Sometimes we think that with God. We look and say, "God, don't you care what I'm going through? Don't you care about this spiritual trauma I'm having; this relationship with my mate that I'm having; this difficulty on the job that I'm having; my health problems? Don't You care?"
Well, just how much does God care? How far does His love extend towards us? Now we could go on with an entire sermon simply about that, but Isaiah chapter 63:16 — if we read the context of Isaiah 63, verse 16 it's the words of doubt, really, where he is saying, "God, do you really care for us? Have you cut us off?" But notice what he says in Isaiah 63:16 Isaiah 63:16Doubtless you are our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: you, O LORD, are our father, our redeemer; your name is from everlasting.
American King James Version×. The Living Bible puts it this way:
Isaiah 63:16 Isaiah 63:16Doubtless you are our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: you, O LORD, are our father, our redeemer; your name is from everlasting.
American King James Version× — He says, Surely You are still our Father. Even if Abraham and Jacob would disown us, still you would be our father, our redeemer from ages past.
And I think we can understand this to say, Yes, God, even if my human parents abandoned me, even though I didn't have the type of relationship that I wish I would have had here on earth, you are still our Father! You won't abandon me! Now, true, we can abandon God. We can sever our relationship with our Father if we abandon Him just like the prodigal son did. But God is always there for us if we will come to Him. So even if our physical father has abandoned us, God will not!
I won't turn to it, but 2 Timothy 2 and verse 13 says, Even if we are faithless, He remains faithful and cannot disown himself. It's interesting how he puts that. He can't disown Himself.
When we receive the holy spirit, we are born from above. We receive sonship. We get that seed that enables us to be born into His spiritual family when Jesus Christ returns to this earth. We are His sons and He doesn't disown us and He considers us to be that — His sons and daughters. We're, in a spiritual sense, His own flesh and blood. I know that's a contradiction in terms, but when we put it in that way, we are His own flesh and blood when we have His spirit, when we're going His way, when we want to make Him our Father. He is more than willing to be our heavenly Father.
Luke chapter 11. You know, when Christ says, "I've come to reveal the Father. I want to tell you what He's like and I want you to think in those terms. And I want you to pray and ask that God will help you to be able to think in those terms so that you can have a conversation with God in prayer; so that you can listen to what He says in the scripture and be thankful for His instruction that He gives to us." Lk. 11:11 in the Living Bible says:
Lk. 11:11 — You men who are fathers, if your boy asks for bread will you give him a stone?... That's silly! Now there are some physical fathers that are bizarre, but overall a normal, physical father is not going to do anything near that. It says, ...If he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake?
V. 12 — If he asks for an egg, will you give him scorpion?
Well, of course not.
V. 13 — If even sinful persons like yourselves give children what they need, don't you realize that your Heavenly Father will do at least as much and give the holy spirit to those who ask Him.
If you want Him to have that relationship with you, He will. And He loves you more than any physical, human father could ever imagine. Some of you find that hard to understand because you didn't ever build that trust. If you did build that trust, project that onto God, the Father, and multiply it by many. Every kid wants to know that His parents love him. Every kid wants that. Even in that one quote where the kid says, "I've only met my dad like three times in my life. I'm not even sure I want to know him anymore." Yeah, the kid really did. He knew his dad could come and have a relationship with him.
Does our Heavenly Father love us? In Matthew 10:29 Matthew 10:29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
American King James Version×Christ tries to put it in these terminologies that anybody could understand and it's almost like, as He's describing that, well, how dense do we have to be to see that our Father really loves us. I mean, it's a no-brainer! In Matthew 10:29 Matthew 10:29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
American King James Version×the New Living Bible says,
Matthew 10:29 Matthew 10:29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
American King James Version× — Not even the sparrow worth a half a penny can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.
Remember when your goldfish died and you came to your dad and said, "Dad, my goldfish died." Your dad came and he tried to turn it around and see if it was really floating the wrong way and felt bad. "I'll get you another one." You knew, he was there for you. He was trying to help you through your time of trauma. If you had a dad that did that, you understand what I'm talking about. Well, God knows every sparrow that falls and He says,
V. 30 — The very hairs on your head are all numbered.
Does God care? How much of a loving father is God? If your father cared for you, he didn't care for you as much as God cares for you.
