[The text of the sermon for Sunday, June 21, 2020, is published below. A video of this sermon will be available on Monday on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/4409sspotswoodrdgordonsvilleva.]
Fathers and Children
Today is Father’s Day and we need to give thanks to God for the blessings of our fathers. But, I realize that not everyone here this morning is a father so it would be good to expand the subject matter of today’s sermon to cover another group that all of us fall into. So I’d like to speak to you about children as well, because all of us are indeed children. Of course, you might say, “Preacher, you so often act like a child that you might claim that category, but I’m too old to be called a child.” But the truth is that you are never too old that you can’t claim the status of a child—and that’s a good thing. And as we move on, I’m sure you’ll understand why.
Let’s start with a few words about fathers because so many of us have been blessed with caring and loving fathers. And we know just how much of a positive impact they have had on our lives. Fathers who make themselves present for their children, and who guide and nurture them, do amazing things for their children’s welfare. They uplift their children, make them glad, and give them a confidence in life. They are the fathers that we are honoring today.
But then, on the other hand, there are fathers who are not there for their children. Their impact upon their children is often very hurtful because those fathers give them little direction or no love. These uncaring fathers fail to show any true interest in them at all. And, they end up stifling their children’s potential by crushing his or her hopes and dreams. And when I say that these derelict fathers are not “there” for their children—well, some of them aren’t there physically because they have abandoned them and taken off to some distant land (a place we’ll talk about later). And, many times, these fleeing dads have gone to that distant land in pursuit of their own selfish interests. Maybe these fathers have left their families for other women, or traded their families away in pursuit of their careers and the almighty dollar. Then again, there are other fathers who are very much present in the physical sense. They may come home from work every night, or maybe even work from home. Any yet, these fathers might as well be a million miles away when it comes to giving any emotional support and love to their children.
This difference between good fathers vs. bad ones caught my attention when reading about a third grade teacher who gave her class a simple assignment. The teacher asked her students to write a short letter with a message in it for their dads. What a contrast there was between the following two letters from this third-grade class. The letter of one child read: “Dear Dad: I love it when you take me on dates! I like it when you play baseball with me, miniature golf with me, and watch movies with me. I really aprisheate it! I like it when you tell jokes to me. I like it when you hug me and kiss me. Daddy, I love you!” But listen to this other letter. The pleading tone in this child’s letter is oh so very different: “Dear Daddy, I love you so much. When you are going to come see me agen? I miss you very much. I love it when you take me to the pool. When am I going to get to spend the night at your house? Have you ever seen my house before? I want to see what your house looks like. When am I going to get to see you agene? I love you, Daddy.” That first letter indicates the joy of a child whose father loves them. The second letter reveals a father who couldn’t care less. And sadder still, it points to a child who will one day grow bitter and hate their father for his failure to love them.
Now, as you might imagine, children who have the terrible experience of those dads who never made themselves available for their families leave their children to suffer emotionally, as well as spiritually. Our psychologists and social workers strive to heal the emotional wounds, but I am afraid we in the church need to reach out and do a better job of addressing the spiritual scars because those cuts run extremely deep—reaching to the very soul of the child. And if you don’t think that this affects these neglected children in the long run, then think again.
Think of it in terms of those children who do grow bitter and come to hate their fathers—so much so that they can’t stand the idea of any father-figure. And because of that, those sons and daughters end up doing the most tragic thing of all—they reject God, their heavenly Father. These embittered children come to hate God so much that they even delude themselves into denying God’s own existence. The great pioneer of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, was one of those children who grew to hate God.
