5 Truths for Fathers from Billy Graham

5 Truths for Fathers from Billy Graham

Who is the man who fears the Lord?

He will instruct him in the way he should choose. —Psalm 25:12 (NASB)

In honor of Father’s Day, here are five truths from Billy Graham to keep in mind.

1. You can be a good father.

Even if your dad wasn’t a good example or wasn’t in the picture at all, you don’t have to fear fatherhood. You have a Heavenly Father who will never fail you.

Why you shouldn’t fear fatherhood.

Q: How can I be a good father? My own father walked out on us when I was about seven, and I have this terrible fear that I'm not going to be a very good father either. How can I prevent this?

A: Have you ever asked yourself why you have this fear? One reason is probably because you didn’t grow up with a father – and as a result, you have no example to follow, and you’re afraid you don’t know what fatherhood is all about.

But I can tell from your letter that you want to be a good father – and that’s an important first step! God wants you to be a good father and will help you as you depend on Him. After all, He is our Heavenly Father and is the supreme example of what it means to be a father. Make Christ the center of your life (and the life of your family) and trust Him to help you be the best father you can be.

How can you be a good father? Let me suggest four brief guidelines (although we could say much more). First, love your children – and let them know you love them. The Bible says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear (or respect) him” (Psalm 103:13). Second, provide for them. Don’t give them everything they want (or you’ll spoil them) – but don’t be harsh or tight-fisted either.

Then guide them. Teach them right from wrong, and point them to God and His will for their lives. Finally, pray for them – not just for their protection but also for their spiritual growth. This Father’s Day should remind us not only to honor our fathers, but to thank God for the privilege He has given us of being fathers.

2. God wants you to honor your father.

It might not be easy, but it is a mandate from God. The Bible says, “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

What does it mean to honor your father?

Q: I know the Bible says somewhere that we ought to honor our parents, but how can you do that when they've hurt you and even said they don't want anything more to do with you? I want to do what's right, but I'm not sure what it means in my case.

 

A: You are actually referring to one of the Ten Commandments, which were given by God to provide us with a moral and spiritual foundation for our lives. One of the commandments says, “Honor your father and your mother… that it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

To honor someone means to treat them with respect—not necessarily because they are perfect, but because God has given them a unique place in your life. You only have one father and mother, and in spite of their faults, God gave them to you—and He gave you to them. No one else (except your siblings) has this relationship with them, and you should respect them because of it.

Pray for your parents; prayer is one of the best ways to honor them. In addition, do what you can to hold the door open to reconciliation. Don’t hold on to resentment, anger or bitterness; they’ll only hurt you. If you need to seek forgiveness for anything you did wrong, do so. The Bible says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

Does this mean you overlook their faults or pretend your parents are different than they really are? No, of course not. But it does mean you do everything you can to let them know you are thankful they brought you into the world, and you care what happens to them. Thanksgiving would be a good time to express this.

3. Time is precious.

Harboring resentment doesn’t glorify God or serve in your best interest. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so fathers, children—make the most of whatever time you have today. Consider James 4:14, which says, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Grab the chance to reconnect with your father.

Q: Our father was very selfish and unloving, and my sisters and I haven't had anything to do with him since he walked out on our mother (although he's tried several times to get in touch with us). I know the Bible says we should honor our parents, but why should we do anything for him? He never did anything for us.

A: Your father was far from perfect, from what you say, but he did do one very important thing for you: He gave you life. Where would you and your siblings be without your parents?

Tomorrow is Father’s Day in our country, and I can think of no better time for you to try to reconnect with your father. It’s significant that he’s tried to reach out to you occasionally, and the question is, why? Is it simply for some selfish reason, hoping to get something out of you (which, to be honest, it could be)? Or is it because he now regrets the past and wants to apologize and try to make amends?

I don’t know the answer to this, of course, but neither do you, and you never will if you don’t take the first step and reach out to him. Don’t open your newspaper some day and discover his obituary, then spend the rest of your days regretting you never contacted him.

