BECOMING A DIFFERENCE MAKER
SPECIAL FATHER’S DAY MESSAGE
PASTOR ED YOUNG
JUNE 20, 1993
A couple of weeks ago, some good friends of ours from Houston, Lee and Sheila Maxey, called our home and shared with us the great news that they had recently adopted a little baby girl. My wife, Lisa was so excited. She began to call some of her friends and LeeBeth was listening intently to the phone conversations, and Lisa’s going, “Oh, I’m so excited you have a baby,” and this and that. After Lisa hangs the phone up, LeeBeth looks into her mom’s eyes and she goes, “Mommy, why are you so excited? Don’t they know how much work it’s going to take to have a baby?”
Parents, and especially fathers, my six-year-old daughter, LeeBeth, was right and is right. It takes a lot of old-fashioned work to be a dynamic dad or a fantastic father. It really does. “What kind of work does it take?” you ask. It’s something called the identification process. If you’re going to become a great father, you have to work at something called the identification process, and it is a two-fold process.
First, dads, we have to identify our children’s needs, and second, we have to identify our children’s gifts. It’s the dynamic duo of fatherhood. Identify their needs and identify their gifts. If we can do that consistently over the span of our fatherhood, then our children will truly become people who can rock this world in a unique and powerful way. Identify the needs of your children, dads.
I’d like for you to take out a piece of paper or use your bulletin, a pen or pencil and write the word “needs,” N-E-E-D-S, because each of these letters represents five felt needs that every child has. I don’t care if the child is 2, 12, or 22. Five felt needs, fathers, that we have to identify and get in on and it’s centered around the word “needs.”
“N” stands for “nurture.” We all have a need to be nurtured. A recent poll was taken and they asked a group of children, “What’s the most important thing your father can do?” They said, “Love me. Love and affection.” I wasn’t really sure about this so I asked my daughter this question. “LeeBeth, what’s the most important thing I can do for you?” She said, “It’s when you read a book to me every night and rub my back. That’s the most important thing that you do for me, Daddy.”
We have this need for love and tenderness, don’t we? To be nurtured. And children (fathers, you won’t believe this one) would rather see their fathers love their moms, their spouse, as opposed to loving them. Let me rush to say it’s important to hug your children. Do it as much as possible, fathers. Show them love and affection. But also love your wife. Love your wife.
Last month, I wake up. I walk downstairs. There’s Lisa at the sink. EJ is eating his breakfast of peanut butter crackers. It’s all over him. Peanut butter dripping off his hair, in his ears, in his nose. LeeBeth is eating oat bran cereal. I’m getting ready to do the juice thing, and I see Lisa and kind of flip her around and give her a long kiss, and while I’m kissing her, out of the corner of my eye, I could look and see LeeBeth, and LeeBeth is doing this [with a big smile], “Ohh!,” and even EJ started laughing. That gives them security. That gives them nurturing, parents, when you show affection to each other and also to them.
Children want someone to listen to them. They really do. A teenager once said, “When I think about my father, I see a giant mouth—a Mick Jagger-type mouth—and I want to see a giant ear. I want Dad to relax, to chill, and listen to me.” Listen to me.
Fathers, what kind of listeners are you? We fly at supersonic speed in the marketplace. We have the throttle down to the firewall and we’re flying; and then we come home and we stop at the hangar, and we’re sitting down at dinnertime with our family, and we’re still flying at supersonic speed. We still want to go. We want to make the deals. Then our daughter gives a long dissertation about her new recital outfit, describing the stockings, the new ballet shoes, and you say, “Come on. Get on with it.” That’s where we fathers need to change gears and to show nurture and listen to them because those things are vital. They are important to our children’s lives, and we’ve got to show them the importance by giving them eye contact, by really connecting with them daily.
How many times have my children been trying to communicate with me and I’ve been reading or watching television? You don’t really spend quality time when you say, “Kids, let’s go out to the park,” and while they’re playing on the jungle gym, you’re practicing your sand wedge or something. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to nurture.
“E,” the first “E” stands for “encouragement.” We have a real need for encouragement. Fathers, we should be our children’s biggest cheerleaders. “Go! Go!” They know when they see dad, he is going to cheer for us. Think about cheerleaders. You go to a game. Most of them are oblivious to the game, but they’re cheering. Fathers, sometimes and many times your children will blow it. They’ll fumble the ball. They’ll mess up. But we’ve got to be like cheerleaders, “Go! Go!” Encouragement.
Gary Smalley and John Trent in their recent book, The Hidden Value of a Man, relate the story of a five-year-old boy who walked up to his father and said, “Dad, will you play ball with me?,” and this father turned and looked at his five-year-old son and said, “I’m your dad. I’m not your friend. Go and play ball by yourself.” Smalley and Trent said that 40 years later this man is in intensive counseling trying to deal with those words. Words are so powerful, so powerful.
