1 Timothy 2:8
A young father to be was pacing back and forth, wringing his hands in the hospital corridor while his wife was in labor. He was tied up in knots of fear and anxiety…and beads of perspiration dropping from his brow revealed the agony of his suffering.
Finally, at 4:00 a.m. a nurse popped out of a door and said, “Well, sir, you have a little girl.” He dropped his hands, became limp, and said, “Oh how I thank God its a girl. She’ll never have to go through the awful agony I’ve had to go through tonight.”
It’s tough being a father…and in honor of this special day I want to speak to those who are blessed with such a great privilege. But, as you might expect…I want to look at things from a different perspective.
Actually, I want to address not just fathers, but men in general. And even though this is a day when father’s usually receive a gift of some kind…I want to speak about a gift father’s should give … a very precious gift…a gift for their children…but mostly for themselves.
It is very difficult being a man in the 1990’s. And the reason I think it is so difficult is because of the way men were raised in generations past. Face it…the days of Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best are gone. Men go places…do things…dress, act and think in ways they never would have when I was a kid.
40 years ago, when I was just a toddler, its not likely that you’d have seen many men with long hair tied in a pony tail, wearing an earring. And that is not some sissy I’m referring to…Steven Segal is rated as one of the top action heroes today. And don’t get me wrong…I’m not coming down against any of these things. My point is this…times have changed.
Men today are different in many ways. And we could all make quite a list of the changes that have taken place over the past few generations. And there are many positive changes that have come about in men. But in spite of many positive changes…there are some things about men that change very little.
It has been said that almost any man can father a child…but only special ones can be a dad. And I want to say this morning that dads are special people. I’ve had many heroes over the years…The Lone Ranger…Superman…John Wayne, just to name a few. But my first hero was my dad.
When I faced difficult times as a youngster, none of my other heroes could help me…but dad was always there. He couldn’t leap tall buildings with a single bound…or shoot 37 shots from a 6 shooter without reloading…but he was always there…always caring. And I know some of you could spend hours sharing wonderful things about your fathers.
And yet, there is something that was so common with that generation of men that for the most part has been handed down throughout many generations…right down to ours today… something that I think is the greatest disservice done to the men of this and future generations.
They were taught that men never show tender affection…or emotion…or anything that would be interpreted as weakness. Men must be strong…proud…tough! I was raised in a generation that seldom saw men show affection with their wives. I remember seeing my dad give mom a peck on the cheek when he left the house…but I never heard him say to her, “I love you.”
I never saw them hold hands in public. I never remember seeing flowers or a gift without it being a birthday or Christmas. But more importantly, I never heard him talk about things that went beyond surface things…like bills , or the weather, or the latest crisis in the news.
I never saw my dad share his hurts and fears…or just share his feelings about life, and family…and God. And its not that he was a cold, hard creature with no feelings. My dad is a sensitive, caring man who is no different in most ways that any of us. He just never was taught the need for intimacy in relationships.
Todays men have come quite a ways since then…but yet in things that matter the most, very little has changed for the average household. I’ve come to believe that one of the most important things that a man can give to his child is the godly example of intimate relationships.
And of course, first and foremost would be a personal, intimate relationship with God. And the reason a relationship with God is so important is because that is what sets the stage for other successful relationships. And other intimate relationships are also very important.
Read with me from Paul’s first letter to Timothy…chapter 2:8…as the apostle expresses his prayer for Christian men in a graphic picture. (READ)
This text calls for men with an open commitment to the living reality of God’s person and His presence. The phrase “lift up holy hands without anger or disputing” simply seeks a man who has discovered a confidence in his relationship with the Lord.
This is a man who doesn’t come strutting into God’s presence…but one who comes with holy hands…hands that have something happen to them. They’ve been transformed. This is a man who comes to the Lord with an openness and recognition…knowing that he is received and accepted by the Father…Almighty God!
Paul is saying, “I wish men were like this…men of faith and men of self control. Men who would not doubt and would not be possessed by anger. This is a biblical call to a real relationship…to a friendship with God…to be able to call Him for everything. It’s a call to intimate friendship.
I like the way Jack Hayford describes it…He says: It’s as if God drank coffee…and you’d feel comfortable coming to Him…and you’d pour Him a cup, and then, as you sat there you’d pour out your heart as well. Imagine it…just the 2 of you…God and son…sitting there over coffee, as friends, sharing the deepest thoughts of your heart.
