Besides, we have all had human fathers who trained us. We respected them for it. How much more should we be trained by the Father of spirits and live! Our parents trained us for a little while. They did what they thought was best. But God trains us for our good. He does this so we may share in his holiness.Hebrews 12:9-10 NIrV
Father’s Day typically takes a distant second to Mother’s Day.
This is justified from my perspective as a father. Watching my wife be a mom settled this long ago.
Nevertheless, my writing intention is to shine a light on the role of fathers, because whenever we pray “Father,” our relationship with our human father is a factor. We will see God through the lens of how we saw, knew, and treated our human fathers.
He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.Luke 11:2 NRSV
I was emotionally distant from my dad. This distance was a significant factor in my emotional distance from God. I call it the “Father Factor.” Reconnection came with me and my dad, when I faced my “Father Factor” in a conversation where I finally took interest in him instead of only thinking about myself.
The conversation took place on a Father’s Day. My dad, being a Korean War Veteran, possessed a disposition similar to “The Greatest Generation,” which is a penchant for restraint and a resistance to talking about himself. My dad was quiet.
Everything changed in this conversation because I asked a question. “Why don’t you ever talk about your experience in the Negro Baseball League?”
His response was succinct: “That was a long time ago. No one cares about that.” Unlike other occasions, I pressed him, and said both myself and his grandchildren wanted to know the story.
He hesitated, then began to tell a story of oppression under the structural racism of Jim Crow, playing college baseball and basketball, then trying out for the New Orleans Eagles of the Negro Baseball League.
I discovered this was a “transformative moment” in his life. After the conclusion of the tryouts, the coach came to him. Using my dad’s nickname, he said, “Stick, you are going to be our starting second baseman.”
Then he told me that a few weeks later his mom called and said, “Russ, Uncle Sam wants you,” which meant he had been drafted into the Korean War. He would never play baseball again.
“From personal experience I can tell you that our capacity to talk to God is greatly influenced by our capacity to talk to our human fathers.”
There is a lesson here about the importance of conversations with our fathers, and from personal experience I can tell you our capacity to talk to God is greatly influenced by our capacity to talk to our human fathers. What I learned in my conversation with my dad is that I didn’t really know him. This was the reason for our distance.
In the same way, my failure to pursue knowing God had produced a similar distance between me and ‘the father of my spirit’ as existed between me and my ‘human father.’ Interestingly enough, understanding my dad’s “transformative moment” created a “transformative moment” for me. I rediscovered my childhood ‘father hunger’ which I needed to understand as an adult was now my ‘God hunger’ – my soul’s desire to call out, “Abba! Father!” as to a loving daddy.
You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, “Abba! Father!” as we would address a loving daddy.Romans 8:15 Voice
Getting to know my dad better provided a practical lesson on fatherhood as well this spiritual one. My father chose to finish college instead of pursue baseball, marry my mom, and build a family.
He chose us over baseball. He chose us over his dream. I did not fully appreciate the significance of his “transformative moment” until I became a father myself, that the measure of a father, the measure of a man, is what he does for others not merely for himself.
There are five lessons from five fathers in the scriptures who can teach us how to walk with God and be the fathers our families need us to be. What can we learn from my dad as well as these Biblical fathers?
Simply this: fatherhood is about identifying our “Father Factors,” and embracing our “transformative moments,” so that future generations are made better for us having been here. Let’s get started.
Enoch: Transformative Moments
When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah.  Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years.  Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.Genesis 5:21-24 NRSV
Enoch experienced a “transformative moment” at the birth of his first child. The scripture says, “Enoch walked with God,” and then identifies the time stamp on this spiritual transformation to be “after the birth of Methuselah.”
After the birth of his first child, Enoch made a decision to “walk with God.” Perhaps his relationship with God was similar to a distant, dutiful, ritualistic Quiet Time. Whatever it was like, after the birth of his son, Enoch took it to another level. Something about the responsibility for a new life transformed his spiritual life.
“After the birth of his first child, Enoch made a decision to walk with God.”
I remember reading about Enoch before my first child’s birth. My years before becoming a father were embarrassingly selfish, and I saw this moment as an opportunity for change.
Change happened when I faced the truth that who I had been before my son’s birth was unworthy of who my family needed me to be.Once we embrace our “transformative moment” we must decide where we are spiritually, and where we need to grow in our walk with God. This means choosing one of the “4 Types of Transformative Moments,” which are:
- Spiritual Mindset
- Spiritual Breakthrough
- Spiritual Reinvention
- Spiritual Training
Abraham: Spiritual Mindset
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.Hebrews 11:8 NRSV
This is the reason that faith is the single source of the promise—so that grace would be offered to all Abraham’s children, those whose lives are defined by the law and those who follow the path of faith charted by Abraham, our common father.Romans 4:16 Voice
Abraham is called “our common father” or “our father in the faith,” because when God called him to ‘go where he knew not,’ Abraham ‘charted his path by faith.’
We are adopting “a spiritual mindset” when we ‘chart our path by faith.’ This spiritual mindset is one where we are unintimidated by the obstacles we see, because our focus is on the unseen presence and power of God that is with us (II Corinthians 4:16-18 Voice).