Those little self-esteems that God wants to help us form, delicate. And we’ve got to mold the child without breaking his or her spirit. That’s difficult to do, but make sure you have that positive reinforcement. The Bible says time and time again to pray for one another, encourage one another, build one another up.
Dads, how about you? Do you realize that the first real mirrors our children look into are the mirrors of our eyes, dads? And when they look into our eyes, if we reflect back looks of affirmation, looks of love, looks of significance, looks that you’re worth something, then children will come to that conclusion, “Hey, I’m worth something. Hey, I’m ready to tackle the world!” On the other hand, if we give them a stern look, looks like you don’t count, you can’t really make it, they’ll come to the conclusion that usually leads to poor self-esteem. Nourishment. Nurturing. We want encouragement.
The next “E” stands for “example.” Example. We want nurturing, we want encouragement, we also want an example. Wouldn’t you say so? And we have a void, a yearning, for a male authority figure example, and that person is the father. It’s the father. Dads, in the marketplace, we’re trained to swallow our emotions, not to show our weakness. We are trained to lead by edict, not by example. It’s my way or the highway. When we come home and we’re sitting there at dinner, supersonic speed, and we’re used to saying, “A, B, C…1, 2, 3. Do this! Do that!,” the Bible says just the opposite.
The Bible says, fathers, that we should lead by example rather than edict. What would happen, dads, if you walked up to your children, and said, “Son, daughter, love your mom like I love your mom. Pray like I pray. Lead like I lead. Forgive one another like I forgive. Use the language I use. Love God like I love God.” What would happen in your families, fathers, if you took a lead role and began to live it out? A revolution. Example.
“D” stands for “discipline.” We’ve got nurture. We’ve got encouragement. We’ve got example. Now the “D” word, discipline, and we don’t want to talk about that. That’s a felt need. You’re saying, “What?” That’s a felt need. We have a need for discipline. We want it. We’re designed to live with boundaries. We really are, and if we don’t have boundaries, children will push and push and push. They want to find a wall, they want to find a line, so mom and dad will say, “That’s enough. Stay within these boundaries.” Do that.
Every child I know at one time or another sits there in his or her playpen. They cross their arms defiantly, and they look from side to side; and they say, “Hey, I’m going to take over this joint!” Moms, dads, you’d better be ready.
We need to discipline, though, in love. Think about our heavenly Father. The Bible says He disciplines us for our good. It’s not really nice when it’s happening, though, is it? However, after a time of discipline, we look back and say, “Thank you, God (He’s the Ultimate Father) for disciplining me.” We’ve got to have discipline.
Dads, take your foot and draw a line in the sand and say in a loving way, “If you cross over this line, you will suffer consequences.” The problem is that most fathers play Etch-a-Sketch discipline. Remember the Etch-a-Sketch? Draw lines here and there and everywhere. Suddenly, you shake it and it’s gone. Father will say, “Here’s the line, Billy. Here’s the line, Barbara,” and they’ll kind of walk over and test it and cross the line. Nothing’s there. Where’s the line? Then they start to go over here and the father says, “Wait a minute. There’s the line back there.” Grounded.
It’s inconsistent. You’re constantly drawing lines, erasing lines. You have to set forth some parameters, some boundaries, for you children to play inside of those boundaries on your field, and do it in love.
Here’s what the Bible says concerning discipline, Ephesians 6:4. It says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children.” This word “provoke” means “don’t nag or arbitrarily assert your authority,” dads. “…Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up…” The words “bring them up” mean “to nourish,” they mean “to nurture,” “to set an example,” “to encourage.” “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Discipline and instruction of the Lord.
I’m going to do something kind of wild right now. Let me walk out in the audience just for a second. Don’t get scared. Do we have a father and a son here, or father and daughter? If you’re sitting next to each other? I will not embarrass you too badly. Someone? Look at the volunteers! You know what the greatest fear people have is? I’ll be called on to speak in public. That’s why we don’t have the visitors stand up and all that. But I’m going to call on someone.
Here we go, Ken Melton. That’s your daughter, Cathy. Ken, stand up just for a second. The Lord had this planned. Right here on the stage. Now, put your camera down for a second. Ken takes all of our pictures for our bulletin and he does a fantastic job. Okay, Ken, turn like this. I’m talking about discipline now. Cathy, you turn and face this way. Now, Ken, as you’re facing this way, take your hand and kind of make a fist out of it. Take this arm and do this. Okay, now let me come up here and look. Ken is a hammer. Alright? God tells us in His Word that fathers are instruments of discipline, that God uses fathers as tools to form daughters and sons into God’s image.
