(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 21 June 2015)
WHERE ARE THE FATHERS?
Father’s day is celebrated worldwide with a lot of excitement. As we join the celebrations, the question that begs asking is, ‘Where are the Fathers?’
There’s a true story of a young man who was found guilty of a crime. He stood in a court room awaiting his sentence. The judge was someone who knew this young man right from his childhood. This man came from an illustrious family. His father was a famous lawyer, scholar and author of a book called, ‘The Law of Trust’. Wanting to probe the young man’s conscience, the judge asked the man what he remembered about his father from the past. The young man paused and said, ‘I remember the time I went to him for an advice. He looked up from his book writing and said, “Run along, boy; I am busy”. I also remember a time when I went to him for companionship. He said, “Run along, boy; I am busy. This book must be finished.” You remember him as a great lawyer. But I remember him as a lost friend’. On hearing this, the judge muttered, “He finished a great book but lost his son”.
All through the Scripture, right from Genesis to Revelation, God has constantly ben revealing His father heart. One patriarch who demonstrated the father heart of God was Moses. Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and they were headed towards the Promised Land. Enroute, they made a pit stop at the foot of Mount Sinai. God called Moses upto the mountain while the Israelites set up camp. While Moses spent about 40 days and nights in the presence of God, the Israelites began to get disgruntled. They convinced Adam to make them a gold idol and they began to worship and dance before it. They even went to the extent of stating that the idol was the Yahweh who delivered them from Egypt! When Moses returned, he was furious with the whole lot of them. So was God! God announced that He would make Moses a great nation but that He would destroy the entire Israelite clan because of their idolatry and waywardness. Stricken, Moses pleaded with God to forgive His people for His name’s sake. He stood in the gap, not as a preacher or a leader but as a Father on behalf of the people. He even went to the extent of saying that he was willing to let God blot his name out of His book if it meant that God would forgive the people. That was how much he was prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the people he led.
There’s another father figure in the New Testament. Paul, who was a single man all his life, writes in 1 Corinthians 4:14,15 that, ‘I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.’ Paul says that through the Gospel, he had many children. So he says in verse 16, ‘Imitate me.’ Again in Galatians he wrote, ‘my little children for whom I labor.’ Paul clearly related with people as a zealous father.
WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH US?
God is seeking people who will step up and carry a father heart. The Bible says that a good mentor or father figure is instrumental in shaping a person’s life. If not, it is like a runaway train hurtling towards certain disaster. In the books of Judges and Ruth,the Bible exemplifies what happens in the absence of a father figure. The last chapter in the book of Judges says that there were no kings in Israel at one point in time.The absence of efficient leaders to care and guide the people resulted in Israel being ravaged by a famine.(This is recorded in Ruth 1:1 – ‘Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land’).
Are we good fathers? We might all have busy lives. Or we might not be in positions of leadership. But you know what? That doesn’t mean we have lost our ability to influence and mentor people around us. Many of us have been anointed and called have a father heart. As we grow in God’s likeness and image, we must reflect His father heart in this world.
FATHER OF MISSIONS
David Livingston is known as the Father of Missions. David hailed from Scotland. When he was a little boy, his father used to read him stories of great missionary exploits. Young David was mightily influenced by the life of a Dutch missionary doctor and told his father of his desire to be one too. One day he knelt down and prayed –
Send me anywhere; only go with me,
Lay any burden on me; only sustain me,
Sever any ties save the tie that binds me to Thy heart.
Then he heard God’s Word, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
David packed his bags and went to Africa. At his first glimpse of Africa, he penned this line in his journal. ‘The haunting specter of the smoke of athousand villages in the morning sun is burning within my heart”.David’s life was that of an explorer and his desire was for people to believe inand follow Jesus. He mentored and led many people into God’s holiness. Meanwhile he married a woman called Mary. As their family grew, life became hard. Some of their children died. So one day, he asked Mary to take the children and return home assuring that he would meet them shortly. However, he was able to return home only five years later. When she saw him the next time, Mary couldn’t recognize her husband. A blinded eye, torn shoulder (courtesy an attack by a lion) and a sunburnt face – David Livingston hobbled home disfigured and scarred.
During his time at home, one of his saddest moments was not being able to share with his father about his life and experiences in Africa. His father had died before David could spend time with the man who was instrumental in guiding him into missions. He spent a couple of weeks at home teaching and sharing in colleges. But a little later, he told his wife that he felt called to return to Africa because‘‘The haunting specter of the smoke of a thousand villages in the morning sun is burning within my heart”. Mary encouraged him to go ahead and assured that she would join him later. David returned and continued to serve the Lord and preach the Gospel in the interior parts of Africa. After several years, Mary joined him. But sadly, a terrible disease struck her and she died. Burying his wife, David knelt and prayed, ‘My Jesus, myKing, my Life, my all, I again consecrate my life to thee. I shall place no value in anything that I possess, or in anything that I make except in relation to the Kingdom and the service.’ Again the Word of God came to David, ‘Lo! I am with you always even to the ends of the age.’
He returned home afterwards and found that some miscreants had stolen his stock of medicines! Sometime later, David became very sick. He had no medicine. He knelt down and prayed, asking God to help him get some medicines so that he could be healed and take the Gospel to more people. Just then he heard some footsteps. He turned around and saw a white man. It was Henry Stanly. Henry had come to spend time with David and write about his life. Not only that, he was also carrying some medicines for Henry! Wow!
David was healed soon and continued with his ministry. Henry, a self-proclaimed atheist watched David’s life. Four months later, Henry knelt down on the African soil and gave his life to Jesus. Such was the impact of David’s testimony!
Sometime later, David became sick again. One day, he requested the African brothers to take him home. At his request again, instead of laying him on his bed, they helped him kneel down by his bed. His companions stepped out of the room to let David pray. 40 minutes later, one of them returned and saw him still kneeling. He shook him and found that David Livingston had peacefully died. David died the exact way he lived – in the presence of God. The Dark Continent heard the Gospel for the first time because of this one man. Today, many revivals continue to break forth there.
Is it possible for us to carry the father heart of God? My wife and I visit families of our church often. Every time, we come away feeling strengthened and refreshed. Maybe we are extremely busy people but if we are able to reach out, encourage and invest in a few lives around us, we will be able to reflect God’s Father heart to them. Instead of criticizing our fellow church members or people around us, let us stand in the gap and intercede with God on their behalf.
Let us consciously choose to be a life giving community of Jesus followers. Irrespective of our gender, let us take our position as a Father. May God use us to be selfless father hearted people who bless others.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.