A father's ministry of discipleship in the home certainly does not consist of formal times of study and prayer alone. Ultimately, the father's spiritual ministry in the home must affect and influence every aspect of life, whether formal or informal; thus, his mentoring labors never end. But such a ministry as this requires the constant input of diligent learning. Like a pastor of a church, the husband & father who engages in such a ministry of teaching will be a learner more than he is a giver of instruction. This is true because in order for a man to teach others, he must first receive the blessing of instruction from the Lord and His word:
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [KJV]
The father, as the guardian and shepherd of his home, must labor to study and apply God’s word for his own spiritual profit before he can benefit those who are under his care. Thus, he must be humbled beneath the authority of God before he can instruct others with any authority at all (Isaiah 66:1-2); and like his teaching, his learning will take place in not only formal settings of study and contemplation, but also in the many informal contexts of life. For example, I was reminded of this recently after my wife and I had a small chit-chat with our two year old (Lydia). I often have to get interpretive help when deciphering Lydia’s speech - she’s improving rapidly, but she’s still a two year old. So her contemplation went something like this:
“Mommy gugu me...Daddy gugu me...(then, shaking her head she said) Jesus not gugu me.”
Ultimately, Lydia’s contemplation was born out of her review of those whom she knew loved her, and who evidenced that love through hugs (snuggle = ”gugu”). Yes, our junior empiricist considered the physical facts set before her, based upon her observations to date: “Mommy hugs me, Daddy hugs me - but Jesus has not hugged me.” It was apparent to us that we needed to stop and take the time to talk to her about the supremacy of the Lord’s love over our own for her. Now before we go any further here, know this - all this took place between another moment of 2-year-old-potty-training and dinner. Our other four kids had set the table and were waiting for us downstairs. Of course, potty-training is important, and eating is a necessity - but Lydia’s query was far more important than any of these other “needs.” We took just a few moments to share with her, at her level of comprehension, that we loved her dearly - but Jesus’ hugs are so much better than ours because His love was so great that He died for us on the cross. After all was said and done, we proceeded on to the dining room, gave thanks to the Lord for His infinite love and then we enjoyed a meal together.
Well, the moment was over - but the memory of her question lingered. Afterwards, I couldn’t help but to think of the importance of Lydia’s own contemplation, and the Scriptures that related to her crucial question:
Isaiah 40:11: 11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Psalm 28:6-9: 6 Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication. 7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. 8 The Lord is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed. 9 Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.
John 10:27-30: 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 "I and the Father are one."
The subject of a loving embrace may not appear to be so important at a first glance, but I would remind you that it is the central hope of every Christian - to be held forever in the loving embrace of our Lord, because those who are His, He will embrace and carry forever! All of these texts ought to flood our thoughts concerning the eternality and depth of His love; the wonder of His affections for His people and the infinitudes of His perfect care and protection. But along with all of this, let us be reminded of the importance of being engaged, as a parent, in a continual consideration of the Bible’s application to our daily life - all our words and deeds. You see, even the simple question of a two year old became an opportunity to stop and contemplate the Bible’s relevancy over something as simple as a hug. Ultimately, this became an opportunity to praise the Lord for the wonder of His loving embrace - a contemplation that afforded yet another Gospel opportunity in our family worship time, by looking at Isaiah 40:11, Psalm 28:6-9 and John 10:27-30. What a wonderful opportunity this became for myself and the family! But oh how easy it would have been to miss it all amidst the busy pace of life!
I am thankful for yet another providential opportunity to teach, then learn, and then teach again. So many thanks Lydia! But most of all - thank you Lord!