Freud is famous for his statement that “religion [is] merely the wishful projection of weak people who [are] looking for their lost father figure.” If you ask Paul Vitz, he would tell you that Freud was subconsciously speaking of himself. Unfortunately, the projection that Freud made in search of his “lost father figure” was to embrace the “religion” of atheism. Paul Vitz is fascinated with people like Freud because Vitz himself is an expert in the field of psychology and has held the position of Professor Emeritus of Psychology at New York University. He specializes in the relationship between psychology and Christianity and currently teaches at the Institute of the Psychological Sciences at Divine Mercy University in Sterling, Virginia. In his book, Faith of the Fatherless: A Psychology of Atheism, Dr. Vitz analyzed the father-child relationship of numerous famous atheists such as Freidrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus, Voltaire, as well as Freud. And he found one thing that each of them had in common—they had no relationship, or very difficult ones, with their fathers. Some of their dads had died at an early age, leaving these future atheists fatherless at the tender ages of 3-5 years old. And the men who replaced their deceased fathers ended up being very poor father-figures. Some of these famous atheists had terribly abusive fathers who showed no love for them whatsoever. What’s even sadder to tell is that a number of these very same fathers claimed to be Christians. And because of that, children who grew up like Sigmund Freud began to perceive their fathers their “Christian tormentors” who had abandoned them or sought to do them harm. And these ill feelings toward their earthly fathers were so acute that they even rejected the very existence of God as their Heavenly Father.
Dr. Vitz’s book has been acclaimed for not only refuting the atheist worldview, but for taking the time to evaluate the events and people that shaped this warped perspectives of these influential atheists. You might know that Freud’s philosophy was grounded in his claim that people’s actions are often based upon things going on in their sub-consciousness. The irony is that, in Freud’s case, it appears that he was the one who had this deep seated desire to subconsciously “bury his own father” who Freud apparently viewed as a weak and disappointing figure who was less than loving and nurturing to him during his childhood. This book reminds us that, when fathers fail to love their children, there are serious consequences that haunt their children for the rest of their lives. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will instill in us, as members of the Church, the compassion to seek out such unloved children who are all around us and to introduce them to the love of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We need to assure them that God will never abandon or fail them. But, we need to go even farther than that and exhibit the courage to point wayward fathers in the right direction in meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of their children.
If we in the Church will take up those tasks, the positive long term consequences will be tremendous. Children need a father. We all need GOD OUR FATHER. The problem for so many “children” of all ages isn’t that their Heavenly Father doesn’t love them. Rather, the difficulty lies in the fact that these “children” have lost sight of the reality that God the Father loves them with an intensity that no earthly father is capable of giving. But because of the bad choices we “children”—you and me—make in our lives, we sometimes feel that we cannot turn back to their Heavenly Father. But that is never the case—even your sinful pass cannot disqualify you from coming back again to your true Father.
Jesus taught a parable about “children” that teaches us that. But the “child” in Jesus’ parable I’m guessing was about 20 to 30 years old. It was the parable of the “Wasteful Son” but you probably know it better as the parable of the “Prodigal Son.” This son came to his father and asked for his inheritance. This was something almost unheard of in any Jewish family and showed a large measure of disrespect for this son’s father. And yet the father gave his son what he asked for and the son took off for a “distant land.” And since this parable was originally told from a Jewish perspective, what that meant was that he was headed to “Gentile Land”—a land that did know God the Father and was filled with the wicked ways of the world. But in that distant land, the son blew his inheritance on wine, women and song, or in today’s terms—on drugs, sex and partying. And his timing could not have been any worse because about the time the money ran out, a famine hit the land. The son was reduced to taking a job slopping pigs. He became so hungry that he even considered eating some of the pig slop himself. But then he came to his senses and realized that even his father’s servants were better fed and clothed than he was. So with a contrite spirit, he decided to go back home and ask for his father’s forgiveness. And Luke’s Gospel continues on with the parable and tells us: 20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ 22 But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” Luke 15:20-24 (NLT2)
Of course, the Prodigal Son represents many of us, and the father in the parable represents God. The thing is, there are a lot of “children” running around today like the Prodigal Son. And we need to be mindful of the ages of these children. They range from childhood to anyone under the age of 110 because that age range (and more) covers those who are the “children of God”—and as such they have no greater loving father than God their Heavenly Father. In fact, the Apostle John tells us: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 (NIV) All of us are children of God. We just sometimes forget that His love and forgiveness far outreaches our waywardness.
Now there’s one final group of “children” in addition to those like the Prodigal Son. You see, until the Prodigal Son came to his senses, he forgot about His father’s great mercy, grace and capacity to forgive. But this final set of “children”—well they tend to forget something else. They are the “children” (again, of all ages) who forget that God is always faithful to those who call upon Him even through the most difficult of times. When these people are going through the trials of life and don’t see a remedy right away, they come to the erroneous conclusion that God has somehow abandoned them. Let me give you a rather extreme example. We could call it a “modern day parable” but for the fact that it’s actually a true story.