V. 31 — So don't be afraid. You're more valuable to Him than a whole flock of sparrows.
You know, He is saying (I'm not trying to make a comparison between you and a few birds) but He said, if He knows even sparrow that falls, He knows you really, really, really well. He cares for you a whole lot more than a stupid bird.
Galatians 3. Remember when Christ said, "I came to reveal the Father and to keep on revealing Him to you." And He kept on revealing the Father, not only through the words that He said, but through the words that He inspired the apostles to say. He kept on revealing because it's so important to our spiritual growth and our spiritual relationship.
We all fit that category. So, none of you can say, "Well, I never really had a father." Well, you do have a heavenly Father. You're all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
V. 27 — For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Chapter 4 and verse 6 says: And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"
Of course, you've heard this before: 'Abba, Father'. It's a terminology that meant, Daddy. Daddy, I love you. Dad. Pop. Whatever your particular terminology was. When a small child, learns to talk, he learns the term, 'Abba' in Aramaic. We use Dada, Daddy or whatever. But it's the crying out, what's in your hearts to where you have that relationship with God. You're starting over. You put away all of the bad stuff in the relationship with your parents — whatever bad stuff was there. The good stuff you capitalize on, as God wants you to do. But He says, start over and in your hearts cry out, Abba, Daddy. It's not a Swedish rock group. That's a different Abba. There's no barrier between a small child and his father. You know, that child cries out, "Daddy". Or a baby cries out his first words, "Dada". You know, there's no junk there. There are no mental blocks in the middle. There's no experience there that causes this division. And God says, "You have that relationship with me — start over — start fresh and talk to Me." He's your Daddy.
You know, when my kids say, "I love you, Dad." It melts the heart. Of course, oftentimes it's that they say, "I love you Dad" and then I say, "Okay, what do you want?" You know how that goes. But they go off, they would have asked Mom and Mom said no, they would say, "Dad, I love you." You know, it gets suspicious, but you don't really care because... That's the type of relationship — that complete trust, that openness. If my kids came to me and said, "O, thou holy procreator of the Schreiber family, thou who sovereignly bestows our allowance upon us, we beseech thy bountiful blessings that we mayest go to the mall." That would not have had much of a connection, would it?
No, when we go to God and we say, "O, thee and thou" God doesn't care about that. He wants your heart. He wants you from the heart to say, "Dad. I love you." God doesn't want you to talk to Him in an impersonal manor.
We cry out, "Abba, Father." Sometimes, God wants you to just spiritually cuddle up in His arms and say, "Dad, here's my problem." "Dad, I'm hurting." "I don't feel good." "Here's my need." "Here's what happened this week." Talk to Him that way and ask Him for the help that you need. Just share with Him on a heart to heart basis with no fluff, no ritual, no high-sounding spiritual platitudes, but real love between you and your heavenly Father — just as a daughter to a daddy, just as a son to a father with a good relationship. God is a loving, personal Father. He is not some ethereal thing up in the sky that means nothing. He is the great power of the universe, but He wants us to relate to Him on a personal basis.
Well, some will say, "Well if God gives me so much love, then why did He allow my life to be such a mess?" That's what some of you are thinking. "But why did He allow this or that to happen to me?" "Why did God allow such bad things in my life if He really loves me?"
Well, let's go to another point. First of all we need to understand that God loves us and cares for us. He really does. Secondly, we need to know that our Father helps us grow. Our Father helps us grow. All parents must eventually let go of the bike. Virtually every one of you in here learned how to ride a bike. Maybe there are some few that didn't. Or maybe you taught your kid to ride a bike. But you know how it is. Get on the two-wheeler, you start with the training wheels and things. And then finally you grab onto the back of that banana seat — that was an old thing, you kids, I don't think they have them anymore. You grab onto the back of that and you hold on and I go pedaling away. You don't want to let go because you think, well what if they did fall over — they could get really hurt. But you eventually have got to let go of the bike. And what happens when you let go of the bike? They're going on, man, and they crash. And they get hurt. Right? But wouldn't it look kind of silly — I mean, some of you are like seventy-five years old and you've got a fifth-two year old son and can you imagine, you know, you're running beside a mountain bike... You know what we do? We say, "God, why did you let me get hurt?" And God kind of cries and laughs and says, "Look, this is part of the process."
