“For they (our earthly fathers) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.…”
Over decades of Christian living and church-going we’ve listened to and read dozens of messages on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. For the most part, sermons on Mother’s Day have tended to be flowery and full of praise for those who rise to the extremely challenging task of mothering. There’s usually a couple of shining examples (Susanna Wesley often being one), and some from contemporary times.
The sermons towards fathers have often been a bit (and sometimes extremely) towards the critical side. They’ve been more focused on the methods to become a good father than to praise successful fatherhood. And that’s generally appropriate and needed, at least to some extent. The Bible does not have a lot of good examples of successful fatherhood. Samuel and Eli, the last two judges of Israel, both had sons that strayed away from their father’s righteous ways, and the Bible clearly pins blame on Eli for contributing to his sons’ evil actions.
However, fathers in our day and age have more challenges presented by current culture than many fathers have had in the past. Philosophies of parenting and gender roles in the twenty-first century have put enormous pressures on Christian parents; many Biblically derived methods of child raising and discipline are considered by the secular child raising “experts” to be abusive. And some of those methods have indeed been abused in their misapplication, but the Bible, in its intended guidance, balanced in the whole of the Book, is never wrong.
Biblical instruction is more valuable than ever in our humanistic, hedonistic, relativistic culture. Just a fraction of Christian bible college students have a Biblical worldview; many have not even considered what defines a worldview. (Everyone has a worldview, whether or not they know what it is.) And God intends that His instruction and discipline will enable us to share His holiness, and His Worldview.
Here in the tenth verse Paul is contrasting our discipline as fathers with the discipline of our heavenly Father. We earthly fathers disciplined “as seemed best.” Being fallen creatures, steeped in sin, fathers (and mothers) at their best are going to fail in some aspect of parenting. Paul implies that our Father God, however, has the capacity to even take that inadequate parenting and discipline and use it for our good, since he says “all things work together for good” for those called by Christ.
“Our best” of our efforts as parents is only a faint reflection of God’s ability to wisely arrange circumstances in lives to induce holiness. We can guarantee our share of failures, but we can trust that we are “shown mercy because [we] acted ignorantly…”
Spurgeon says it this way, regarding God’s testing: “See, then, the happy fortune of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are afterward, good things, with harsh tilling yielding joyful harvests. Even now he grows rich by his losses, he rises by his falls, he lives by dying, and becomes full by being emptied; if, then, his serious afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life, what shall be the full vintage of joy afterwards in heaven? If his dark nights are as bright as the world’s days, what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun, what must his sunlight be? If he can sing in a dungeon, how melodiously will he sing in heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires, how much more will he exalt him before the eternal throne!”