Can Dads Influence Their Children’s Spiritual Outcome? – Part 6

(If you’d like to read the previous articles in this series, please do so.)

There is a wonderful elderly man we know at the nursing home, and we love him dearly. We have known him for close to ten years, but I’m afraid he won’t live much longer. The biggest problem seems to be that he doesn’t eat and therefore is wasting away. I don’t see how such a thin person can continue to lose weight. The food seems to be good there, but I’m told he just sits in front of his food, picks at it for a while, and then quits. He will die without nourishment.

I recently had a very engaging discussion for about an hour with a young man in his early teens. He was strongly opinionated, and I was enjoying asking him questions in trying to understand what the basis was for the decisions he was making. He was intelligent and articulate, and yet there was a major disconnect in his reasoning. I then asked him about personal and family devotions. He said he was having personal time with the Lord, but his family didn’t have a time when they would look at Scripture together. After hearing himself say that and realizing how that appeared, he thought for a moment and said, “Well, I guess I’d have to say, that our family devotion is sort of all day. It is the way we live.”

Have you ever thought about the fact that God did not have to make our bodies to need food? God could have easily created us never to require food, but He had a purpose in it. “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). We require continued sustenance to keep our focus on our Provider.

The reality of physical food is used by the Lord to teach us about our need for spiritual food. In John 21:15-17 we read, “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” Jesus was not talking about Simon Peter physically feeding sheep but rather spiritually feeding the flock.

Notice how Jesus related Peter’s love for Christ with Peter’s feeding those for which he would soon be responsible. Peter would soon be leader of the church in Jerusalem, and if Peter loved Jesus, Peter was to feed them spiritually. If Peter loved the Lord, he could demonstrate that love by feeding the flock. In asking the question three times with slight variations, Jesus was making His point very clear. “Peter, if you love Me, you will feed My sheep.” That is true of us dads as well, if we love the Lord Jesus, we will spiritually feed those He has entrusted to our care.

In John 10:3-4 we read, “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” The shepherd leads the sheep out to find good pasture. He is careful that the sheep only eat what is beneficial for them. He cares about the sheep and wants to see them grow and be healthy. A shepherd may be negligent in several areas and still not devastate the flock, but if he is not feeding them, they will suffer. That is so true for our families. We may fail our families in many ways, but if we aren’t feeding them spiritually every day, they will suffer.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:1-2). What a beautiful picture of a caring Shepherd Who pastures His flock in lush green fields where they will eat well and then may rest. Do we fathers make our daily family devotion time appetizing? Does our family look forward to dining on God’s Word together? Is it something we are excited about like a hungry man with a steak dinner, or do we force ourselves to take a few bites when we really aren’t interested? If we aren’t interested in God’s Word then we need not expect our families to be excited.

Ezekiel 34 is amazing as God blasts those shepherding Israel. “. . . Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:2-3). “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock . . .” (Ezekiel 34:10). God harshly judges the shepherds who will not nurture their sheep.

Can we be serious about our desire to raise children who will be men and women of God without feeding them the spiritual food that they will need to grow spiritually strong and healthy? How can they resist the world if they are not spiritually strong?

A homeowner who says he is working hard to grow a nice, healthy lawn and never feeds it is only fooling himself. All his neighbors know the truth by merely observing his lawn and what steps he is taking. They can see that his actions aren’t consistent with his words. In the same way, those around us who observe our children and who visit our home will soon come to understand what emphasis we place on spiritually feeding our family.

Feeding those we are responsible for is critical. Just as we can expect repercussions from the government if parents don’t physically feed their children, there are consequences when parents don’t spiritually feed their children. Why is it so many dads don’t lead their family in daily Bible reading when this is such a serious matter? There are probably a myriad of answers, but NONE of them matter. I believe if dads realized the consequences they will experience (and observe in the lives of their children) for not spiritually feeding them, they would get serious (and excited) about daily feeding their family God’s Word.

The Lord is our example. He says, “I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 34:14-15). Men, we must feed our families (see Feed My Sheep). I would encourage every dad not to eat a meal the day following a missed family devotion. Let your physical hunger spur you on to feeding your family’s spiritual hunger.

When I started leading the family devotion, I knew Teri could have done a far better job. But that was okay because I knew I needed to do it, and God would enable me to improve over time. The Lord has been so faithful through the years in teaching me how to lead my family. He will do the same for you if you will begin (if you aren’t currently). So Dad, what are you feeding your family tonight?