Bible Text: Romans 8:15, 16
The dry Australian outback stretched endlessly on all sides of the sheep ranch. Occasionally a gentle breeze would waft across the fields, stirring up clouds of dust, but doing little to ease the stifling heat. A small group of rough, hard men and one small boy stood in a circle around the ranch's well. Surrounding them were scores of sheep, their tongues hanging out and their pathetic cries telling of their thirst.
The well had plenty of water, but it was out of reach. The rope had broken and the bucket had fallen to the bottom. Quietly the ranch hands debated what to do. These were men who did not worry easily. They'd fought raging prairie fires, survived sandstorms, and fought off countess dingoes to protect their sheep. But this was different. Here in the outback, water was the lifeblood of both man and beast, and if either went without it for long, they would not survive. "We're going to have to lower someone down to get that bucket," one of the men finally drawled.
"Going to have to be someone pretty small. That hole's not too big," commented another. All heads turned toward the small boy standing quietly by his father. Seeing them looking at him, he tried to hide behind his father's legs.
"Come on, son. You're the only one who'll fit. Be brave. Do it for me." his father said.
Reluctantly, the boy nodded his head and let the men tie a thick rope around his waist and under his arms. Just before they were going to put him in the well the boy said, "Wait! Who's going to hold the rope?"
"I will," replied the biggest man in the group. He stepped forward and grabbed the rope, muscles bulging against dirty shirtsleeves.
"No!" shouted the boy. "I want Pa to do it."
"Now, son," soothed the father, whose wiry frame seemed out of place amongst his heavily muscled companions. "These other fellas are a lot stronger than I am. You'd be safer with one of them holding the rope."
"No, I won't go unless you hold the rope," the boy replied, a determined look in his eye.
"But why me?" asked the father.
"Because I know you won't let go," sniffed the young boy, a tear tracing down his dusty cheek. You won't let me fall."
The father stepped forward and grasped the rope with all his strength and carefully began lowering his son into the well. Within a few minutes the bucket was retrieved and water was flowing into the troughs for the thirsty sheep. As he watched the sheep drink, the small boy looked up at his father and whispered, "I knew you wouldn't let me go.”
The relationship between a father and a son or, a father and a daughter is something very special. It is this type of relationship that God desires to have with you and me. In Romans 8:15, 16(NIV) He states, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father" The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." "God's children!" What an awesome concept! To think that the mighty God who created the entire universe wants us to call Him "Father" Actually "Abba" would be better translated as "Daddy." That's how close a relationship He wants with us. We are so special to Him that He wants us to call Him "Dad."
But what does it take to be a good father? Does God fit the criteria? Can we really trust Him as the boy in our story trusted his father in our story? Can we trust Him to never "let go?" In The Adventist Home, p. 211, Ellen White gives this definition of a good father: "The husband is the house-band of the home treasures, binding by his strong, earnest, devoted affection the members of the household, mother and children, together in the strongest bonds of union. His name, "house-band," is the true definition of husband."
So, first of all, a good father unifies the family, drawing it together with cords of love. As a rubber band holds a stack of cards together, so a father holds his family together. God is the "house-band" that holds his church together. A church is a family, the family of God. Unfortunately, sometimes some of the children in the family (including some of the adults) act pretty childish. We fight and squabble over the most foolish things. And, like any father, it hurts God when His children bicker. But He still loves us and longs for us to learn to love each other. "The church of Christ, enfeebled, defective as she may appear, is the one object on earth upon which He bestows, in a special sense, His love and His regard. The church is the theater of His grace, in which He delights in making experiments of mercy on human hearts.
The Holy Spirit is his representative, and it works to effect transformations so wonderful that angels look upon them with astonishment and joy. Heaven is full of rejoicing when the members of the human family are seen to be full of compassion for one another, loving one another as Christ has loved them.
The second characteristic of a good father is that he is a good example to his family."The husband and father is the head of the household .... The children look to the father for support and guidance; he needs to have a right conception of life and of the influences and associations that should surround his family; above all, he should be controlled by the love and fear of God and by the teaching of His word, that he may guide the feet of his children in the right way" (The Adventist Home, p. 211).
