Perhaps the single most important attribute of an effective, Godly father, is his intentionality of purpose. A Godly, effective father understands that nothing significant, or important happens by accident. It takes intentional and deliberate action to get good character modeled, taught and instilled into his children’s lives.
One profound bit of Biblical wisdom that impacted me so many years ago was this verse in Isaiah 32:8 (NASB/NIV): “But the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble deeds, he stands.”
This verse has impacted me tremendously. It tells me that an honorable and righteous man, by careful and strategic thought, makes plans to accomplish a particular thing, then by doing specific things (deeds) over and over again to fulfill that plan, he stands or sees success versus not standing and failing.
Fathers, I would like to offer some very important wise advice to you, of what this means. It is very easy as a father living in the 21st Century, with all the craziness of living in these times, to simply go into survival mode. That is, we just try to get through day to day, amidst the chaos and craziness of life. We scurry out the door to work, we have massive stresses and challenges in our jobs, there are sinful, stupid people to deal with, there is the huge weight of responsibility to provide for our families financial needs. We have bills to pay, a mortgage weighing on us, broken stuff to fix, so many things vying for our attention. We get home from work, mentally and emotionally exhausted, not only from the demands and pressures of the day but the commute home, in stop and go traffic, filled with crazy people looking at their phones instead of paying attention to driving.
It is easy to simply come home, our eyes glazed over, our head swimming with stuff, our hearts may be burdened and all we want to do is rest, relax, and chill awhile. Then it’s bedtime! Then we get up the next day to do it all again. I have seen many a man go through their fathering years this way, and they had no vision, no plan for what they were trying to accomplish in their children’s lives, they were just in survival mode.
All of us, as men realize that apart from teaching our children about God and instilling in them a deep love and respect for God, that the single most important attributes our children need are the attributes of Godly character. Children who are not taught character, are doomed by their parents to failure in life.
Imagine for a moment with me that you are the father of your children living in the year 1860. You are living in the log house you cut and built with your own hands. You brought your family out to South Dakota in a covered wagon from Missouri. It took you months of hardship and struggle along the way to finally arrive at your destination. You have no heater in your covered wagon, no AC, no roadside bathroom stops along the way with nice fancy toilets, or clean running water. You are making your living from the ground you built your cabin on. There is no furnace and when the kids are cold, they can’t just walk over to the wall and with their little finger, taking no character at all, they push the lever, or turn the dial to 70! Walla, soon, they are warm!
Noooooo, they have to get up, put logs on the fire, at midnite, then 4 am, to keep the fireplace going through the cold nights, with the logs they helped you cut, and split, and stack. The clothes you are wearing, much of it is made by your wife and daughters, by hand. The animals need to be fed and watered, the fields need to be prepared, plowed and planted, the wild game needs to be hunted and cleaned, and the list goes on and on and on.
Here is the truth! In 1860, if you did not instill character in your children, dad’s, they would die! If they did not learn to work hard, to persevere through hardship, to be disciplined and diligent, to self-start, and take initiative, they would not survive, they would either become a criminal or die.
For hundreds of years, thousands really, the way most people lived life in an agrarian culture, character was bred and built right into the daily routines of life as your children joined you in the work of daily chores needed to survive and not starve and die.
In the 21st Century, this has all changed. Radically changed. Fathers are now primarily removed from the home, and out of sight of their children for much of their lives. They don’t see dad’s hard work, though you men are working very hard and under tremendous pressures. They don’t have built into their daily lives, the work routines that life in 1860 required to survive. What they have in fact, is often lots of leisure time. Time for fun, time for games, time to be entertained. Please don’t get me wrong, kids need fun, kids need games and child’s play. However, they need so much more than this and wise, Godly fathers understand this and intentionally make plans to see that character is built into the children by developing and implementing some important, basic work and routines in daily life. By the constant repetition and perseverance at a task, character is instilled and built into that child’s life and personality.
I would like to offer several simple examples as one living in the modern world in a very large city, of some of the intentional ways, I did this. As I do, please know this. I am not saying you have to do exactly what I did, or the way I did it. I am simply trying to give you real-world examples of things I intentionally did, so as to bring about the desired result in my children’s lives. Seeing them all grown now and married with their own children, I can tell you the intentional things I had them do, paid off and had the desired result. They learned to work hard, persevere through very difficult stuff, and diligently apply themselves, and take initiative, applying faith and courage.
1. Dec. 31, 1986, I moved my wife and 3 kids to the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I moved into a relatively small house on an acre of land, one block from the old Vikings stadium, where the Mall of America stands today. I had a plan. First, the way the house was laid out, taught my kids to share. We learned to get along with much less than others had. Our kids saw us live that out.
