Did you call your dad, “Father?” That would have seemed too formal a title for me to use. I used the word “Dad.” He was the man who taught me to fish, to work on a car, paint a room, install an electrical outlet, plant a garden, and countless other practical things. My dad also taught me to work hard, laugh, and make a commitment. Dad didn’t grow up in a Christian home and his journey to the Lord occurred later in his life. He was fully active and fully committed to God for most of his life, but I bet he often wished he had known the Lord at a younger age.
Jim’s dad was a good man, who had once trusted in God, but God wasn’t an active, important presence in their home. Jim was taught to be a person of high character but not necessarily a person of godly character. Jim had to discover God on his own. His dad never came to a place of including faith as a high priority for daily life. We were in college when Jim’s dad passed away. I think Jim will always grieve the fact that he didn’t get to see his dad walk with the God who loved him.
My sons grew up with a dad who wanted to make sure they knew God from the moment they were born. Jim had prayer and a Bible story with the boys every night. Once Ryan came home from our church’s children’s camp, frustrated. When Jim asked why, he said, “You have got to quit telling us Bible stories. Camp is boring because I already know it all!” Jim and I had a good laugh with that one!
My younger son, Craig, and I were talking recently when he said something interesting. He talked about how much easier it was for him to trust God than it was for some of his friends in college. He said it was because he never remembered a time when God wasn’t real to him. He said he “grew up” knowing God was real. My older son, Ryan, and I were talking about God as Father. We talked about the way Jesus used the word “Abba” when he cried out from the cross. Jesus didn’t call out to God with the more formal word “Father,” he called him Dad or Daddy. Both of my boys know God as “Abba, Father” and I think that relationship was made much easier because of their dad.
Both had to come to a moment of individual commitment, and both had to choose to remain faithful—but their commitment to God is strong. Both of my boys are able to call God, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15–17 says, “The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”
If I had the chance to make one suggestion to every dad on the planet, I would say this: Get to know God as your Abba, Father. It will be much easier for your kids to inherit that relationship, if you have received yours. I’m not speaking of salvation, although that is the most profound meaning of these verses. I am speaking about the kind of relationship that can call God “Dad” instead of Father. It is a relationship of trust, priority and love. It is a relationship that is natural, normal, and born of a bond so strong that security is assured.
That kind of relationship can belong to anyone, because God is a perfect Father. But, to all the dads we celebrate this week, your relationship to God will speak a loud message to your children. Will they call God “Father” or will they call him, “Abba, Father?” You have the chance to model that kind of relationship with God, because they have that kind of relationship with you.
Live with God as your Abba Father so that they can know God that way too. My Dad and I grew into that relationship with God about the same time; we learned it together. Jim was a spiritual “orphan” who was adopted by loving Christians at church. He learned that relationship with God on his own. Seeing their dad’s relationship to God made it easier for our sons to know God as Abba Father.
For anyone, that relationship with God is possible. God is our Abba Father. He is our dad. But we can teach that to others, especially our kids, if we model that relationship. This week, encourage the men in your life to receive their full inheritance. It isn’t only about salvation and the joys of eternal life. We have also inherited the right to call God our Dad—today. The next time our kids, or anyone else, listens to us speak about God, let them hear us talk about him as our Abba. I know my heavenly Dad would love that!