Our heavenly Father is a wonderful guide to His children. He says in Psalms 32:8 (NIV), "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." He, through Jesus, leads us by example.
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!" God didn't leave us to wander without a guide. Instead He sent Jesus to lead us back to Him.
A good father also loves to give gifts to his children. Nothing pleases him more than seeing the joy in their eyes as they rip open their presents on Christmas morning. It makes all the hard work during the year seem worthwhile.
God, too, is eager to give us what we ask for. Matthew 7:9-11 (NIV) says, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
But the greatest gift God wants to give us is eternal life. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" Rom. 6:23, NIV).
Another characteristic of a good father is that he loves to be with his children.
"Upon returning home from his [the father's] business, he should find it a pleasant change to spend some time with his children. ... Fathers, spend as much time as possible with your children.... Give some of your leisure hours to your children; become acquainted with them; associate with them in their work and in their sports, and win their confidence. Cultivate friendship with them.... In this way you will be a strong influence for good" (The Adventist Home, pp. 220,222).
Even more than an earthly father, our Heavenly Father loves to spend time with His children. He says to us, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord" (Isa. 1:18, NIV). He wants to walk with us, to talk with us, to feel our pain, and share our joys. It has been that way from the very beginning. Genesis 3:8 (NIV) says, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day." God was not just taking a stroll to relax after a hard day at the office. No, He'd come to spend some time with His children. Unfortunately, something terrible had happened. Sin had entered the world, placing a barrier between God and His children. No longer could they walk together in the garden, sharing their thoughts and enjoying the beauty around them. Mankind's sin had condemned them to death and eternal separation from their Heavenly Father. But God loved His children too much to allow this situation to last.
The final and most important characteristic of a good father is that he loves his children so much that he will do anything, go anywhere, and give up anything to save them from danger. Our awesome Father is no different. He could not allow his children to perish without doing something to save them. But there was only one thing that could be done.
God had to die. Our heavenly Father, in the person of His Son Jesus, had to die for our sins. John 3:16 (NIV) says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This is the greatest proof of God's love for us. In the gift of His Son, God emptied all heaven for us. That's how much He loves us. That's how much He wants to be our Father.
It was a steaming hot summer day. Two-and-a-half-year old Naomi was playing in the farmyard outside her home. Suddenly, shouts of "Fire!" echoed all around her. Little Naomi stared in confusion as her mother and brother rushed past her toward their burning home. Shaking with fear, she began to cry. But then strong, familiar hands circled her waist and lifted her into a pickup truck. She heard her Daddy's deep voice -whispering in her ear, reassuring her that everything would be all right. Immediately she stopped crying. If Daddy said everything would be all right then she knew it would be.
Hours later, the scent of smoke still lingering in the air, Naomi saw her daddy walking toward her. Picking her up, he tossed her into the air, laughing with delight when she giggled. Someone asked him in surprise, "How can you laugh? You've just lost everything."
Naomi's daddy just smiled and, his deep voice resonating with conviction, replied, "I have lost nothing today that cannot be replaced. My family is safe."
Today, many cannot imagine a loving father because theirs has abandoned them or abused them. But if they will only look at Jesus, they will get a clear picture of the Father. Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9, NIV). Through Jesus, they will learn of a heavenly Father who binds the family of God together with cords of compassion, who guides them by His example, who enjoys their company, and who rejoices in giving them good gifts. But most of all, they will find a Father who loves them more than His own life. And all He asks in return is that they love Him back.
Our awesome Father is coming soon to take His children home. He wants you to be part of His family too. He wants you there with Him. And when He sees you there, when He sees all of His children standing on the sea of glass, He will declare, "It was worth it all. My family is finally safe."
This article originally appeared in the Youth Ministry Accent in the 2002 issue. Youth Ministry Accent 2002, 2nd Qtr., P34-36