“Jamie, you need to share both sides of the issue if you’re going to minister to all men!”
I felt God speak these words to me when I was praying and asking Him what He wanted me to write about this month. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement, that is, until God began to show me what He meant. Once He did, I had to agree wholeheartedly with Him. I haven’t been addressing both sides of the issue of “You don’t have to be like your dad.”
You see, for years God has placed a strong message on my heart for the millions of young men who grew up with an abusive dad, an absent dad, or no dad at all. I have heard from many of these men that they don’t want to go down the same path as their father’s, but instead want to start a new legacy in their lives.
I remember one letter that broke my heart. It was from a young man whose dad had abandoned him and his mom, and then later, his mom died. He was living with his grandparents who began taking him to church. He was so angry with his dad, yet he didn’t want to be like him. He wanted reassurance that he could become a godly man who loved and served God and who would love and stick with his future wife and kids. I immediately wrote back encouraging him that he could break free of his generational cycles and start a new legacy of godliness. I fully believe the message that no man is doomed to repeat their father’s mistakes. We can all break free and start a new legacy of godliness! This is a mantle I have carried for years and will always carry and teach. However, God was right. I wasn’t hitting both sides of the issue.
You see, I had been ignoring another side of the coin. I haven’t been teaching the flip side of the argument. I took the attitude that all the men who grew up with a strong, godly, amazing father where blessed, which they are. But God also wants these men to hear an important message. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE YOUR DAD!
I can hear the Joey Lawrence “Whoa” ringing through the air from all who just read that last paragraph (Yes, I know I really dated myself with that reference). “Why would you ever teach a guy who had a godly father that was a good role model that he shouldn’t be like his dad?”
Well, re-read what I said. I didn’t say you shouldn’t be like your dad. I said you don’t HAVE to be like your dad.
This is a true statement, and one that God wants His men to hear. Just like an abandoned, alone young guy with an abusive father doesn’t have to follow His example, a man who had a great father growing up can also choose a different path. God has sons, not grandsons. Every man has to choose the path he will take. Every man has to choose to follow God and live the life of a godly man.
The Bible is full of examples of men who lived their lives devoted to God. Their every waking breathe was devoted to doing God’s will and obeying His commandments. They walked with God and talked with Him, and their lives revolved around Him. But then you read later about their sons and the path they go down, and often you see the son living a life different from their father. Men like Solomon the son of David, Manassah the son of Hezekiah, Phinehas the son of Eli, Jehoram the son of Jehosaphat, and Jehoahaz the son of Josiah…all had godly dads, and none followed their example and became godly men. Why? BECAUSE THEY CHOSE NOT TO!!
You see, we all have to choose. Joshua nailed it on the head at the end of the book of Joshua. He knew what we all need to know today. Let’s read his words.
“If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Joshua told the Israelites a fact that is still true today. It is this…every man has to choose his own path. He understood the all-too-often cycle that takes place. He knew that the first generation of believers tends to be on fire and sold out to God because they remember where they came from and are thankful to be forgiven and free. He also understood that far too often the second generation takes it for granted. It is their normal. It is all they know. It is a way of life, and they never choose themselves to follow God or develop a relationship with Him.
This is an important message. You can’t just ride the coattails of your godly father. You can’t roll into Heaven as part of his entourage. You have to choose! You have to choose for yourself that you want to follow God and that you will do whatever is necessary to be able to do it.
You have to take time to develop a personal relationship with God. You have to learn His commands in the Word. You have to spend time learning to hear His voice. You have to commit to serving Him and then putting your faith into action and serving others. Every man must decide. There are no grandchildren in Heaven, just sons and daughters.
God’s heart breaks just as much for the young man sitting bored and rebellious in the church pew while his dad is praying at the altar as it does for the young man sitting alone at home while his dad is out carousing.
He longs for the Sunday school teacher’s son to spend time with him just as much as he does the child crying from the latest round of abuse.
But just like God never makes an abused person choose to follow down the path to become an abuser, He never forces a church kid or a kid with a good father to choose to become a man of God. We all have to choose.
We all have to choose to pursue God. He is always waiting for us. He always wants us to follow Him. But He never forces us. Just like there are no grandkids in Heaven, there is no one tied and handcuffed in Heaven. You have to choose to be there. You have to decide for yourself. The words “You don’t have to be your dad” are applicable to every man, everywhere. You have to choose your path. What will you choose?