Men, there is nothing more important to your family than the leadership you provide for them by the way you live your life. The way you show and teach them to live their lives, by how you are living yours, and coaching and guiding them. Our wives and children desperately need us to lead them. They need us to lead the way, all the way, to the very end! To never quit, throw in the towel, or give up on God, on our faith, or give up being the man God wants us to be.
I have watched many fathers I have known over the years who at one time were very godly men, who with the passing of time faded away, gave up and quit. They abdicated their God-given responsibility to lead and shepherd their families, they failed to be the steadfast example of a godly Christian man that their children needed to see over the course of their lives. Some of the fathers actually physically left their families. Most, however, simply became a disengaged father, an apathetic husband, or a lukewarm, lackadaisical Christian and simply hung out in the same home.
Men, you will be the single biggest influence on your family’s life. Everything in your life matters greatly to the success of your children and your marriage. One of the great ironies of life is this tragic fact: many of the greatest business leaders in the world, who made their companies millions, some who have written best selling books on business or leadership, are complete failures at home. They lost their marriages and were terrible fathers whose children despise them or shame them with their moral failures or their criminal records. Many great athletes who are praised, enshrined in the hall of fame, and make tons of money for their athletic prowess, or who are praised as real leaders on their teams are complete failures at home. They couldn’t get one of their kids to follow them in right living if their lives depended on it. The same could be said of many great musicians or actors.
Sadly, the same can also be said of many church pastors who lead their churches, author best selling books, speak to thousands at conferences, but at home, their family languishes and they know their dad as a hypocrite who has no idea how to lead his wife and children.
Why is this so often the case? Why is it that so many men, completely fail in the most important aspect of their lives, leading their family well?
I offer these observations. Most men place greater value on business success, or athletic prowess, or achieving status, fame, money, and the adoration of their peers than the value they place on being a genuine, real-life example and hero to their own children. For many men the accolades of the crowd, the achievements in their career matters so much more than the admiration and deep love and respect of their kids towards them, and the real lasting significance that comes from knowing you led your family well.
Another reason I have observed is this: our families know us as we really are. They see us on a day to day basis more than anyone else. It is the toughest thing in the world to lead yourself at home, to be the consistent, godly example our children and wives need us to be. Let’s face it, marriage is filled at times with tremendous stress and huge differences of opinions. It can be extremely difficult. Most men fail in self-leadership. They don’t really want to do the hard work of disciplining their lives, their spirit, their words, or their spiritual habits. They fail to see the incredible significance of being a consistent, godly example to their children and their wives and fail to grasp the tremendous difference it will make in their children’s lives and futures.
Men, please don’t misunderstand me. Your job, your work, it really matters. How you do your job really matters. Your skill, integrity, and work ethic really matter, and in fact, are part of the godly example your children need to see in you. The tremendous work and effort you men are making to financially provide for your family’s physical needs matters greatly and God commends you for these great efforts and sacrifices. Many of you are working the long, hard hours it takes today to provide the basic essentials your family needs to sustain their lives and their futures. This is wonderful,honorable and very commendable.
However, God has so much more for us to be and our families need much more from us. They need us to be men of godly character at home. They need us to be spirit-filled men who are loving, patient, kind, helpful, self-controlled, gentle when needed, firm when needed, wise, considerate, encouraging, self-sacrificing, self-disciplined, upright, consistently good men, kind men,courageous men,humble men, who joyfully serve our families at home. Men who seek to build our wives and children up with our words, and our actions. Men who plan and take initiative. Men who are effective communicators, and fully, emotionally engaged in their lives. We need to be all the things we desire our children to be and embrace as their own beliefs, values, and character.
This means that we must be men who are vigorously, intentionally, daily seeking God and praying over our lives and our families, humbly and hungrily reading the word of God, and applying it to our lives. We need to be men who discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. We need to be men who are striving to grow in greater godliness, wisdom, and character in our life so that our families can see the fruit and evidence of it, in our living example at home.
I would like to tell you a true story. It is a very painful story, the most difficult of my life, actually. But, it is one I have also come to realize has allowed me to see and experience what few men ever get to experience in their lives.
When I started to follow Jesus Christ in 1975, God put a burning desire on my heart to be a pastor, to serve Jesus with my whole life, and to teach God’s people his word. He put an intense desire in me to compassionately love, serve, help, and care for other people. I knew I had much to grow in. The road to ministry was a very long for me, and very arduous. I had many difficult, painful lessons to learn. I had much breaking that God had to do, and much reworking of my life, character, and personal habits. My journey to becoming an ordained pastor took 11 years. For the next 31.5 years I gave myself, every ounce I had, full time, to planting churches, to shepherding, and caring for other people. I taught God’s word every opportunity I had. I traveled tens of thousands of miles, any place and every place I was invited to speak with Christian’s at conferences, almost 200 of them. Almost all of them I did for free, not for financial gain. Many in front of thousands of people at a time. I tried to find any and every way I could to serve and help God’s people. I worked far more than just a 40 hour work week. For me, and my family, Pastoring, making disciples and serving God’s people was a way of life. However, as God is my witness, during all these years nothing, absolutely nothing in the world, mattered more to me than my children and my wife. Nothing mattered more to me than leading them, loving them, serving them, and exemplifying to them what Christianity looked like and living it before them at home. Their success, their personal lives, mattered most, and I never, ever lost sight of that or compromised that.
In January of 2018 a vicious, slanderous, nefarious online rumor was started about me, and through a series of tremendous egregious injustices, my ministry was sabotaged, my reputation destroyed and all I had worked for was gone. Through this horrific ordeal, through all the betrayals and all the losses, all the people who walked away from me, there was one absolutely amazing, incredible, monumental thing that occurred.
All of my children, who are all adults, married with children of their own, who have served with me all these years, and lived with me, and know me, and their spouses, whom I have known for almost 20 years, all of them, and my wife, stood with me, stood up for me, and bore witness over, and over, and over again to the kind of man I was to them. Each of them wrote and spoke of their great love, and respect for me. My wife and children, not flinching once, not because I asked them to, not because they felt they had to, but because they wanted to. Each of them stood up on Facebook and on a website that they put up for me and wrote things about me, through their eyes, from their first-hand experiences, things that brought me to tears and gave me tremendous, unbelievable joy, and gratitude.
How many men get to see and hear their children, under the most extreme of circumstances, under intense pressure and ridicule, watch those same kids, stand up and boldly declare their deep love, respect, admiration, gratitude, appreciation and devotion to their father?
At the end of the day, at the end of my life, nothing matters more to me than what those who lived with me, day and in day out, really saw in me and thought of me. The crowds come and go. The people who kiss you today, will kill you tomorrow! Just ask Jesus!
If you would be interested, you may go here https://pastormarkdarling.com/father/ to read what they each wrote and see a picture of each of them and their precious families. They helped build this site for me, it was not my doing at all.
You see, my dear friends, at the end of the day, all I have to offer is my genuine, living example of faith, fatherhood, and love and wisdom lived out before those who have known me best. It is what I have known, understood, applied, and lived out that I have to offer to you. Nothing in the world matters more to me than the example I am to others for I can never lead others to be what I myself have never done or become.
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Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,