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Voices of Three Fathers

By Raul Rivera

On this Father’s Day, as I sit and reflect about what it means to be a father, I am overwhelmed with the love of our Heavenly Father. I am convinced that God created us not so that we would worship Him (though we certainly do, and rightly so!), but so that we would become the objects of His love. It is God’s pleasure to lavish us with His grace, love, and mercy and to seat us with Christ Jesus. Wow! What a good God!

Having said that about the Father in heaven, I also contemplate what it really means to be a father here on the earth. What is in a father’s heart when he thinks of his children? How does one become a good father? And why is it that a father’s character and view of God has such a great impact on his children (positive or negative)? To know those answers, we begin with the story of humanity. It has always been about a good Father giving and paying a high price to redeem lost children. You see, being a good father requires sacrifice. It requires you to lay down your preferences and hobbies to minister to the needs of your wife and children. Maybe that is why there are not many good fathers in this world. The majority of men reason that it is just too high of a price to pay.

My earthly father

In my life I have been blessed with an awesome father. My father was raised in very difficult circumstances. He experienced things in his childhood that no person should ever have to experience.  Moreover, he never got a chance to go to school past the 4th grade. Yet, when he surrendered himself to Christ, he decided that he would be the best father he could be. No one has taught me the value of putting God’s Word first more than my own father. He has always been a man of prayer and God’s Word. For as many years as I can remember, the Bible and prayer have marked his life.  Even to this day, when he visits me or I visit him, prayer and the Word are a daily part of his life. His past should have dictated his future, but when he surrendered his life to Christ, he became a new creation and part of being a new creation was that he became a good father.

Other fathers who have impacted my life

In addition to my biological father, there are two other men in my life that have had (and still have) a fatherly impact on me. I want to take a moment to introduce you to these men, and then I want to share with you some lessons that I have learned through them about what it means to be a father.

My father-in-law Bruce Carper

It may be rare, but my father-in-law treated me like a son from the first day I met him. If there is one thing I can say about him, it is that he is a lover of truth. I have known him for 24 years and each year my respect for him grows. He has been the greatest example of what it means to be honest and merciful. Through his life, he has taught me the value of truth and mercy. Proverbs 3 tells us to bind mercy and truth around our necks. My father-in-law is a living example of what it looks like when a man lives out that verse.

My spiritual father - Pastor Van Smith

It is not easy talking about Pastor Van, without mentioning his wife Regina. He came into my life around 2009. At first, I was somewhat guarded. I tried to keep a more professional approach so as not to develop too close of a friendship. Not that I didn’t want to be friends with Pastor Van; but through experience, I was simply more cautious about who I allowed “in”...close, where the things of my heart could truly be seen. However, it was not until 2012 that the Lord revealed to me why He had brought Van into my life as a spiritual father and the importance of having him as a close friend.

Throughout the years, Pastor Van has been an example of someone who gives of his time. He has been willing to give his undivided attention, wanting and expecting nothing in return. Throughout our friendship, he has shown me the true heart of a pastor who desires to reflect the heart of God. Pastor Van is one who will leave the 99 to find the 1. He puts the interests of everyone else before his own, and he has a genuine love for me that is not self-seeking.  You see, there are many who claim to be spiritual fathers, but really all that they desire is to have servants who will serve their vision. That is not what a spiritual father is. Pastor Van understands the true heart of the father and his life is a daily reminder to me of how much my Father in heaven loves me. That is what a true spiritual father does. Having said that, if you are ever in Atlanta and you want to meet a pastor who exemplifies the heart of the Father, then I want to encourage you to visit The Solid Rock of Atlanta. Pastors Van and Regina Smith are the real deal.

Lessons from the voices of my fathers

Being a father of 5 children can have its challenges, but it has been, and still is, one of the most rewarding things I have ever done! Thankfully, I have learned from three exceptional father figures in my life who have helped mold me into the father I am today. Out of all the lessons that they have taught me, I want to take these few moments to pass along to you three of the most important.

Lesson 1: A father is selfless.
Being a father is one of the most rewarding responsibilities afforded to men. We have the opportunity to raise our sons and daughters to be respectable men and women of God that will influence and impact the future. But, in order for us to successfully do so, we must be selfless. When we spend time with our children and expect nothing in return and when we shower them with unyielding love, then the future of our world is looking mighty bright.

Lesson 2: A father gives more to his children than he receives.
How often have you come home from a long day at work and immediately your children run up to you wanting you to play a game with them or take them to the park? Or, how often has your teenage child come up to you asking for $20 to go out with his/her friends, only forgetting to say thank you once the money has been given? Based upon experience, I would venture to say more times than you can count. Yet, no matter how many times these requests are made of us, we keep taking our children to the park and we keep giving them the money to go out with their friends because we love them with a love that is unconditional (much like that of our Heavenly Father’s). And oftentimes we receive nothing in return, which leads me to the third and final lesson I want to share with you.

Lesson 3: In due season, every father will receive honor.
If you are a father then you are fully aware that we fathers spend a majority of our lives giving to our children. In the book of Malachi we see the Lord ask, “If I am a father, where is the honor due to Me?” (Malachi 1:6 NIV) I do not know about you, but I oftentimes find myself asking this same question. There are those days when I feel like I have given all that I could (plus some!), and I would just like a little recognition from them. But regardless of whether I receive it or not, I still love and give to them just as much the very next day. Therefore, what I have learned through my experience, and from my three father figures, is that honor really only comes to the father in the end, once his children finally realize all that he has done.

My prayer for you

As I conclude this post, I hope that you have found some encouragement from one father to another. And I pray that your path, if it has not already, will soon cross paths with another who has the heart of our Heavenly Father, and that he will minister to you as only a true father does.

Happy Father’s Day!

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