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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 17, 2012

“Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

I have preached very little on fatherhood. I suppose the reason lies in my own experience. It gives me pain to speak on that subject. The very first words I spoke were given in a car at night, while my father was outside paying the attendant at a gas station. My mother said, “Where is Daddy?” She said I looked at her with fear in my eyes and repeated what she said, “Where is Daddy?” Mother always said that it was remarkable for a six-month-old baby to say, as his first words, a complete sentence, “Where is Daddy?” I heard her tell that story so often that it actually seemed like I could remember it happening. I still think I can remember it, though I am told that no one can remember something that happened when they were six months old. I guess they are right, but if I don’t remember it, the feeling of fear I had never went away. “Where is Daddy?” I hardly ever saw him as a child. He left when I was two. He only came back home to us for a few weeks when I was about seven. They finally divorced when I was fourteen, and when he remarried shortly after that, all my hopes and dreams of them coming back together were shattered forever. Separation was seldom heard of in my childhood. I well remember overhearing a woman whisper to someone, “He comes from a broken home, you know.” Circumstances occurred when I was thirteen that forced me to live with another family, where I never felt that I was wanted.

In his 1995 introduction to Churchill’s book, My Early Life, his biographer William Manchester said, “Emotionally abandoned by both [his parents], young Winston blamed himself... His suppressed resentment of their neglect had to be directed elsewhere. Thus he became a difficult child and a wretched student. All his life he would be plagued by spells of depression – ‘Black Dog’ as he called them. Love, he had come to believe, was something that had to be earned, and he sought it in achievement, becoming a creature of ambition and raw energy.” When I read that several years ago it brought me to tears, because in some ways it described my own childhood. I always blamed myself for their separation. It didn’t help when an aunt told me, “You did it to them, Robert.” I now realize that wasn’t true at all, but that thought tormented me as a child.

In 1902, at the age of 28, Churchill wrote a book called The River War, about his military experiences in Sudan. Reflecting on his lonely childhood, the young Churchill said, “Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.” I suppose that, too, describes me, at least to some extent.

I experienced great relief when my mother was wonderfully converted at the age of eighty. There was a dramatic change in her that only God could have given. My father, too, was hopefully saved a few weeks before he died. I thank God for that every time I think of them. But the childhood pain is still there at times.

And so it has always been difficult for me to speak about fatherhood on Father’s Day. When I became a father myself I knew that I had no model to follow in my own life. So I consciously prayed for God to help me. I was deeply moved the other day when one of my sons told me, “I am thankful that God allowed me to be your son, and I hope to one day be half as good a father as you have been to me.”

I am giving you my story for a reason. So many young people today fear marriage. I have found that many of them are also afraid of having children. The fear of marriage is called “misogyny.” It is widespread today for several reasons, but I think the most common one is that they see so many failed marriages, often even the failure of their parents’ marriage. This fear produces people who miss the joy of having a family of their own. That is a real tragedy.

Let me make it very plain that Christian young people should have no fear of marriage and children. God can help you succeed in marriage, and He will most definitely help you if you are really converted, and if you depend on Him as you go through life. I know that is true because God has helped my wife and me in this. Yes, there are struggles and problems when you have a marriage and children, but the joy you will have far outweighs the trials. The greatest human joy I have experienced has come through marriage and children. Get Dr. Rice’s book, The Home, Courtship, Marriage and Children. Read it and study it. Dr. Rice can mentor you, and become a role model for you to have a happy home for yourself and your children. Here, then, are a few things that God taught me, in answer to prayer.

First, a father should love his children unconditionally. Whatever your children do, never stop loving them. Let them know that no matter what wrong they do they will always be able to come home. If they go too far wrong, they may not be welcome in their church. But they can always come home if they need to do so. The Parable of the Prodigal Son should teach us that. As the boy came home, “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Whatever counsel you may receive to the contrary, always remember the Father in that parable. Love your children with an unconditional love. Make sure that they know your love for them does not have to be earned, that you will always love them no matter what they do.

Second, as the Apostle said, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” When my sons were growing up I tried my best to follow the advice of Dr. John R. Rice. He said not to spank your children when you are angry, but to wait until you have “cooled off.” Then explain why you are disciplining them, and hug them afterwards. I tried to do that, and usually succeeded. Your children will not be “provoked to wrath” if you discipline them that way. Never whip a child in anger. Ask God to help you to have wisdom in disciplining your children.

Third, “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I always felt that the best place for children to be was in church. So, my wife and I brought them to church from the beginning. The very first Sunday after they were born they were in church. They have not missed church on Sunday throughout their lives. They are not perfect, but they never miss church, no matter what happens. They were here last night, for Saturday evening prayer and evangelism. They are here with me this morning, and they will be here with me in church tonight. It has always been so, and I pray that it always will be.

Dr. John R. Rice said, “Mothers are mentioned in the Bible some 363 times, but fathers over 1,300 times. The father was intended to be the image of God the Father, the high priest of his family, the king, the judge, the counselor, the provider, the avenger of wrong!” (Dr. John R. Rice, “And Ye Fathers”).

Again, Dr. Rice said some things about being a father that I feel are important in these evil days. So I will quote at length what he wrote. Dr. Rice said,

      There has been a sad erosion in America of the authority and honor and the responsibility which fathers have borne in the past. Once a father approved or disapproved the marriage of sons as well as daughters, and oftentimes arranged it...But many things have tended to take away from the glory and authority of fathers. The feminist movement, the rebellion of wives...All these have minimized the role of the father.
      Godless psychologists have taught that corporal punishment of children is wrong, that every teenager should plan his own life – for or against drugs and alcohol and tobacco and sex immorality – as he likes. Politicians have hopes to get the vote of the radical left by giving the vote to teenagers.
      So God’s place for fathers as high priest of a family, as judge, ruler, provider and guide, has been eroded all for the worse in America. But we should remember that, in God’s plan, fathers are the glory of their children. Children are very largely what their fathers make them (Rice, ibid.).

Every man who is here this morning should seek to become a model and leader in his home. So I beg you, in Jesus’ name, make sure your family lives for God, and your children are taught, and disciplined, and prayed for that they may trust Christ and become solid Christians themselves.

But what if you have failed to be all this in your home? Oh, come to Jesus, trust Him and be saved. Get into church every time the door is open, and let your children see you living a new life before them. Pray every day for God to make you a new and better father.

And what if you are a young person whose father is not a Christian? Come to Jesus and trust Him. Then ask God to help you live the Christian life. God will help you, even if your own father was not a good example. I know that is true because God has helped me, through the storms of life. There is a precious promise in the Word of God for you,

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies...I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:10, 11, 13, 14). 

And if you are still not a Christian I encourage you to trust Jesus this morning. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He is alive up in Heaven praying for you. Oh, trust Jesus this very morning! We are going to sing hymn number 7 on your song sheet. While we sing please step from your seat and go to the back of the room. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place for prayer and counselling. You go while we sing.

Just as I am, without one plea,
   But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
   O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
   To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
   O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
   Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee I find,
   O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
(“Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Ephesians 6:1-4.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Rise Up, O Men of God” (by William P. Merrill, 1867-1954).