So, dads, think about it. What an important role! We are tools in God’s toolbox, and when our fathers discipline us, in love with our best interest in mind, God will use fathers to chip away the excess, the things that keep us from really being the kind of person God wants us to be. And many times when we’re disciplining, we say, “Oh no! Come on Dad! You’re being so unfair. This is ridiculous!” Remember, God’s tools. Thank you so much. [Applause].
“S” stands for “spirituality.” We have a need for a spiritual leader. We really do. And dads, God wants to use you to model, to teach, to mark your children in the most important way possible, which is to mark them with Christ. We have a spiritual hunger. Dads, what kind of models are you in this regard? You can’t give your children something that you don’t have, and we have to have this personal relationship. I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about a personal relationship with the Living Lord. If we know Christ, we cannot wait to share the most important treasure with our wives and with our children.
People talk to me now and then and they’ll say, “Ed, my family is all messed up. My wife nags. My children have turned their backs on me.” Most of the time, fathers, because you have been given the leadership role, it’s because we have living rebellion, living sin in our lives. Fathers, picture yourselves as a giant umbrella over your family, and every time we sin a hole is created. We sin again, another hole is created. Then Satan, as he rains on our lives, can rain on the umbrella through the holes, and all that sin drips on our spouse, on our children.
Satan wants to mess up your family. And if you are sitting there while Satan is raining on you, kind of like he’s raining today (he’s not causing the rain, but you get the word picture) sin is happening, rebellion, chasms between people who love each other. Fathers, we should have the most patched-up umbrellas anywhere if we know Christ. When the holes come, and the holes will come—we’re going to mess up, we’ll get angry, we’ll say something we shouldn’t have said—
take out the little kit, confess it, “God, forgive me,” patch it up, and keep your umbrella intact.
My umbrella has a lot of patches on it. It does. So your umbrella is either patched up or it has holes in it, dads. If it has holes, do business with God. Say, “God, I’m sorry. Forgive me. I want to tell the truth about myself.” Go to your son, your daughter, your spouse and get it right. Because if there’s living sin (dad, they take their cues from you) your family will never harmony. Needs. Five felt needs.
The second part of the identification process: We have to identify our children’s gifts. G-I-F-T-S, and those letters mean something, too. “G” stands for “God-given.” When you see your children, dads, think about a present from God. Think about a giant card that says “To Dad, From God” because they are. They’re given to us by God and God’s using us, as we talked about with Ken and his daughter, as instruments to mold and shape children. He also uses us to call forth their uniqueness, their gifts. God-given—you’ve got to remember that, especially in those days when our children are having trouble and we’re maybe in an argument. Stop and say, “Lord, I know he or she is God-given, but give me the strength.”
“I” represents the word “investment.” If I am going to draw forth the uniqueness, the gifts of my children, I’ve got to invest large blocks of time in their lives. I have to. I’ve got to invest my life. I’ve got to invest energy. I’ve got to invest effort; and we spend a lot of time investing money, don’t we? Investing here, thinking about this, the stocks, the financial portfolio, this deal, that situation, that piece of dirt. Fathers, if we spend half the time investing our lives in our children as we do financially, there’s no telling what would happen. Let me tell you a little something about this investment. The payoffs will occur later in life, but the payoff and the windfall are coming if you’re serious about this.
A week ago Saturday, I performed a wedding and two fine Christian young people got married. They come from super families. These families are not perfect, but they are families who try to live for the Lord Jesus Christ; and I loved to look into the father’s eyes as he gave away the bride, his daughter. I loved to look at the father of the groom. You could see the tears, the emotion. But let me tell you what you could see. “What an investment! What a payback! What a windfall!” Why? Because they saw all the years, all the sacrifice, all the energy, all the effort, and they’ve seen now how God has used them to mold them and make them into great people; and they’re a great couple. Why? Because they had two dynamic dads. Could that be your life? Investing.
The “F” in GIFT stands for “focus.” That’s a big word these days. Focus! You’ve got to be focused. One of my favorite verses of Scripture, Proverbs 22:6, reads this way. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” See the word “train”? That’s the word “focus.”
It’s really hip and cool and chic and vogue to have a personal trainer. All the beautiful people in Hollywood have personal trainers. Some of the gyms here in the Metroplex, personal trainers. Personal trainers take time with an individual. They will give them the workout—weights, aerobics, diet—and they are focused on the individual. They have your best interest in mind.
Dads, here’s the picture. We train our children, we are focused on them, we build things in them, and we train them not the way we think they should go, but the way God has wired them up. You see, God has given a unique bend to every child, and dads, where we have a tough time is this. Let’s say we’re into sports and junior is into piano. Oftentimes, we’ll say, “Get off the piano bench and get out here on the field and let’s throw some passes, okay?” when he wants to play at the piano. I’ve seen a lot of people who were talented musically, but because their fathers so wanted to live their lives through them and forced them into sports, they get into it and they have this bitterness, this resentment towards their father for years and years and years.