2. I knew eventually my boys would start to mow this acre of land. Mowing the lawn for me was one of my earliest jobs. I started at about 8-9 years old, first on our own lawn, then on the neighbors. I had my boys watch me as I mowed our lawn with a basic gas engine, push lawn mower, not a self-propelled mower, or a riding lawn mower. The lawn took me almost 3 hours to mow the whole thing. Eventually, I had my boys start out at about 8-9 years old mowing the front lawn, and I would mow the back. Eventually, first my oldest son, then my youngest son, would mow the whole thing.
3. We had 500 papers to deliver every Wednesday in our neighborhood. I called around and found a local small paper that allowed young kids to have a paper route. The two oldest were about 10 and 11 years old. The two youngest kids would help them with folding, rubber banding the papers and putting them in plastics bags. The oldest two would then go with me in the van, load up the papers into the van, put some in their bags, and I would follow them as they walked the route. Mind you, where we live, there are some months of the year that it gets -20 to -40 degrees and lots of snow. They still walked the route and delivered the papers. Eventually, when the oldest got other jobs, the two younger ones took over the route. This gave them all a great sense of accomplishment, it taught them to work and persevere, to save some of their money, and built their self-esteem. It also taught them to work together and cooperate.
4. The driveway to our house was very long and could probably hold about 8 cars parked the right way. We got lots and lots of snow in Bloomington, Minnesota. I taught the kids how to shovel snow! And I do mean shovel, not snow blow! I bought shovels for all of us and I cut the shovel handle down to the approx., useful size of each child. For years they would see me shovel it. I might take them out with me in their snowsuit and the only thing they might do is shovel the little trails of snow that my shovel left behind. However, they did learn to help me that way. Eventually, I would portion off a section and have them shovel it, while I set the example and shoveled the larger portion of snow, often coming back to help them. Eventually, my sons and daughters did it all, especially the boys. Once again, using nature, the cold, the snow God provided that we had to get out of the way to drive, to learn the routine of hard work. Over the years, tons of snow was shoveled.
5. Raking leaves was another way they learned to work hard. You may think that ain’t hard. Well, we had almost 40 trees at the time and many dropped leaves. Kathy and I and the kids would all work on this together. One year, we bagged over 150 bags of leaves. It was a lot of work, but we taught them how to divide and conquer as we made numerous small piles of leaves, then one by one put them in bags. I did the same with rakes as I did with shovels. Got them each a rake and cut the handle to their size.
6. Karate was another way. Our kids, like many others of the ’80s, saw “Karate Kid”. When I grew up, I played what we called games: baseball, football, basketball, etc. I learned early on that if you were talented you got to play, but if you weren’t, you usually sat on the bench. Being very busy at the time with planting churches, and pastoring thousands of people, Kathy and I did not have the time to drive one kid to hockey, another to gymnastics, another to softball, and on and on. The kids thought they might like karate, and it was something they could all do together. So we looked into a school that was not into all the Eastern, religious aspects of martial arts that many are, and we found a school that seemed like the perfect fit for our family. We went and on the wall were posters with the words humility, respect, hard work, perseverance. To us, this was wonderful. The kids all wanted to sign up for the white belt program. It was very reasonable and lasted 3 months. The kids went about 2 times a week. Eventually, that ended. They needed to sign up and pay more money for the next program. It lasted longer and was much more expensive. I sat them down, and said this, “Kids, whatever we do, if you decide you all want to start this next belt program, you cannot quit, you have to finish it. So please think carefully.” They did, and we joined. Eventually, over the next 8-9 years, my kids all earned their black belts and most earned their 2nd-degree black belt. This was an investment of thousands of hours, lots of time, and much, much hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and perseverance.
Karate is a sport that actually, anyone, no matter who you are, can succeed at if you put in the work, the discipline, are teachable, listen well, and persevere and practice. You will earn your next belt. This routine, this action of training their bodies and minds, built tremendous character and courage. They entered many tournaments and had to walk alone, out in front of hundreds of people, and introduce themselves, and then perform the particular weapon, or form, or fight. Eventually, to help pay for their karate instructions, the kids cleaned the karate school on Saturdays to help offset the costs.
In closing, my passion is to help every single one of you men succeed at your fathering role and responsibility. It will be the greatest work you ever achieve.
I have put together a tremendous series on this topic of intentional fathering, along with a PDF booklet you can download called “Getting your family to Mars”. I believe you will find it extremely helpful, inspiring, and very, very practical. I want to ask you to listen to it and then ask your wife to listen to it. Then discuss it and take action on it. I have known many who have used it and it has changed their lives and their families.
Here is the link: https://strongdisciple.com/
Never forget this:
Helping you become a strong disciple,
Because of Jesus,