What Does A Real Father Do?

Title: What Does A Real Father Do?

Bible Book: Luke 15 : 11-32

Author: Ron Hale

Subject: Father; Family; Men



Not too long ago I read the definition of Father’s Day: "Same as Mother’s Day but you don’t spend as much."

Bill Cosby once said, “Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is … soap-on-a-rope."

This morning we are asking this timely question: What does a real Father … do? Maybe we could ask: What does a real Christian Father …do? In other words, what is his role within the family? What does God expect him to be and do? Some may even be asking, is the role of the Father important in today’s culture?

The father of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15 was a father that showed wisdom and courage in dealing with the seen and unseen challenges of his life and family. This chapter teaches us so much; but it has a lot more to teach about fatherhood than most people think.

Three parables are taught by Jesus in Luke 15; some call this the “lost Chapter” of the New Testament.

Jesus shares about a lost sheep (it drifted in lostness), a lost silver coin (it dropped into lostness), and a lost son (he defaulted into lostness; chose to leave the Father and the family and do his own thing); actually two rebellious sons are characterized. We tend to forget about the older son.

Two groups of people were listening to Jesus, the religious elite of the day (the Pharisees and scribes) and the irreligious (the tax collectors and sinners). I believe these two lost sons in the third parable represent the two groups of hearers around Jesus that day: the “religious-but-lost” and the “irreligious-and- lost”. The first group thinks they are too good to be lost, while the second group feels they are too bad to be saved. The first group are usually the most difficult to reach with the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus … plus nothing else!

The Father in this parable teaches us truths about our Heavenly Father. Actually three truths emerge in these scriptures concerning the nature, love, and character of our Heavenly Father.

I. A Father Must Deal With The Spirit Of Rebellion

(Luke 15:11-16)

The spirit of rebellion was unleashed in the Garden as Adam and Eve willfully and woefully chose to sin. The Evil One played word games & mind games on Adam and Eve as they listened to his deceiving voice and succumb to temptation.

Thousands of years later, the voice of the Evil One is even more sophisticated and manipulative. Rebellion runs rampant in our culture. A Christian father must learn to be wise in dealing with the spirit of rebellion among his kids.

There is an interesting story from the Pilanesburg National Park in northwestern South Africa. Rangers had to learn how to deal with young bull elephants that were becoming increasingly violent – especially to white rhinos. The young bull elephants were forming gangs and killing the rhinos for no apparent reason.

Finally, they cracked the code by realizing their government program of thinning the elephant population by killing older male elephants was leaving many younger bull elephants without proper male role models. Without older dominant males present to keep law and order, the young bulls became “juvenile delinquents & big bullies”. They found when they put older adult bull elephants back into to the herds; the young bulls straightened up and walked the line. 1

Our overflowing prisons and jails in America are a sad testimony to the problem of rebellion among our juvenile and young adult males in our culture. Without strong and loving fathers in their lives, these young men … go astray causing senseless damage, hurt, and carnage.

Notice two things about the spirit of rebellion ….

A. The Spirit Of Rebellion – Misappropriates

“give me the portion of goods that falls to me.”(12) “But he wasted his possessions with prodigal living”(13)

Rebellion begins with selfishness and mistrust. The Prodigal misappropriated not only his funds and future, but he first misappropriated his faith. He didn’t trust his Father. He misunderstood the Father’s true character. The Rebel wanted out of his backwoods boredom and blues because the bright lights were wooing him. He knew the grass was greener … somewhere … and he was going to where things were happening.

The Rebel only saw rules, regulations, and restrictions. He thought freedom existed in a far country. He went there to experience the good life. Sin always has its enticements and lures.

B. The Spirit Of Rebellion – Misleads

“he journeyed to a far country” (13) ”and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate” (15- 16)

The wine, women, and well-wishers were fun for a short season. But when the funds were gone, so were the friends, food, and fun. Sin always takes you farther than you wanted to go, keeps you longer than you wanted to stay, do far more than you wanted to do, and misleads you into things you thought you could never imagine.

For a Jewish boy finding himself feeding swine was a living nightmare. He had gladly turned his back on his father and family with its security and safety, and now his money is gone, his belly is growling, and the pigs are gorging. The Rebel begins to realize the mess he is in. Home was looking like heaven.

Homer writes in Greek mythology about a creature that is half woman and half bird. This Siren has an irresistible song that woos and misleads … passing sailors to destruction as their ships crash on the reefs and rocks of death.