A 38 year-old security guard at a Pennsylvania middle school convinced 14 year old Tanya Kach to leave her father behind and come live with him. And so for the 10 ten years, Tanya remained a willing captive in this man’s home where—believe it or not—he lived with his elderly parents. This is how he got Tanya to stay. He convinced her that no one cared for her and that her father hadn’t even taken the time to try to find her. Tanya remembers him saying, “You’re stupid. You’re immature. Nobody cares about you but me.” As time went on, the security guard became careless and started to let Tanya take short trips alone away from his home. And overtime, she became acquainted with Joseph Sparico who was the proprietor of the local convenience store located only a short distance from the security guard’s home. It wasn’t until March of 2006 that Tanya finally admitted to Mr. Sparico her true identity. Of course, he turned this information over to the police and eventually Tanya was rescued from the miscreant hands of this security guard and returned to the safety of her father.
Contrary to the lies that the security guard had filled Tanya’s head with, her father had been desperately searching for her all those years. He had her picture posted on milk cartons, he made thousands of flyers and posted them all over the place in the hopes that someone might recognize his daughter and lead him to her. Like the Father of the Prodigal Son, he was absolutely overjoyed when she was finally returned to him. He said with a huge smile on his face, “There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think of her. I just say thank you, there is a God — and He brought my little girl back home.” Tanya, when she learned the truth, could not have been happier as well, and said with tears in her eyes, “He’s crying; I’m crying. All he kept saying was, ‘I got my baby [back home].’ “I’m touching blood, and I get to say, ‘I love you, Dad.’”
Satan is just like that security guard. He likes to tell God’s children the lie that God doesn’t love them anymore. Don’t believe him. Don’t stay unnecessarily trapped, like Tanya did, in your own self-made prison thinking God has forgotten about you! And especially, don’t be convinced by those so-called experts or intellectuals, like Freud, who would have you deny God’s existence. Rather, remember that YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD and HE IS YOUR FATHER who faithful watches over you, protects you and cares for you if you will just let Him.
So this morning, yes indeed, we give praise to the Lord for our earthly fathers who have loved us and done so very much for us that we could never truly repay them. And also, on this Fathers’ Day, remember this as we close these words of the Apostle Paul: 15 For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you GOD'S CHILDREN, and by the Spirit's power we cry out to God, "FATHER! MY FATHER!" 16 God's Spirit joins Himself to our spirits to declare that WE ARE GOD'S CHILDREN. 17 Since WE ARE HIS CHILDREN, we will possess the blessings He keeps for His people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for Him; for if we share Christ's suffering, we will also share His glory. Romans 8:15-17 (TEV) These are wonderful words for all of us Prodigal Sons and Daughters to take to heart—not just today, but every day.
Let us pray.
Forest Hill Baptist Church
June 21, 2020
Darvin Satterwhite, Pastor
©2020 All Rights Reserved
 Craig Brian Lawson, Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001Illustrations that Connect, “Dear Daddy,” Illustration 534, Zondervan:Grand Rapids (2008), sourced from: John Trent, “Promise to Be There,” Christian Parenting Today (September – October 2000).
 Freud once said: “When I was a young man," my father said, ‘I went for a walk one Saturday… I was well dressed, and had a new fur cap on my head. A Christian came up to me and with a single blow knocked off my cap into the mud and shouted: 'Jew!' And what did you do, I asked. ‘I picked up my cap,’ was his quiet reply.” This was a major disappointment for Freud. He was hoping that his father would have done something dramatic and grand. Freud [wanted] a father who was defiant, not someone who was submissive. “Young Freud, a Film by David Grubin,” PBS, https://www.pbs.org/youngdrfreud.
 Idleman, Kyle. AHA—Awakening. Honesty. Action. David Cook Publishers:Colorado Springs (2014), p. 20.
 Craig Brian Lawson, Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001Illustrations that Connect, “Wanting to Be Wanted,” Illustration 607, Daniel Lovering, “Woman Missing Since She Was 14 Is Found,” news.yahoo.com (March 23, 2006).