The History of Father’s Day
I’d like to ask a question: What does it means to be a good father? If you don’t know, the history of Father’s Day is quite fascinating. The inception dates to December 6th, 1907 when a massive explosion decimated a coal mine in Monongah, West Virginia and 362 miners were killed. It was the worst mining disaster in U.S. history. Several months after this disaster, a local church held a special service to honor the 362 miners lost—most left behind wives and children. It was the first public event on record specifically honoring fathers. This all led to a public campaign to establish a national Father’s Day, which President Woodrow Wilson began in 1916. It was finalized in 1972.
Why would people do this? Why would people launch a public campaign to honor fathers?
I think they knew something: When a father is present he makes a huge difference in the life of his kids. Pastor Jon Tyson writes this in his book, “The Intentional Father”: “When a father is present, emotionally healthy, and involved in his child’s life, the child has a tremendous advantage in the world to navigate its complexities and challenges with joy and confidence.”
Let me state the obvious: when a father is absent—he can leave a huge hole. When a father is not fully present in the life of his kids, or if he misuses his power through abuse of some type, or if he is lost due to illness and death, a father wound is created.
Marks of an Intentional Father
The Barna Group recently did a study asking men if they felt prepared for fatherhood and here is what they found: 52% of all U.S. Dads and 44% of practicing Christians felt “somewhat prepared,” or “not prepared at all” to become a father. That is A LOT of men who don’t feel prepared to become fathers. What does it mean to become a good dad? How do we get there? Paul has been giving us clues in this letter to the Philippians. It’s the way Paul has been speaking to the Philippian Church—as an intentional, spiritual, father figure. He wants them to grow in their love of Christ Jesus. Then we get to Philippians 4:8-9, some of my favorite verses—verses we should commit to memory.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9, ESV)
These words, offered to the church of Philippi, are instructive for all Christians and especially fathers or future fathers. As a spiritual father, Paul writes to his children and says, “Let this thought pattern dominate your life … then put it into practice. Become a 489 Christian; become a 489 Father! Then the church and the world will be blessed! What does Philippians 4:8-9 call us to?
People of Virture
First, we should be people of VIRTUE. What is a virtue? It is a kind of moral excellence. Morals and ethics form the framework for how we should live our lives. If you will remember, much of the letter up
until this point has focused on creating a unified environment of peace. In vv. 8-9, Paul is showing us how to rearrange our life and thought so that the peace of God can freely work.
This sums up the section of scripture where he has told us to rejoice, to not be anxious, and to pray. Then he offers some parting words. These words are applicable for all Christians, but I think they are strikingly poignant for dads. What virtues should embody our lives?
Truth. Honor. Justice. Purity. Beauty.
If we live out those virtues our lives will be commendable; people will speak well of us. Do those virtues dominate your thought life on a daily basis?
People of Action
Second, we must be people of ACTION. Too many people THINK but don’t ACT. Other people ACT but don’t think. We need to be both. Paul writes this in v. 9:
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9, NIV)
Look at the language he uses: what you just heard … DO IT! Put it into practice. He is not providing a contrast to verse 8; it is a complement. Take notice of that word, “whatever.” It refers back to the end of v. 8 where Paul said, “think about such things.” This refers to that list of moral virtues, but it also points to more. It points back to other teachings in the letter that are excellent and praise worthy. It points back to the humble work of Christ on the Cross we are called to emulate. Jesus did not just think about saving us: he was a man of action. He came to earth, lived a sinless life and died a brutal death on the cross. What does this tell us about God the Father?
The Love of God The Father
God the Father embodies the 489 life. He is a calm in the storm. He lavished his love on us by sending his own son, the prince of peace himself, to die on the cross and bring us the peace of God, which will guard our hearts and minds. What does the Apostle John tell us in his letter?
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! […] Dear friends, now we are children of God […] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3, NIV)
Church, God the Father loves you! Whatever our experience has been on earth—you have a Heavenly Father who has made a way for PEACE with him. And now, just like the prodigal son, he wants us to run to his open arms and experience his deep love. Will you do that today? When you experience that love it will transform you from the inside out. Then, then … the 489 life will flow from you: truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty. We can show the world, and our families, the beauty of Jesus every day. We love, because God the Father first gave his deep, deep love to us. What does it mean to be a good father? It means reflecting the love of God to our children … and the world. Amen.