The parent who does his kid's homework for him does his child harm — when you do it on a regular basis. We learn by experience. And God lets us get hurt. We learn by correction, which is also a part of the process, is it not? And in this process, all kids at one time or the other feel their parents are unfair. Every once in awhile as I'm talking with a father and child, a mother and child or whatever, and the child says, "My parent is so mean." And I just assure that parent that you didn't have the meanest parent in the world, I was the meanest parent in the world because my kids told me, "You are so unfair. I can't wait to get out of this house." And so, we were the worst parents. Any of you who thought — any of you guys who think you have bad parents, we were it. So, now they come back — they're 22 and 27 — and they say, "Boy, thanks Mom, thanks Dad. Appreciate what you did — not that we appreciated it at the time." And you know this story — it's told over and over again in history.
Hebrews chapter 12. In Hebrews chapter 12 Christ said, I came to reveal the Father and I'll keep on revealing the Father, which He does here in Hebrews chapter 12. In verse 5 the New Living Bible says,
Hebrews 12:5 Hebrews 12:5And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to children, My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him:
American King James Version× — Have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, His children? Now the Father refers to all of us — you — as His children. He says, My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you. And don't be discouraged when He corrects you.
V. 6 — For the Lord disciplines those He loves and He punishes those He accepts as His children.
Part of the process in life and part of the hurts we experience are discipline, they're correction which we all need. Now, part of the pain you've experienced in life was not discipline. Part of the experience of pain that you had in your life was the result of other people's sins and God doesn't go around holding everybody's bike. He doesn't keep people from doing wrong stuff all the time. Some of you suffered as a result of what some other person did. It was not God. Sometimes it's correction; sometimes it's somebody else sinning. Sometimes, it's us sinning when we're corrected.
V. 7 — He says, As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children.
See the relationship He wants you to have with Him? Whoever heard of a child who is never disciplined. What a silly thing to have a child who is never disciplined. Now I know there are some that you think they couldn't have been disciplined by the way they run around and do stuff, but, anyway.
V. 8 — If God doesn't discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children after all.
So, if you can come and say, "Oh, man, I have the greatest relationship with God. I have never, ever had a trial or a test or a problem. Never had it. God loves me so much. He's kept me from any harm. He has done all my homework. He's never corrected me. God loves me." No, here it says that if you haven't been corrected, you're not His child because it's a part of the process. We have to understand that. So you can't say, "Well, God, You let this happen to me — or I was corrected in this way — so you don't love me." No, it's a part of the process. I know it's hard to deal with just as it is hard for a child to deal with being grounded and having to deal with parents who "don't love me because you're not letting me stay out to one o'clock every morning on a school night." Cruel and unusual punishment, that type of thing.
V. 9 — says, Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever.
It's got eternal good results. But sometimes, we can't see — just as our children can't see the good results when they're being disciplined (proper discipline, not improper discipline — there is a difference.) But, years later they say, "Thank you for disciplining us."
V. 10 — Our earthly Father has disciplined us for a few years doing the best they knew how.Some didn't know very well. Some of your parents were not taught how to be a parent, either. And they didn't do a very good job. Some of them did a horrible job. But, he's just saying, Our fathers disciplined us for a few years doing the best they knew how, but God's discipline is always right, and good for us because it means we will share in His holiness.
V. 11 — No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening. It's painful. But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
We need to pray to God and ask Him to help us to understand when we are going through some of those things. Sometimes when it is happening to you, it is not understandable — we are going on with a health problem or with an abuse problem, or whatever it might be. It's not understandable sometimes, but in the end God knows that it will turn out well.