Regardless of the past, on this Father’s Day I hope you’ll recommit yourself to be the best father you can possibly be, with God’s help. If you’ve never done so, open your heart and life to Jesus Christ. Then ask Him to help you be the kind of father He wants you to be for your children. “Fathers,… bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Find peace with your Heavenly Father today

4. Be patient and loving

Find your strength and peace in God. Billy Graham has said, “Only Christ can meet the deepest needs of our world and our hearts. Christ alone can bring lasting peace.”

Persevere in Christ as a single dad.

People talk about how hard it is to be a single parent, and believe me, it is. Most of them are mothers, but I'm a single dad and I think that's even harder. I don't know why I'm writing you, but maybe you can encourage me somehow.

A: Yes, it’s hard being a single parent, whatever the cause might have been. And I’m sure you’re right; it must be even more difficult being a single father. One reason I wanted to reprint your letter is because I hope it will make us more sensitive to the difficulties single parents face.

The greatest encouragement I can give you is to assure you that God knows all about your situation, and He loves you and wants to help you. Some Bible scholars have even suggested that Mary, the mother of Jesus, might have become a single parent at some stage, since Joseph is not mentioned later in the Gospels. Although this isn’t certain, you can be sure that God has a special place in His heart for parents who must face life alone.

I often think of the heartache and sorrow that engulfed ancient Judah when Jerusalem was destroyed and countless parents lost their spouses. Jeremiah lamented, “We have become orphans and fatherless, our mothers like widows” (Lamentations 5:3). Yet he also could say, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22).

May you turn to God for the strength and wisdom you need every day. If you have never done so, ask Christ to come into your heart, and begin building your life on Him. Then seek practical help; many churches today have special programs for single parents, both to encourage them and provide practical help for the issues they face.

Pray verbally abusive father realizes his spiritual poverty.

Q: My father has been rude and verbally abusive all his life, always keeping everyone under his thumb. Now he's in a nursing home and in poor health but he hasn't changed. Are my brothers and I supposed to just keep taking his abuse, or has the time come to walk away? As a Christian, I believe in honoring our parents, but I've had enough.

A: Your letter caused me great sadness—and not just because of the abuse your family has endured all these years. I was also saddened as I thought of your father, because he has obviously been unhappy and discontented all his life. How sad—and how different his life (and yours) would have been if he had faced his sin and found the peace God wants to give us.

Now he is facing eternity, unprepared for death and without hope—and that’s one reason why you shouldn’t abandon him. He thinks his greatest need is to have everyone meet his immediate desires—but in reality, his greatest need is to prepare for eternity by giving his life to Jesus Christ. Only Christ can forgive his past, and only Christ can change his attitude right now. Most of all, only Christ can give him hope for the future.

Pray for your father, that he will realize his spiritual poverty and open his heart and life to Jesus Christ. Pray also for your brothers and yourself, that you will show Christ’s love to him—and also have the courage to confront him with the Gospel. Never forget, God loves your father, just as He loves you. The Bible says, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23).

5. Prayer is powerful

Pray for your family, your children, your children’s children (even if they aren’t here yet). Billy Graham says prayer is powerful and a great privilege for those who trust in the Lord.

If you don’t pray for your children, who will?

Q: I find myself wanting to pray for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but they haven't even been born yet. Is it silly for me to do this? I do worry about those who'll come after me, and what kind of a world they'll be facing.

A: No one except God knows the future, of course, but almost certainly it will be different from today. That means those who follow us will have their own challenges and temptations, including some we can’t even imagine.

No, it isn’t silly to pray for those who will follow us—even those who haven’t been born yet. Repeatedly over the years, I’ve met men and women who had a godly grandmother or saintly great-grandfather whom they never met, but who prayed for them and for others who weren’t yet born. These men and women were convinced that their own commitment to Christ was a result of those prayers, and I can’t help but agree. This may have been what the Psalmist meant when he prayed, “I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever” (Psalm 45:17).

At the same time, pray especially for those who are already in your family—for those who need Christ, or are facing special trials or temptations, or need God’s guidance. And pray for others, as well, even people you’ve never met, such as your church’s missionaries, or believers in other parts of the world facing persecution, or evangelists who preach in hard places.

Prayer is one of the greatest privileges God has given believers, and it’s possible only because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Through our prayers God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Lead future generations to Christ