Sin’s siren call has misled countless millions (those raised in church or raised in paganism) to crash and burn. Faith, hope, family, living for Christ … once …was the driving force in their lives. But, they slowly but surely allowed sin too creep in and wreck their personal and family lives.

When you rebel from the Father, the Faith, and the Family (Church) you will be find yourself stripped of everything you once held sacred and sound; and left holding nothing but emptiness and regrets. All this time, the Father is waiting and watching for his son to return home.

A love that waits and watches make up the two hooks in the anchor that will eventually save the Prodigal from total destruction. This kind of love is remembered by the Prodigal. This kind of love follows and finds Prodigals in their messes, missteps, and mistakes. This kind of love makes them want to come home when they hit rock bottom and Godly sorrow stirs the heart.


(Luke 15:25-32)

The spirit of rivalry has been around since the days of Cain and Abel. Rivalry happens when each child in the family doesn’t understand their uniqueness and importance. A father helps them understand these things.

The worst thing a Father can do is to make his family a continual place of competition. Dads please learn to avoid comparing one child to another child, or to someone else’s child with statements like:

Why aren’t like your big brother/sister?

How come you’re not as smart as ……….?

What can’t you be the quarterback or the cheerleader like ….. so & so?

Siblings can be taught to respect the feelings and wishes of one another. To ignore this only creates a spirit of rivalry and disdain that can follow them all through the days of their lives.

Before we go further, I want to remind of something.

Just remember, it wasn’t too long after our Heavenly Father created Adam and Eve that sin came in and polluted a perfect world. They became prodigals; both of them (two for two).

Also, there is every indication that the Father in Luke 15 was a great Dad, but he had a child that strayed from the family and the Faith. So no matter “how” good of a Father you think you are or should have been - one of your kids could become a prodigal.

So don’t play the devil’s “blame game” by continually beating yourself up one day and putting yourself down the next day. If God had prodigals, are you smarter and greater than God? You can cry over the question of “what did I do wrong” for the rest of your life, but that is not going to solve the problem.

The answer is trusting God every single day for his wisdom, continually praying a hedge of protection around your prodigal, maintaining righteous attitudes, and making good and Godly decisions every day.

Notice two things ….

A. Complain Versus Celebrate

The older brother wanted to complain when the father wanted to celebrate!

Verse 28 says that the elder son was angry when he heard that his brother came home and a party was being held in his honor. He wouldn’t go to the celebration. He decided to be a party-pooper by pouting and “putting-down” his brother! He didn’t like the music, dancing, and the smell of BBQ in air. He didn’t like people wasting their love and attention on a sorry no-good.

Just like the Father ran to his younger prodigal son, verse 28 says the Father went looking for the older pouting, prodigal. The KJV says that the Father “entreated him”. The Father was pleading with him to join the celebration, and to embrace and welcome his brother.

B. Grievances Versus Grace

The older brother had grievances, but the Father had grace.

The Bible tells us that the father was quick to celebrate the homecoming of his prodigal son. The father ran to his son with compassion, he embraced him (bear hugged him), and kissed him.

He called for the best robe, new sandals, a new shiny ring, and he called for the servants to prepare the best Baptist potluck meal ever. He shouts out loud, “For this, my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found”. (24)

Meanwhile, the sulking sibling was throwing his own pity-party and bellyached over his long list of grievances:

All these years I’ve worked like a dog for you.

I’ve not done anything wrong … all these years.

You’ve never killed the fatted calf for me; I’ve never had a party.

But as soon as your worthless son comes home, you invite everybody in the world to a big party.

One statement can sum up all his grievances, maybe you’ve heard one of your family members say it ….. “IT’S JUST NOT FAIR!” (Whiners are never winners … are they?)

Grace is something we all need. No matter how perfect we think we’ve been; we’re all sinners in need of forgiveness.

So many times we act like the older brother by thinking (maybe saying):

Dear God, do you see how I’ve been in church all these years?

Lord, can’t you see what a wonderful Christian I am?

Lord, why am I working like a dog (all these years), when that ole unrighteous family member of mine lives like a prince in a palace?

Lord, you know I don’t deserve this!

It’s not fair… dear Lord Jesus! It’s just not fair!