Romans chapter 8 and verse 14 — Paul, again, describes a relationship with God in these very personal terms. The New International says,
Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version× — Because those who are led by the spirit of God are the sons of God, for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship and by Him we cry, Abba, Father.
And when we receive that spirit, when we have that relationship with God He says He wants us to have, again that open relationship with God that a small child has without all the garbage with a parent,
V. 16 — The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
V. 17 — And if we are children, then we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if, indeed, we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share His glory.
To say, "God, because I suffered, You don't care" is not true. Christ could have said that. Christ suffered greatly. And God cared because He cares for you, Christ's brothers and sisters.
V. 18 — I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
We are part of His plan. We are His sons. We are part of His great family. And He knows that and He is walking us through this process so we can be useful to Him. No parent keeps his child in this bubble of protection. God allows us to suffer a certain amount for our own growth, for our own good and for the kingdom of God.
Okay, number three — the second one was our father helps us to grow; the first was that God is a loving Father. Three is that God is a Father who comforts us and is always there. God is a Father who comforts us and is always there. He knows that we are going to go through things, but He's always there. Does God care about my problems? Does God care about my hurts? Does He care what I'm going through — the stresses that I am feeling, the worries that I'm experiencing? Does God really care about what happens to me? Does He care about the details in your life?
2 Corinthians chapter 1 — notice here even a definition of God as a Father.
2 Corinthians 1:3 2 Corinthians 1:3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
American King James Version× — In the New International, it says — Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... and he calls him then, ...the father of compassion and the God of all comfort.
He is there and He does have compassion on you. But sometimes you've just got to let them hurt, fight through their own battles so they can grow up.
I remember growing up. In school I was picked on, on different occasions. You probably understand why I was picked on. The kids would laugh at me and told me I had curly hair — awful thing until curly hair became popular and then I was 'in', so it was all right. But before curly hair was in, you know, I got picked on among other things and I'd come home and cry. Dad would say, "What's wrong?" "Well, the kids at school were picking on me." And I wanted Dad so badly to come down to that school and just take care of those guys. I mean, tell the teacher. He'll get 'em. Do something. I'm your kid. Don't you love me, Dad?" And Dad loved me enough to say, "You just go get 'em. Don't worry about it." He never came to school. He never stood up on my behalf — in that type of a circumstance. He stood up on my behalf at other times.
I remember a time at Imperial Schools when one of the instructors was a great big tall guy and he had a great bigger — almost taller — paddle. That time I did virtually nothing. Okay? And so he decided — this teacher in high school — that I needed some discipline. So he took this paddle and he literally made my backside black and blue. That was wrong for anybody. My parents didn't tell me about it, but they went down and told this teacher about it. I found out about it a little later. They did stand up for me, but they didn't just say, "Oh, you poor little guy." We have to build a certain amount of toughness and parents try to do it right, to make sure that they take care of you, but they don't overprotect you. And God's the same way. He knows that He can't overprotect us. But He wants to protect us. He loves us. It wouldn't be good for our development if we just had that shield around us all the time.
If your father was absent, if your father was abusive, you may be greatly struggling to develop that relationship with God. The more imperfect your physical father is or was, the more difficult a time it is for you to have that positive relationship with your spiritual Father. For you, it's going to take an extra amount of effort to have that relationship and that communication with your heavenly Father. But with God's help and God's holy spirit, you can build genuine trust in Him and have a positive relationship with your Father.
Mr. and Mrs. Dick and us were talking a little bit earlier about this Church Family Weekend with reference to the singles thing we had a little bit ago. And the fact is that some of you didn't really know how to relate to a father — maybe you never really knew your father — you kind of adopted somebody in the church. You've taken them as kind of a parent and you said, "Well, that's the way a relationship can be." And some of you as older people within the congregation have adopted some of the people that you know in the congregation as yours and give them a little bit of an idea of what a good parent can be and that can help us in our relationship with God. You know, in the Bible it talks about you older women, instructing the younger. Well, sometimes an adopted parent — spiritually in that sense — can help the circumstance. There are a lot of good, positive things God gives us.