This faith in God is the source of our confidence, making us bold rather than timid, risk tolerant rather than risk averse, determined to hold onto our dreams rather than abandon them.
This “spiritual mindset” is what allowed Abraham to navigate the turbulence of life and build his family. This is well documented in Romans chapter 4, where we see him defeat the negativity of unbelief, to turn his dreams from hope to reality.
Jacob: Spiritual Breakthrough
Jacob answered: You’ve seen how hard I’ve worked for you, and you know how your flocks and herds have grown under my care.  You didn’t have much before I came, but the LORD has blessed everything I have ever done for you. Now it’s time for me to start looking out for my own family.Genesis 30:29-30 CEV
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”Genesis 32:28 NLT
Jacob was a deceiver as a young man. He was a short-cut artist, who would rather scheme than work. His deceitful scheming nearly destroyed his relationship with his brother (Genesis 27:36) and father (Genesis 27:35).
Jacob has always been a favorite of mine, precisely because of his human flaws. His journey to redemption gives me hope for myself and everyone who experiences the frustration of failure. The inability to get it right.
God sees something in Jacob no one else can see. Despite Jacob’s theft of his brother’s inheritance in a misguided search for significance (Genesis 25:27-34 NLT), there is a redeeming factor only the Father can see, which is that the birthright he seeks to steal is more of a spiritual treasure than financial one.
This gave God something to work with, and work he did, allowing Jacob to spend over a decade of his life being manipulated and deceived by a man named Laban, to understand the pain Jacob had inflicted on his brother and father (Genesis 29-30). This humbling experience turned him to God for a “Spiritual Breakthrough.”
“Spiritual Breakthrough” is that moment when we turn from who we were into who we are destined to be. This happens in stages. The pivotal stage for Jacob came in Genesis 30:29-30, when he decided to take responsibility for his own family.
My experience is that when we take complete responsibility for our family, we have reached an important point of maturity, which leads to a radical transformation of our relationship with God.
This radical transformation for Jacob occurred in Genesis 32. It was there that he wrestled with God. God wrestled deceit out of him and destiny into him. He transformed Jacob from deceiver (Hebrew meaning of Jacob), to Israel, which means one who has fought, struggled, and wrestled with God and man to overcome.
What we learn from Jacob is life must be faced and responsibilities embraced, before we can experience the type of spiritual breakthrough putting us on course to fulfill our destiny.
Moses: Spiritual Reinvention
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God, bringing Moses’ sons and wife to him.  He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you, with your wife and her two sons.”Exodus 18:5-6 NRSV
Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good.  You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.Exodus 18:17-18 NRSV
Moses was a father with enormous responsibility. He was leading 2 million Hebrews out of Egypt. From what we see in Exodus 18:5-6 he sent his wife and children away, so he could focus on his job.
As a father I can relate. In moments of work stress, it is easy for me to treat my family like a limit instead of a lifeline. When we treat our families like “a limit” we disconnect from and even abandon them. When we treat them like a “lifeline,” we allow our love for them to reshape our priorities.
Fortunately for Moses, he had Jethro to teach him to see his family as a lifeline instead of a limit. Jethro summed up his analysis of Moses and his leadership by saying, “What you are doing is not good.”
Reading all of Exodus 18 we discover that Jethro calls on Moses to embrace “spiritual reinvention.” He calls him to change the way he lives and leads, understanding that when work takes too much from your family it is time for change.
Personally, I am in passionate pursuit of this “Spiritual Reinvention,” because without it burnout will be our destiny.
David: Spiritual Training
David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV
The older I get the more convinced I am that teaching is the most noble human pursuit. This capacity to learn then pass these lessons on to the next generation is part of the ultimate purpose of man.
Legacy – that rich endowment of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional investment in future generations – describes few in Scripture more perfectly than David. This is proven by the measure of kings after David being whether they were “like my servant David (I Kings 11:38 NET, 2 Kings 14:3 CSB, 2 Kings 16:2 CSB, II Kings 22:2 ERV).
One reason David produced such a lasting legacy was his capacity to walk with God and teach others to do the same. The Psalms alone stand as a tribute to his enduring capacity to teach. His conversations with his son Solomon, like the one in 1 Chronicles 28:20 is proof of his devotion to teaching, to training his son how to be a man of God.
“One reason David produced such a lasting legacy was his capacity to walk with God and teach others to do the same.”
What is surprising about all of this is by all accounts David was a failure as a family man. 2 Samuel provides ample documentation of his failures as a husband and father. How could a man with as much failure as David become such a significant influence on the generations who would follow him?
The answer to this question is simple. David mined his life for teachable moments learned from failure, as well as uncompromising principles learned from success. He passed these on through the writing of Psalms, and conversations like those he had with his son Solomon.
Imagine if every father embraced spiritual teaching and training like David, who in 1 Chronicles 28:20 reveals his capacity to talk about the need for a character of strength, courage, and work. Then, in talking about the affairs of the heart, reaches into the emotional well of his own humanity to talk about fear and discouragement.
“Spiritual training” is the most avoided and yet necessary “transformative moment,” for without it, future generations will not grow beyond what past generations have accomplished.
So, there we have it, “The Father Factor” and “Transformative Moments.” Five lessons from fathers in the Bible, which if heeded will not only transform families, but entire churches, and possibly the world.