Discover how God has bent them. If you’re wondering about it, pray. God will show you their unique personalities and gifts. Train them and help them along the way as you cheer for them, as you focus on them.
“T” in GIFT stands for “time.” I’m not talking about quality time. That’s a phrase coined after the classic book, The One-Minute Manager. I’m talking about large blocks of time. Because the best time spent with my children—and dads I’ve talked to across the country, people always say this—the best times with my kids just happen. I’m hanging out and it just occurs. I don’t say, “Well, let me schedule you between 2:30 and 3:45 p.m. on the Daytimer and then we’ll have some real time, I’m sure some great things will happen. Let me capture this Kodak moment.”
It just happens. Think about time, dads. The word “time.” We struggle with this, and let me tell you why. We struggle with spending time in our kids’ lives because we get most of the strokes and the pats and the perks and the parties and the promotions and the self-esteem from the marketplace, not from being a great father. You see, you don’t get a raise or climb the corporate ladder from begin a good dad. You don’t get tickets to the Cowboys games or the symphony being a great dad, do you? Dads, we like to get our esteem from the marketplace. People promote us. We get the corner office. We have goals. And usually, when spending time in the marketplace goes head on with spending time with the kids, which one wins? I mean, come on. Nine out of ten times, the marketplace wins. Why? Because that’s the big self-esteem deal. We have to make a living. We have to work in the marketplace, but God tells us in the book of Isaiah 43:1-2 that we should get our cues, our self-esteem, from God and not man. If I understand and see myself the way God sees me and not how man sees me, I’m way ahead of the game. Then I will know the priority and know the time that it takes to really make a difference in my children’s lives.
Let me read this verse to you, Isaiah 43, the middle of Verse 1. It says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name. [That means that God puts great value on your name.] You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I’ll be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flame will not set you ablaze.”
How many fathers have I talked to who’ve told me, “Ed, I’ve got all the symbols of success. I’ve got it all, but I’ve lost my children. I spent so much time in this and that, I lost my children.” I talk to other fellows who’ve told me, “Ed, the company has passed me over two or three times for a promotion and I didn’t get into this deal because I knew it would take time from my family; however, I am a wealthy man, a wealthy man, because I made the sacrifice to spend that time with my children.”
The final letter, “S,” in GIFTS stands for “significance.” I’m talking about significance. If you understand they’re God-given, you put the investment in their gifts. You focus, you give the time, then the significance factor will happen. They will feel significant, you will see your significance, and it will work. Then you’ll look back on your lives, dads, and you’ll get into this identification process concerning the needs, concerning the gifts, and great and wonderful things begin to happen. You are being used by God. Think about it. Apply it because it’s tough. As LeeBeth said, it takes a lot of work.
A good friend of mine, Shawn Butros, recently completed his freshman year at Texas A&M University. He’s a pre-med student. Shawn is a brilliant guy and he wanted to enroll in Dr. Denton Cooley’s summer intern program. It took him a while to get in; Dr. Cooley accepted him. He walks into one of the three operating rooms that are always there for Dr. Denton Cooley, this world-class surgeon, and he’s standing there looking around. He’s dressed up in scrubs and sees the other interns helping this nurse and helping this doctor. Suddenly, the double doors open and in walks Dr. Cooley, followed by a team of surgeons.
Dr. Cooley walks up to my friend, “You, follow me!” He walks into an operating room. This guy’s going, “Oh my goodness. Dear Lord, please be with me.” He follows Dr. Cooley. Dr. Cooley opens up the chest cavity of a man, takes his heart, and hands a beating heart to my friend his first day in the operating room. He’s holding a beating heart for Dr. Denton Cooley as he performs microsurgery on the backside of the heart! And Shawn told me, “Ed, Dr. Cooley was leaning on me for support and I was holding this man’s heart. It was beating in my hands! For an hour,” he said, “I held it, then I began to [teeth chatter in nervousness].”
He said the operation was a success. He told me when he got back home, the first words he told his dad were, “Dad, you won’t believe it. I held a live heart in my hands. Dad, I can’t describe to you what it feels like to hold a person’s heart in your hands.”
Fathers, listen to me. You hold in your hands the heart of your son, the heart of your daughter, right there in your hand. It’s beating. What a delicate thing. What an awesome thing! What a great thing of potential. You can be used by God to take this heart and to shape it, to identify its needs, its gifts. Are you taking it seriously?
There are some men here that God wants to use in a dynamic way. Make sure you take seriously the role, the God-given role, of being a father.