One man that I visited on death row — when he was growing up (he ended up in death row) — when he was a small boy — he told me the story of when his dad came in and shot his mother and was after him. Well, Sam went and hid and he ended up in the closet, his father looking for him. He had just witnessed his father killing his mother. Needless to say, he did not have a positive parent/child relationship as he grew up. He was raised by other relatives and he ended up, as I say, on death row. It's the way his life went. Well, he ended up, I think, having a pretty decent relationship with God, the Father. As he struggled through that he began to see that the way his physical father was, was not the way the spiritual Father is. We can build a positive relationship.
We won't turn there, but Psalm chapter 68 verse 5 — you might want to write that down —Psalms 68:5 Psalms 68:5A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
American King James Version× says that God, a father of the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in His holy habitation.
If you didn't have a father or a good father, God says He is a father to the fatherless. He's there to take care of you. Trust God as the father you never had. Pray to Him and ask Him to help you to have a personal relationship with Him, to stand side by side with Him. He is the Father who cares; He is a Father who is consistent. Peter says to give all your worries and cares to God. Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you. (1Peter 5:7)
The President's Council of Economic Advisors did a study fairly recently that said that due to working moms and dads now, that parents now spend an average of twenty—two hours fewer per week than they did in 1969. What do you think about it? You take 1969 when many of you were growing up as kids or had kids. Now, parents spend an average of twenty-two hours per week less with their children than back then. Absentee parents. Parents that don't get to know their kids. Human parents are too busy. God is never too busy.
Matthew chapter 6 and verse 31 — lest any of you are fearing, there's a big clock up here that in eight minutes explodes, so...
Matthew 6:31 Matthew 6:31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
American King James Version× — "Therefore don't worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
V. 32 — "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. And it says, For your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.
He's not an absentee father. He's a Father that's always there. He knows you need them. He doesn't always give you as much as you want — just as your parents didn't always give you what you wanted. You wanted an extra dessert; they made you eat your vegetables. Right? So what you wanted and what you got sometimes were different things, but God knows what you need.
V. 33 — "But seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness... seek you the kingdom of God. Seek God and His righteousness ...and all these things will be added to you.
God can handle any problem that you can throw to Him. Nothing is beyond His ability. Nothing is beyond His resources. God is not a Homer Simpson or an Al Bundy or some of the other inept parents that you find on TV. It's like two kids at school bragging on the schoolyard and one of them says, "My dad can beat your dad." The other kid says, "Big deal, so can my mom!" That's the way dads are sometimes, you know, just not competent. Nobody can beat up your heavenly Father. Nobody! Satan tries. Satan wants to do everything he can to subvert that relationship between you and your heavenly Father, but God is bigger than that.
Acts chapter 17 in closing here, Acts 17 — in verse 27 God is talking about His relationship with the nations that He wants us to be able to have.
Acts 17:27 Acts 17:27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
American King James Version× — the New International Version says, And God made the nations so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.
That's what God wants. That's what the relationship is that He wants you to have with Him. He wants you to seek Him, He wants you to reach out for Him, and to find Him and have that relationship with Him. What type of a relationship? Well, it says, though He is not far from each one of us. He is not from a distance. He is there for you.
V. 28 — The Jerusalem Bible says, Since it is in Him that we live and move and exist — and, indeed, as some of our own writers have said, we are all His children. He wants you to reach out for Him. He wants you to find Him and to have a relationship with Him as that of a child and parent. God wants you to talk to Him, to love Him, to trust Him, to believe in Him, to call Him Dad, to enjoy and appreciate who He is.
Let's close with 2 Corinthians chapter 6. It says what God really desires, what He wants, where He wants us to be in our relationship with Him as we talk to Him, as we listen to Him, as we hear Him presented through articles and messages and discussions with one another, as we talk daily about who He is and what He's going to be doing with us in the future.
2 Corinthians 6:17 2 Corinthians 6:17Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
American King James Version× — "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Don't touch what's unclean, and I will receive you." Just do the right thing. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And it says in verse 18:
V.18 — "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."