Speaking at a Men’s Conference, Josh McDowell shared research showing that a child raised in a two-parent family who has a fair to poor relationship with the father is 68% more likely to get involved with alcohol, drugs, violence and anti-social behavior. He concluded that a child’s greatest need in life is a loving bond and an intimate connection with a parent, and he made a strong plea to fathers to establish that connection with their children.
Because many fathers have done a lousy job of establishing intimate connection with their children, I have known many people who struggle greatly with the concept of God as “Father.” But 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah 9:6 prophesied that the coming Messiah would be called “Everlasting Father.”
In the spiritual dimension of our lives, what kind of Father do we need?
Since we experience much rejection in life, we need a Father who will not push us away or keep us at a distance from Himself, but One who will reach out to embrace us in His care for us.
The December 30, 1996 issue of Sports Illustrated described Greg Norman’s ice-cold stoicism which he learned from his father. He once recalled, “I used to see my father, getting off a plane or something, and I’d want to hug him, but he’d only shake my hand.”
After leading from the start the 1996 Masters Golf Tournament—golf’s most prestigious event—Norman blew a six-shot lead in the last round. When Nick Faldo made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win the tournament, the two golfers came toward each other. Norman tried to smile, expecting a handshake, but found himself wrapped in a warm embrace by Nick Faldo instead.
Sports Illustrated records, “As they held that hug, held it even as both of them cried, Norman changed just a little. ‘I wasn’t crying because I’d lost,’ Norman said the next day. ‘I’ve lost a lot of golf tournaments before. I’ll lose a lot more. I cried because I’d never felt that from another man before. I’ve never had a hug like that in my life.’”
Sadly, many people have never experienced such a genuinely caring embrace from a father (or anyone else), but repeatedly throughout His time on earth, Jesus revealed the compassion of the Everlasting Father by reaching out to embrace people. That’s what we continue to find in Christ.
Since we face so many struggles in life, we need a Father whom we know we can depend upon to be there with us and for us in all the challenges that come our way.
In December of 1988, a devastating earthquake struck Armenia. A boy named Armand was at school when the quake struck. The school building collapsed on Armand and his schoolmates. Armand’s father rushed to the school. Those who arrived at the school before Armand’s father told him that it was hopeless. When he stepped toward the building anyway, they warned him that the danger to himself would be too great if he tried to dig through the rubble and that he would probably not find anyone alive anyway. Nevertheless, Armand’s father dug into the ruins, pulling aside debris, trying desperately to reach his son. Hour after hour he worked, into the night, and into the next day, and into the night again. For forty hours he scraped and dug. Then he pulled aside one great block, and he heard his son say, “Father, we’re down here. I knew you would come, because you told me that you would always be there for me, no matter what the problem might be.”
The father told his son to reach up and that he would pull the boy to safety, but the boy declined. Armand said, “Bring the other children out first, because I know you won’t stop until you have brought me out safely, but they might not have someone who would do that for them.”
Jesus revealed the dependability of an Everlasting and Ever-loving Father who would not stop until He had rescued us—even though that rescue cost Him His life on a cross!