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.