The Only Perfect Father

Parents make mistakes. I know because I am one. More than once I have felt the need to apologize to one of my young children for being overbearing or impatient in my correction. I regret that I did not always set the right example of what a father ought to be. I am grateful that in adulthood my children accept and love me, in spite of my shortcomings.

Every year on Fathers’ Day I realized that some in the congregations I served had a hard time relating to God as “father.” Some struggled to hold onto their faith because they had absent fathers, authoritarian fathers, or abusive fathers. Best-selling books have been written chronicling the spiritually-perilous journey some have taken from thinking of God as a bully who waits in the shadows to punish us, to a nurturing father who draws his children into a relationship based upon grace and love. They discovered, in spite of their human fathers, that God is the only perfect father.

I have been thinking about this as Fathers’ Day approaches. Some phrases from the King James Version of the Bible have been spinning around in my head which are reminders of what our heavenly father is really like.

Father of Glory

“Glory” is a descriptive term which implies God’s magnificence, his brightness and his beauty. It reveals his power, as seen in creation (Psalm 19:1), and in the resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:4, 1 Corinthians 6:14). Glory is associated with heaven. Since God is glorious, his abode is also suffused with glory (Luke 2:14, 19:48).

So when we read in a prayer of Paul’s that God is the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:17), it means that he wants his children to share in his glory by getting to know him more completely through the Holy Spirit. This process will be completed when in the resurrection all believers will share in the glory of God (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Father of Lights

When the apostle James declared that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights” (James 1:17), he was speaking of the consistent generosity of the heavenly father who knows how to give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:13).

If the heavenly lights are the stars and planets, James may be referring to God’s creative power and sovereign control over nature. If our heavenly father can control the heavenly bodies, what can he do for us?

In addition, this infers that God is the source of all light, physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual. Unlike the changing appearance and movements of the planets, the sun and the moon, the light of God is unchanging and eternal.

Father of Spirits

The author of the book of Hebrews wrote to people who were immature in their faith and forgetful of God’s promises. It contains a reminder that God, like a good human father, must sometimes correct his children. “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the father of our spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:9).

“The Father of spirits” is a unique expression found only here in the Bible. It is God who created and who sustains the human spirit. He breathes into it, as he did at first with Adam, the breath of life. He has imparted his Holy Spirit to empower and guide. Through his loving correction, the father of spirits shapes and guides our spirits to make us more like himself with perfection as the goal (Hebrews 12:23). When we respond with submission and obedience, the result is life as it was meant to be.

Father of Mercies

The problem of undeserved suffering perplexes us, as it did the people of the Bible. In 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul talked about some of the sufferings he had had to endure for the sake of the gospel. He took courage by thinking about God. In the opening passage of the letter he praises God as the father of mercies, or compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3).

This truth enabled him to receive help from “the God of all comfort.” The comfort he received was not for his benefit alone, but so that he might be an encouragement to others. The hardships we may have to endure allow us to be equipped to minister to others. It has been said that God prepares us for what he is preparing for us. It is always helpful to remember that God is the father of mercies and that  “his compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Father of our Lord Jesus

This is a favorite expression of the apostle Paul’s. This is because Jesus wanted his followers to know that his father is also their father (John 20:17). When he called God “Abba father,” as he did in Gethsemane, it was so that we would feel free to come to God in the same way, with intense familiarity (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6).

If your memories of Dad on this Fathers’ Day are filled with anger, shame, or regret, remember that there is Another who wants to be your father, just as he is the father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The above titles teach us that he is glorious, generous, good, and gracious.

If your faith is in Jesus you may be sure that you have a perfect father in heaven who loves perfectly. Jesus said, “The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27).

Pastor Randy Faulkner