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March 27, 2010

A young father’s battle against temptation

by Dave Malnes

The Bible becomes a gold mine for fathers who hope to find glistening nuggets of inspiration and wisdom.  At the same time, today’s fathers are also looking for role models and sadly, we really don’t find too many positive ones in the Old Testament.  Biblical fathers, even our own earthly father, are of a sinful nature and using them solely as our example on being a father will eventually cause us to find fool’s gold.  Can the Bible provide us with role models on how to be a father and overcome powerful temptations?

We are the children of our parents, but we must not also forget, “You are the children of the Lord your God.”  (Deuteronomy 14:1)  God is our Heavenly Father.  He is perfect and free from sin.  God can also be our role model by providing concrete examples and instruction on how we can be a good father to our children.  Like uncovering golden nuggets from a gold mine, it will take some work on our part to unearth the treasures that lie below the surface.

When we take the time to mine through the Bible, we discover that the pages become alive with fatherly wisdom.  We see the care our Heavenly Father grants upon us.  We read how He consistently pours out His love, forgiveness and discipline.  “God’s attitude toward us is that of a pious father toward his child.  He many not give everything the child asked for; but he does everything for its improvement, so that it may learn to know the father’s heart and will and be obedient to him.”*  God becomes the perfect father figure and has ordained men and women to represent Him on earth through the church and their children.  No greater authority exists than a father and mother over their children for this authority comes directly from God.

God gave mankind a special gift when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, down to earth in the form of a man.  He was sent to forgive our sins and offer us a clean slate.  Jesus lived a life devoted to God, was committed to teach and rebuke the ways of His people, and was willing to sacrifice Himself or us – His children.  His life becomes an earthly model for all of us to follow, including fathers.

Jesus was allowed to grow from a child into a young adult to share the same experiences and emotions which impacted our own lives.  The weeping over those lost in sin, the anger against the money- changers in the temple, the special love and tenderness over young children, and the questioning of God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane are all reflections of Jesus’ human nature.

As a young father, I found it very striking that Jesus was of the same age as me when He began his ministry.  Jesus was about thirty when he was baptized by John.  I was approaching thirty when God ordained me as a father.  Young men in their late twenties and early thirties have vastly different drives and compassions than men in their late teens and men in their late forties.  Martin Luther once wrote, “Young fellows are tempted by girls, men who are thirty years old are tempted by gold, when they are forty years old they are tempted by honor and glory, and those who are sixty years old say to themselves, ‘What a pious man I have become!’”

Each phase of our life offers new insight and maturity.  It makes sense that each new phase would offer powerful and difficult temptations.  Since I became a father of young children, I experience different and seemingly more powerful temptations and distractions than before.  These temptations are intended to drive me away from my family and out of my ministerial role as a father.  Materialism, power, pleasure, riches, lust and glory are all time-consuming pursuits outside of family.  Neither of these enhance or enrich family life at home.  In His human condition, Jesus had to deal with these same temptations.  In fact there were three of them that I will examine more closely in future posts.

*Luther’s Works: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Chapters 14-16, Vol. 24, p. 392.

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