Tuesday 8 May 2012


Being the perfect Father, God is the role model for earthly fathers. 

When we attain puberty, we are biologically capable of becoming parents. However, this doesn’t necessarily translate to competence on our part as parents. Many of us learn by trial and error, hearsay—and often through our mistakes. More fortunate ones have mentors or the benefit of parenting courses.

Sometimes our kids turn out well, in spite of what we do or don’t do. At other times, they turn out badly, in spite of our prayers and efforts.

Despite our follies and foibles, insights gained from reflecting on the “Father Heart of God”—how God treats us, His children—might be the pathway to better parenting. Being the perfect Father, He is the role model for all fathers (and mothers as well).

Let’s examine five characteristics of the heart of Father God:


God is often portrayed as a distant, all-powerful, celestial being ever ready to punish us for our sins and mistakes. However, the Bible describes God as a relational being, Abba Father, who loves us and longs to be our friend (Romans 8:15, John 15:15).

It’s awesome that God can condescend to be so up close and personal with us. He is not only the creator of the universe but a personal God as well. “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God” (John1:12).

Likewise, earthly fathers need to spend time with their children, especially in the formative years of their life. Fun times together as a family promote bonding as well as create happy memories. A balance has to be struck between providing for the family and bonding with the kids.


In our performance-oriented society, only those who are clever, talented, pretty or rich are accepted. However, God loves His children unconditionally. We come just as we are, warts and all, acknowledging our sins, and He will forgive us.

Unconditional acceptance is well illustrated in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the younger son asked the father for early access to the inheritance, his wish was granted. As the story goes, he squandered all his resources. Finally, when he came to his senses and returned home, did punishment or censure await him? No. In fact, his father embraced him and threw a party to celebrate his homecoming. This parable epitomises grace—unconditional love and acceptance reflective of God’s own heart for His children.

When our children fail to live up to the world’s or our expectations, they would need, most of all, parental love and acceptance. If the home cannot be a place of comfort, healing and counsel, where else can our children turn to?


The notion that a loving God disciplines His children seems foreign to many. However, discipline is the flip side to His attribute of love:

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons” (Hebrews 12:7-8).

Discipline involves setting boundaries on our children's behaviour and enforcing those limits lovingly and consistently. While children are allowed to express their feelings and wishes, they must know who is in charge at home.

The child ought to be told why certain rules have to be followed, that it’s all done in love with her welfare in mind. For example, you might tell your teenage daughter, “I love you too much to allow you to go on a dinner date with your new online friend.”

Time reports on a recent study by Tulane University researchers, involving 2,500 youngsters, which indicates that spanking children leads to more aggressive behaviour—those who were spanked more frequently at age three were much more likely to be aggressive by age five.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse spanking under any circumstance. But the Bible is clear on this issue: “He who spares the rod hates his son but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). But when we spank, we must do so in love and not out of anger. The child must understand why he is punished so he won't be provoked to anger (Ephesians 6:4).

Consider this scenario: A five-year-old boy tells his mum, “I’m not going to tidy my room, and there’s nothing you can do to make me do it.” This child needs spanking to confront the problem of sin (rebellion against authority). Next, lead him to repent and receive God's forgiveness. Hopefully, he’ll not repeat this in future.

If we spank the way most people do—out of anger, frustration or impatience—then we do what the Bible instructs us not to do.

For minor disobedience, instead of spanking, time-outs are helpful. Such quiet moments spent alone deny the child of any interaction, forcing them to calm down rather than act impulsively.


What God promises in His Word, He fulfills, as faithfulness is part of His character. In fact, He watches over His Word to ensure its fulfillment (Jeremiah 1:12). He is our provider, guide, healer and protector.

Instinctively, parents take on fatherly qualities like providing for their children with ease. Even fathers who are evil know how to give good gifts to their children (Luke 11:13).

But they have to be mindful about keeping the promises they have made to their children. If they consistently fail to live up to their promises, they are a poor reflection of Father God. Trust, when broken, is difficult to restore.


One might ask, “Why didn’t God create ‘ready-made’ adults as in the case of Adam and Eve?” Why are humans born helpless as babes, having to be fed and nurtured for many years before they become independent?

We may never know the reason behind His plans. Is it because He saw the beauty of people living in families—the basic unit of society—learning to love and care for their kids till the day they become autonomous?

By autonomy, we mean physical maturity, moral rectitude, ability to raise a family, capacity for making rational decisions … the list goes on—like how the boy Jesus grew in stature and wisdom and found favour in the eyes of God and Man (Luke 2:52). It is not about being rebellious, stiff-necked adults who cut themselves off from their parents once they become independent.

This goal of autonomy gels with God’s original injunction to man: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill and subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God desires that man rule over everything He has created, wisely putting to use all the resources he has been given.

So the ultimate goal of parenthood is to produce responsible and upright adults who are able to raise families of their own and assume a productive role in society. As such, parents have an onerous task on their hands, preparing their kids towards autonomy, in line with God’s original plan.

This will involve teaching and training their children in the things of God (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Proverbs 22:6), not just providing for their physical needs or helping them to excel academically. Raising intellectual, materialistic kids who are spiritually bankrupt is a pitfall to be avoided in today’s fast-paced, go-getter world.


“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).


 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).


Parenting, like art, requires different strokes for each child. Everyone is unique in personality and disposition—some children are strong-willed while others are compliant. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all formula in parenting.

As we acknowledge our shortcomings and take time to reflect on the “Father Heart of God”, we begin to mellow and mature as earthly fathers.   


Do good fathers invariably produce good kids?

Do rebellious, disobedient kids invariably reflect poor upbringing by their fathers?




The big thing about the Father Heart of God is that He loves all unconditionally, best illustrated in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. However, there is much more to the Father Heart of God. We need to go deeper to appreciate the various ways His heart throbs for us.




Roadmap to Building Healthy Parent-Teen Communication




How can parents provide for their children, financially speaking?



  1. What do you do when you children go abroad for their tertiary, graduate and settle down in their new frontiers, and years down the road they raise their own families, build careers and sadly grow cold towards God and His purposes for them.

    These are children who were built in the Word from young, had much experience growing in a church environment, and were dynamic ambassadors when they were still under their parents' roof.

    1. Dear JTPCOZ, Sorry for the late reply. Better late than never. The good we do for our children does not guarantee that they will turn out well the way we expect. We just need to pray that in His time, they will change. Be patient and cry out to God. Meanwhile, keep the lines of communication open. Do not be judgmental as they are already grown up. Even Billy Graham's son was like that. And so are the children of many church leaders with whom I am acquainted.