Listen, Christian Fathers must lead the way in being agents of grace and finding ways to celebrate the spiritual victories of their kids. Someone has defined grace as, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense (G.R.A.C.E.). Our Heavenly Father ran out to us and showed us His great love by giving us His son. Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for ALL our sins. He wiped our slate clean. We can’t claim any credit for the joy of His Salvation in our hearts and lives.

As Christian fathers, we have been saved by grace through faith. God, the Father, met us at our point of need. We were not perfect (Amen), far from it. Therefore, we need to be ministers of grace within our families. Even when other family members don’t understand it (they don’t get it), learn to show grace when brokenness has occurred in the lives of prodigals.

Grace will help pull the stinger out of the spirit of rivalry!

III. A Father Must Deal With The Spirit Of Repentance

(Luke 15:17-24)

The spirit of repentance is a good thing. A Godly father will seek to help his kids see what is right and righteous according to God’s Holy Word. When we know what is right and righteous we will almost automatically know what is wicked and wrong. Repentance is that spirit that quickly says:

“I did wrong; it’s my fault.”

“I knew better, Dear God I’m so sorry!”

“Cleanse my heart Dear God and make me a clean instrument for your service.”

“God forgive me.”

Helping our children repent before God is being the priest and protector of your family; God will bless you for it. Finding ways to cover the sins and faults of your kids will only hurt them and serve as a curse instead of a cure.

A. The Father’s Heart Finds A Way To Share Love

The father in Luke 15 didn’t want his son to leave home; he surely didn’t approve of his actions and lifestyle, but he also knew he no right to love his son any less than he ever had. Maybe he had been embarrassed and shamed by his son’s choices, but now he had the opportunity of showing unconditional love.

In his book entitled: Parenting Prodigals, Phil Waldrep says, “Unconditional love means we love our children for who they are, not what they have done.” 2

The Father had not allowed a root of bitterness to invade and infest his heart; he still had love to share.

B. The Father’s House Finds A Way To Share Life

Robert Frost once wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

A real home is not where they open the door after starring out the peep-hole for five minutes. Home is where they throw open the door because they are throwing open their hearts.

The father opened his heart and his house to his wayward son. Everything the father owned was again his sons to enjoy.

Could it be that this father had once prayed, “Lord, God please change the heart of my prodigal.” And as the lonely days went by the Father finally learned to pray, “Dear God please change my heart first”.

How tragic it would have been if the prodigal had come home to a bitter, lifeless, unforgiving father.

Listen to me today: Dad, don’t give up on your children or your grandchildren. Pray for them. Be patient with them. Be watching and waiting for their return. And when they return, don’t meet them half way. Run the greater distance if you need too. Help them repent. Help them change their heart toward their faith and their family and toward you.

In closing, allow me to share this story.

It is the story of an eagle flying over a river during wintertime. The eagle (tired and weary) sees a large chunk of ice floating down the river. Instead of soaring on the thin winter currents of air, the eagle lands on the ice to relax and rest.

Knowing there is a dangerous waterfall ahead, the eagle thought it had plenty of time to fly away. But, staying much too long, the eagle’s feet froze into the ice.

Soon the roar of the falls could be heard. The eagle tried to fly, but it was stuck. Because the eagle waited too long, it rode the large chunk of ice to its death over the thunderous waterfalls.

America is at a chilling crisis point. We have been riding down the river toward the fatal falls … way too long in America. Father after father, and family after family, have been going over the falls for the last fifty years in our nation.

And today it’s going to stop.

Dad, the day of decision just may be in your hands and heart today. Not for America, but for you and your family.

America will not be healed today because of this simple sermon. But, if one Father finds hope for his home, or an enduring love for his children (the kind of love that watches and waits), or a renewed and cherished commitment to the wife of his youth … then this message will have served its purpose.

Dad, don’t give up on your family. Don’t give up on your kids. I know it can be hard and you can grow weary. Trust your heavenly Father for wisdom, guidance and protection.

Be the Priest, prayer-warrior and protector of your family. Maybe you need to come to this Altar this morning.

Ask your Heavenly Father to give you wisdom in dealing with:

The Spirit of Rebellion

The Spirit of Rivalry

The Spirit of Repentance … in your Children.

Maybe today, Repentance needs to start with the head of the home. Why? That’s what a real Christian father … does!


1 Dr. James Dobson; Bringing up Boys; page 59-60.

2 Phil Waldrep, Parenting Prodigals (Six Principles for Bringing Your Son or Daughter Back To God), p.120

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