Gifts Every Father Needs
Dr. Jim Denison
Today, more collect calls will be placed than on any other day of the year. It wasn’t always that way. The year was 1909. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington heard a Mother’s Day sermon in church and wondered why fathers didn’t have a day as well. Her father was a Civil War veteran who raised six children after his wife died. She thought he deserved better.
So she organized a church service the next June, her father’s birth month, and the idea caught on. Father’s Day was recognized by President Wilson in 1916, Calvin Coolidge in 1924, Congress in 1956, and President Johnson in 1966, but it still wasn’t an official holiday until Richard Nixon signed the day into law in 1972. 58 years after Mother’s Day, fathers finally had their day as well. And the collect calls which go with it.
To state the obvious, none of us would be here today without a father. That’s true physically, of course, but it’s also more true spiritually than you may know. When Mom goes to church but Dad does not, just five percent of kids become regular worshipers. When both worship regularly, 33 percent of kids do the same. Here’s the surprise: when Dad is faithful but Mom is not, 44 percent of the kids end up as regular worshipers. I’m not dismissing the mothers from today’s service, just commending fathers for being here.
This is a day for encouraging fathers and all of us who are their children. Fathers face unprecedented time and financial pressures these days. With modern technology, no place exempts us from work. The global economy is more unpredictable than ever before, as recent weeks have proven. Our children are busier than ever in human history. We’re raising them in a culture which disavows absolute truth and objective morality. We could use some encouragement. So could our families. Today our Father has some gifts to offer–gifts every father needs. And the rest of us as well.
Fight your battles in his strength
John’s vision begins, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse” (v. 11a). In the ancient world, a white horse was always ridden by the conqueror in a triumphal march after the war was won. The Parthians, Rome’s most dreaded enemy, were especially known for riding white horses. For Jesus to ride such an animal into conquest was a clear signal to John’s readers that the Empire would be destroyed and Jesus would win the victory.
And so would they: “The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean ” (v. 14). In verse 8 we are told, “fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.” We are righteous, pure, holy, and victorious.
The One we worship and trust comes to triumph with total, global authority: “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter'” (v. 15). The latter phrase is a direct quote from Psalm 2:9, a promise the Jewish rabbis all took to predict the coming Messiah. As he spoke the universe into existence with his words, so he will destroy this fallen world with his words. He needs no bow, arrow, shield or spear. His word is enough to win the day.
So it will be when Jesus returns. But remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Our Lord possesses this day all the power he will possess on that day. Here are a few examples of that promise:
“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6).
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10).
“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
“Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God'” (Luke 18:27).
Where do you need his power and victory in your life this morning? Patrick Morley’s bestselling books on men document some of the issues we’re facing today. We struggle with identity: Are we what we do? How much we make? How well we succeed? How do we relate effectively to our wives and children? How do we handle money and time pressures? How do we deal with temperament problems: pride, fear, anger, guilt? How do we maintain integrity in our secret thoughts and private lives?
Name the battles you’re fighting today–the temptations, struggles, issues in your soul and life.
Now mount the white horse of Jesus’ power in your life. Put on the white linen of his presence and peace. Get out the sword of his mouth and word, and live by its truth. Give your trial or test to him, and ask him for the courage and character you need.
Refuse to be discouraged. Today is not the day you’ll quit the battle. As you work, God works. As you are obedient to his last word to you, his word wins the fight. Refuse the self-sufficiency of our culture, and fight your battles in his strength. This is his invitation and hope for you today.
A few years ago I invited Dr. Ron Scates, the senior pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, to be the speaker for our Men’s Bible Study kick-off breakfast. I asked him to discuss “lessons learned the hard way.” I’ll never forget the first one he gave us. He told us about the day when his little girl drowned in a scuba diving tank at a sporting goods store. He looked at the gym filled with men and said, “Men, I’ve been to the bottom, and the bottom holds.” It still does.
Leave vengeance to the Lord
The second invitation from God’s word to us today is just as simple and significant as the first. Fight your battles in God’s strength, and leave vengeance to the Lord (v. 11). Jesus is “Faithful,” absolutely trustworthy. And he is “True,” meaning that he speaks the truth but also that he is the Truth, the real thing, the only true God. Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He always keeps his word and his promises.
“With justice he judges and makes war” against the enemies of God’s people (v. 12). “His eyes are like blazing fire,” symbolic of complete omniscience. “On his head are many crowns,” showing us his completely global authority. He always brings justice and judgment for us.
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
“I will take vengeance on my adversaries” (Deuteronomy 32:41).