A man with a real, personal relationship with God will learn that his walk with God allows for such “pouring out” …for emptying anger, pride, lust or anything else eating at him. And God doesn’t see this as if you’re flinging stuff in His face…or like you’re putting Him at fault…or like your failures have made it impossible to be up front with Him.
Actually, this pouring out is learning to “cast all our care upon Him for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). There is a big difference between simply being saved as great as that is and walking with God in friendship. When we have that kind of relationship God becomes included in everything in your life.
This “face to face” kind of relationship is what is at the center of Christ’s heart for men. Note how Jesus, after walking with His disciples for 3 years one day said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I call you friends” (John 15:15). That is the kind of relationship Jesus wants each of you to have with Him.
But…the problem is that just about everything in our lives as men seems to work against that. And there are three things that seem to work against the possibility of really having a confident relationship with God…which enables us to have that type of relationship with our children … as well as other men.
1. The painful absence of models. When I speak of a role model…I wonder how many of you men have ever had someone to follow…someone you could watch in your formative years about which you could have said, “That’s how a godly man is supposed to live!”
Did you have anyone to watch who showed you a model of a man with peaceful, genuine, confidence in his relationship with God…and his relationships with others…someone about whom you could say, “I want to be just like him!”?
I’ve heard many horror stories of authority figures…potential role models, who failed. They were fathers and teachers who violated or brutalized people…relatives who mocked or neglected family members or pastors who seemed like such good guys but turned out to be dishonest or immoral. Young minds get burned by corrupt images…and their hope of just plain “good, honest manhood” withers and dies…often very quickly.
Or maybe you had a good role model..but didn’t have the opportunity to get close enough. There was a quiet distance between you and him…like seeing the Grand Canyon but never being able to cross…nice view, but no touch…no warmth.
Maybe some of you grew up with a woman as your only leadership model. Not minimizing the worth of a woman’s influence…but you still didn’t have a man to show you the way to manhood. And without that, many men don’t know how to respond as a godly man to life’s situations…or even be a good role model for their own child.
2. The second thing is the ever growing presence of corruption. Most of you men here this morning will go to a place of business tomorrow. And there most will be surrounded by the lewd…the corrupt and the foul. It may be a pornographic desk calendar…obscene posters…crude speech..sexual innuendos..or coarse jokes. The air is blue w/ profanity or suggestiveness…and impurity is always present.
Or the corrupt may be business oriented…the boss wanting you to sell a half truth…or fudge on accuracy in reported figures. Even if you are a man who wants to walk with God, the surroundings almost make the corruption ooze into our very soul.
3. And the 3rd thing is the consciousness of our own failure. All of us sin…we all fail. Our sins may have been private and shielded…or very public and well known. And we may have already come to the Lord and repented and know we’ve been forgiven. But still the mind is riveted to those scenes of failure. God forgives but often we can’t forgive ourselves.
And this is where the intimate friendship with God…but also with other men is so necessary. We need the presence of one who will listen…and understand…and be able to help us as we allow God to heal, restore and bring about victory.
One of the greatest voids in this church is men who not only have a relationship with God…but also who are open to developing real intimate relationships with each other…one that will be an example to their children and to the world.
Let me read you a story I shared at our last men’s breakfast as a way of illustrating what I’m trying to share:
Tom, Jim and Steve had been hunting buddies for ages. Every chance they got, they would go out for deer, ducks, and birds. Whatever the season, they would hunt together. Each of them thought of each other as best friends. They would often say they could talk about anything they wanted in this group, until one Friday afternoon when all of that changed.
Tom tells the story: “I remember it was a Friday, and we were all going to take off work at noon so we could drive out, set up camp, and be ready to go first thing in the morning. I had a 4 wheel drive truck, so the plan was that I would pick everyone up. Steve lived farthest out, so we always picked him up last.
As it turned out, I didn’t get away from work as early as I had hoped, and by the time I got Jim we were running about an hour late. We pulled up in front of Steve’s place and honked a couple of times. Usually he would come running out, yelling about us being late…but this time there was no sight of him.
I saw his gear back by the garage and I thought maybe he didn’t hear us. Jim stayed in the truck while I went around to get him. He was in the back yard and he was dead. He had taken his shotgun, put the muzzle in his mouth, and with a piece of wood, pushed the trigger down and blew the back of his head away. He left a note near his body. It said, “I’m sorry. There is no one to talk to.”
