As a father and husband trying to lead his family, what does it mean to fear the Lord?
To fear the Lord may sound archaic and perhaps unimportant. After all, don’t we just want our children to love God…and not fear Him?
Shouldn’t our motto be, “No fear taught here?”
For a healthy family, the fear of the Lord is essential.
To fear the Lord according to the Bible has multiple meanings depending on the context. And the Scripture context I have in mind is Acts 9.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria
had peace and was being built up.
And walking in the fear of the Lord
and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit,
it multiplied. Acts 9:31 (ESV)
The fear of the Lord here has the meaning of honoring and revering God. It is one of respect, not wanting to displease. It is the fear that a faithful son has for his father.
In fact, the fear of the Lord has priority in life. Regarding the often quoted passage, Proverbs 1:7, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. In other words, to have knowledge and wisdom in the Christian life, the key thing is first to honor and revere the Lord as Creator and Redeemer.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
How do we lead in the fear of the Lord?
So, an important question is this. How do we as fathers intentionally lead our families in the fear of the Lord? A good place to start is with ourselves, fathers.
Fathers, we begin with ourselves.
If our children are not behaving as we think they should or our marriage is not quite up to par, then we ought to ask, “Am I fearing the Lord in my thoughts, words and actions?”
As I think back on my childhood home, I recall various memories of my father. One of them is of him in a dimly lit living room reading the Bible and devotional material each morning.
Reflecting on this memory, I don’t recall him ever saying anything like, “Hey, son, are you being like me and reading your Bible?” Instead of words, it was his example that is loud and clear many years later, “Son, this is important for me. It is for you as well.”
Better caught than taught…
The expression, “better caught than taught,” may apply here. To be sure, we are to teach our children verbally why we should fear Him and what it means. But the lasting impression, by God’s grace, is often what is practiced in the home.
As a pastor and father, I know how to explain what it means to fear the Lord. But do I live this out? Do my children observe this in my actions and words? Would my wife agree that I fear the Lord as I guide the family?
If you haven’t read the story of John Paton, missionary to the cannibals in the South Pacific islands, I encourage you to read about his home growing up.
Pastor Joel Beeke quotes John Paton’s experience with his father who feared the Lord. [http://www.reformedfellowship.net/how-to-do-family-worship].
“Thither daily, and oftentimes a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and ‘shut the door’; and we children got to understand . . . that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most High Place.”
More reflection on Paton’s home with his father…
“When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in family worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the heathen world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love Him as our Divine Friend.”
But here’s the tear-jerker…
As John leaves his home for Glasgow to study theology he records this stirring scene in which they walk together for the first six miles to the train station that is 40 miles away. As they are about to part ways, John’s father grasps his son’s hand and says, “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil.” Overcome by emotion, he could say no more, but his lips continued to move in silent prayer. John Paton later wrote, while reflecting on this experience, “I vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as He had given me.”
What was caught and taught in John’s experience is powerful. How do we as fathers lead in the fear of the Lord for the sake of the next generation? We lead by example. Even if our children were all deaf, they should be able to picture this Christian life in us. Our goal should be that we are confessing and repenting of sin and honoring God in our every movement.
In the book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul David Tripp, he reminds us how we are all (i.e. parents and children) worshipers of God, either the true one or a false one.
We are either going to fear the Lord or fear someone else or thing that is demanding reverence. And so Tripp’s point here is that we as fathers need to be less self-righteous and more compassionate with our children. And by application, I think this includes when our children don’t fear the Lord as we expect. Tripp writes: “You see, it really is true and worth repeating that no one gives grace better and more willingly than a person who has admitted that he desperately needs it himself”.
Our leadership in demonstrating the fear of the Lord and the grace needed when we fail begins with us as fathers. This is why we need Jesus. It’s is why we need the Spirit of the Lord to lead us. We need this same Spirit of the Lord as prophesied in Isaiah 11:2 and that came upon Jesus the Messiah. With this same Spirit of the Lord in our own lives, we will also have the right fear of the Lord.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:2 (ESV).
Jerry Bridges puts it well:
“The person who fears God seeks to live all of life to the glory of God… All the activities of life should be pursued with the aim of glorifying God.”
How do you communicate this idea of the fear of the Lord in your homes?
What are the stumbling blocks that keep you from fearing the Lord?
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