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Who has failed you lately? Where has life treated you unfairly? Who has lied about you? Slandered you? Spoken against you behind your back? Where have you been cheated? Manipulated? Passed over? Hurt? Tell Jesus on them. Leave them to his justice, and get on with your life. He will always do the right thing–always.
I was in a meeting years ago with the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. We were discussing ways to handle criticism, and this individual told us that Dr. Graham never responds to his critics. He or his organization will set the record straight if misinformation is being disseminated. But if he is being attacked personally, he never responds. He leaves that to the Lord. He tries to live in such a way that people will not believe his critics. And he remembers that there is only one Judge of the universe. He trusts vengeance to him. Would you say God has taken care of Dr. Graham’s reputation? Let’s make the same decision today.
Claim the forgiveness he died to give
When you’re in a battle, fight in his power. When you’re hurt and opposed, trust his justice. But what do you do when the fault is yours? When the sin is on your side? What then?
Jesus is “dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God” (v. 13). He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). He died to pay for your sins and failures. Stop trying to pay the bill yourself. Guilt is never of God. He forgives your sins and remembers them no more. Every time guilt attacks you, give it to Jesus. Claim his forgiveness and his grace. You may have to do it a hundred times today, but it will be worth it.
Where do you need to be forgiven this morning? What words would you take back? What hurts have you caused those you love and others? What secret sins you hope no one knows? The best fathers are not perfect, just forgiven.
Decide today that you’ll fight your battles in God’s strength, trust vengeance to his justice, and give your failures to his grace. Whether you’re a father or not, you have a Father. We are all his children. These are the Father’s Day gifts he wants us to open.
Can our God do all this? “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (v. 16). That’s his name. That’s who he is. He can win our battles and judge our enemies and forgive our sins, because he is the Lord of all that is. He’s your Father, and he’s your Maker, and he’s your King. Isn’t he?
S. M. Lockridge was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego from 1953 to 1993. The 20th century had no greater orator in the service of Jesus Christ. Recently I found an essay from his mind and pen which so blessed me that I decided to make it my own. I invite you to join me:
“He’s the one who made you, it is He who made us and not we ourselves. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. No means or measure can define His limitless love and no farseeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supply. I’M TELLING YOU TODAY YOU CAN TRUST HIM.
“No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing. He’s enduringly strong and He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast and He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful and He’s impartially merciful. He’s the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world. He’s God’s Son, He’s the sinner’s Savior, He’s the centerpiece of civilization. I’M TRYING TO TELL YOU CHURCH, YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
“He does not have to call for help and you can’t confuse Him. He doesn’t need you and He doesn’t need me. He stands alone in the solitude of Himself. He’s august and He’s unique. He’s unparalleled, He’s unprecedented, He’s supreme, He’s preeminent, He’s the loftiest idea in literature, He’s the highest personality in philosophy, He’s the supreme problem of higher criticism, He’s the fundamental doctrine of true theology, He’s the cardinal necessity of spiritual religion, He’s the miracle of the age, He’s the superlative of everything good you can call Him. I’M TRYING TO TELL YOU CHURCH, YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
“He can satisfy all your needs, and He can do it simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak and He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He sees. He guards and He guides, He heals the sick, He cleansed the Leper, He forgives sinners, He discharges debtors, He delivers the captives, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He beautifies the meek, I’M TRYING TO TELL YOU CHURCH, YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
“He’s the key to knowledge, He’s the well spring of wisdom, He’s the doorway of deliverance, He’s the pathway of peace, He’s the roadway of righteousness, He’s the highway of holiness, He’s the gateway to glory, YOU CAN TRUST IN HIM!
“He’s the master of the mighty, He’s the captain of the conquers, He’s the head of heroes, He’s the leader of legislators, He’s the overseer of the overcomers, He’s the governor of the governors, He’s the prince of princes, He’s the king of kings, He’s the Lord of lords, YOU… CAN… TRUST… HIM!!!
“His office is manifold, His promise is sure, His life is matchless, His goodness is limitless, His mercy is everlasting, His love never changes, His word is enough, His grace is sufficient, His reign is righteous, His yoke is easy, His burden is light, I wish I could describe Him to you, He’s indescribable because He’s incomprehensible, He’s irresistible because He’s invincible. You can’t get Him off your hands, you can’t get Him off your mind, you can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. Pilate couldn’t stand it when he found he couldn’t stop Him, and Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. And the witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree and Herod couldn’t kill Him, and death couldn’t handle Him and thank God the grave couldn’t hold Him.
“There was nobody before Him and there will be nobody after Him. He has no predecessor, He’ll have no successor, you can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign. YOU CAN TRUST HIM!!!”