At first I was just terribly angry. How could he do this? How could he say there was no one to talk to when there was me? I felt like I could have helped him, no matter what it was. At least I thought I could. Only later did it hit me that I didn’t really know if we could really talk about anything or not…because we never really talked about much that was personal.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how much I was responsible for what Steve did…because I wasn’t the kind of friend he needed. I think I know what Steve meant when he wrote, ‘There was no one to talk to.’
As close as I thought we were, I’ve come to see that we were never there for each other to talk to. Oh, we were there to do things with…hunt, fish, drink, play cards…but we were never there to talk about the things we were feeling…the things that make you wonder whether or not life was worth living.
I think now that what we called friendship wasn’t really anything more than a casual and comfortable kind of acquaintance where we shared certain things at certain times…but we never shared ourselves. Maybe all relationships are like that.
Lately I’ve really tried to be more open with people, especially men. I’ve tried to build the kind of friendship Steve needed…because I believe I need that too. So far it hasn’t worked out to well. Men get anxious when you talk about feelings…and it seems the harder I try to get close, the faster guys pull away. Maybe I am going to fast. But for Pete’s sake, if you go to slow, you may never get there…or when you do its too late…like it was for Steve.”
Although this is a tragic story…many of us can identify with these men. We have a desire for strong friendships with other men…friendships that can withstand the tests of hard times…one that will make a difference in all of the times of our lives. Yet we are frustrated with what actually happens.
Some of us, like Tom, have a lot of acquaintances. We are open to strengthening these relationships…but we don’t know how.
Others of us are not at all sure that there is a real need for these kinds of relationships.
Still others of us have an uncomfortable feeling of being isolated..and are looking for ways to get connected with other people.
Some of us have enjoyed close friendships in the past and want to establish new relationships of this kind.
There are 3 basic levels of relationship…and I want each of you…but especially the men, to see which typifies your relationships. Level one: Acquaintance. This is when you know another man only because of proximity. He might be your neighbor…and you talk over the fence…borrow a ladder, etc. But if he would move to Albuquerque you’d no longer have any contact with him.
Men have numerous acquaintances…at work…in the neighborhood…at church…on the ball team…in laws and out laws…friends of your wives that you meet at get togethers. These are relationships of convenience, courtesy and just general politeness. The conversation usually stays on safe topics…like weather, work, economy, home repairs, etc….topics that have low emotional content.
Level two: Companionship. Companionship is like the Three Musketeers. They were a group of men who trusted each other to do the task set before them. While they never had a discussion about their vulnerabilities or emotional struggles, they did have a great time going into battle together.
Companions share a task or goal and they schedule time to do that. Men join softball leagues…service organizations…clubs…and other groups that get them together with other men who have similar interests. Tom, Jim and Steve were companions.
Level three: Intimate friendships. These are relationships where the real you is known by another person. Not only does this person feel free to tell you everything…you can also tell everything to him. This comes as a result of respect, trust and time spent together.
It is very uncommon among men because it requires a large investment of time and attention…trust…conversation…self disclosure…and the opposite of our normal male competitiveness. While it is uncomfortable for most men…the closeness and oneness that results is incredibly valuable.
This morning I want to challenge each man here. I want to challenge you first of all to seek after and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ that goes beyond just going to church…that goes beyond making sure of heaven. One where time is spent in fellowship and communion…where thoughts and feelings are shared…one of trust and commitment.
Second, I want to challenge you to develop a godly, intimate relationship with other men who share your common biblical beliefs…men who can fellowship…listen…encourage… even counsel…men who will be a faithful friend.
And third…I want to challenge you to share these needs and important truths with your children…especially if you have a son no matter what age they may be. Teach your sons that intimacy with God and with others is not for sissy’s…it is a matter of emotional health and well being…as we saw with Steve…at times its a matter of life and death.
I hope each of you men have a very special Father’s Day today. I hope you get the appropriate recognition…and a gift would be nice as well. But most of all I hope you’ll give yourself the greatest gift you could ever receive…an intimate relationship with the Savior…an intimate relationship with another Christian brother…and the ability to teach your child the way to wholeness in the process.
Today is the day men…begin today