by Alan Stewart
A few weeks ago, a scene played out at the car wash that reminded me of the awesome responsibility I have as a father. My son Seth tagged along with me to the car wash, and he watched intently as I placed a dollar bill into the change machine. No one was more surprised than I was when instead of getting four quarters back, the machine gave me a five dollar bill! It is amazing what will go through one's mind in such a moment. However, after a few minutes a man drove up who appeared to be the owner of the car wash.
Having watched this entire scene but never saying a word, my son then asked very subtly, "Dad, are you going to give that money back to him?" I could have played dumb, or I could have lied. But, I knew my son was right. I went over to the man and explained the odd sequence of events and made it right. As I turned around, I saw my son simply smiling at me with glowing eyes. I was reminded that not only were there little eyes watching every move I make, but I also have a choice in how I live before those eyes. If character is who we are when no one is watching, then integrity is living with open honor and honesty.
Throughout the reigns of kings in the Old Testament, there is a phrase that is often repeated, "he walked in the ways of his father..." More often than not, these words were spoken in a negative connotation. However, David was a king who left such indelible impressions with his footsteps that others behind him were challenged to walk as he walked.
Have you ever pondered the pathway and steps that your father walked? Inside that trail is found either the secrets of life to sustain you or the disappointments of life that disillusion you. Perhaps your father has a stately stride, confident eyes like an eagle, or even physical strength that would rival Samson. But, in the final analysis of his life, what he leaves in his footsteps is the essence of who he was at heart. Even if both my children should grow to be taller than I am, I still want to be a man they can always look up to. However, to be a man worthy enough for my children to "walk in the ways of their father," it will call for some accurate steps on my part.
It means taking steps of conviction. In Genesis 22, as Abraham climbed Mount Moriah knowing he was to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord, surely his heart must have been in his throat. However, what gave him the courage to follow through with such confident devotion was his conviction that God was too good to lead him wrong! As long as Abraham followed God, he was a man who knew where he was going.
Real conviction is never a blind shot in the dark. Real conviction is the God-led assurance of doing what is best and what is right and non-negotiable.
A man that does not have the conviction to know where he is going is destined to lead others astray. He must have steps that are both sure and steady. Conviction will always show itself in a man's choices. Joshua said, "...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Peter said, "...we ought to obey God rather than men." Paul said, "...I believe God." It takes courage to stand for something, but it takes conviction to step with confidence that God will never lead you wrong.
Real conviction means taking steps of compassion. In our world today, men are taught never to show their emotions because it is a sign of weakness. Yet, in Scripture, the lives of fathers that made an impact were filled with strong emotions. Laban desired to kiss his sons and daughters, while the father of the prodigal son hugged and kissed his son. Jacob wept for Joseph, while David wept for his dying child. Fathers that make a difference put a touch of emotion on their children while the children are tender enough to receive it. I'm watching a generation of fathers reliving their childhood through their children.Their exteriors are rough and forcefully military, leaving their children intimidated because just when the child thinks they've met the standard, the bar is raised a little higher. They simply can never measure up. Jesus not only made time for children, but He touched children with tender compassion. Is it any wonder children ran to be in His presence? I pray my children always run to me and not from me.
Real conviction means taking steps of completion. In the New Testament, there is a simple phrase recorded about the lives of several men that capture my attention: "and all his house." Cornelius "...feared God with all his house." Crispus "...believed on the Lord with all his house." The Macedonian jailer began "...believing in God with all his house." Moses was said to be "...faithful in all his house."
How rare it is to find a man with "all his house" standing with him and behind him. Such confidence and respect is only given to those men who can be trusted to follow-through and to finish. Great men of God are never remembered for leaving a task undone regardless of how difficult the task. Take, for instance, the rash vow of Jephthah which impacted his daughter's life; he was a man of his word. Consistency from beginning to ending in our lives is what will still be speaking long after our presence is gone.
Throughout the centuries, men have devised many plans in hopes of changing the world. Some have turned to military might while others sought mental genius. I have a simple proposition: If you want to change the world, be a father of substance! The cost to be one may surprise you. It could be as small as a dollar bill!
© 2006 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart pastors Rechoboth Baptist Church in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.