[This is from a talk I was blessed to offer to some really great (weak) Dads at 6:30 yesterday morning…]
I have the distinction of being a dad though childless. I had one son and I lost him to heroin. If ever you’ve known a weak, helpless dad, I’m one. Believe me. However,
“I am not ashamed (the Greek includes having no fear of it letting me down, no embarrassment in its being insufficient, or no guilt of my being unable to merit its blessings) of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation…”
I had a pastor friend who consoled me years ago – at the apex of my son’s rebellion – by reminding me God had His own prodigal *children* – not just a prodigal child. His whole family was profligate!
God laments that in Isa 1:2:
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken:
“Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me…”
David, too, had a pretty rough go at being a dad – some say he was too lenient because his dad was too hard on him and aloof because he was often overlooked. I was struck recently by the unfulfilled ‘dad-dream’ of David in 1Chron 29:19 –
“Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes…”
But this is what he got –
1 Kings 11:4
“For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God…”
He wanted a son who would expand the kingdom, establish peace throughout the realm, and, chiefly, have a WHOLE HEART for God. Instead, the kingdom divided, unholy rulers would reign from Jerusalem for many generations, and the nation would always stray, come home, get restless, and leave home again.
This was pretty much the staus quo of Israel because his son couldn’t keep it in his pants. Oh, that, and Solomon became an enabler for child-sacrifice (a nation’s most heinous sin, hint, hint), plus the fact he couldn’t nurture a WHOLE HEART for God, but a HELL HEART, an EMPTY HEART due to rebellion and chasing after wind.
I remember holding my newborn adopted son alongside my wife in front of Mountain View Church in 1989 as we dedicated Graham (namesake of the great evangelist) to the Lord. If you’d told us at Sunday dinner afterward how it would turn out, I’d have taken issue.
- He was a miracle.
- He was a joy.
- We could take him everywhere.
- He was raised in church.
- He loved being a PK.
- He was fiercely protective of his disabled dad.
- He volunteered for mission trips.
- He gave his only pair of shoes on one trip to a kid in Honduras.
- He always gravitated to the most outcast kid in the room.
- His heart was so big, so generous, so fierce, and so alive in the moment.
But our son battled unknown, untold demons.
Graham chose a harder path, one steeped in rebellion and addiction, spending the lion’s share of his youth and young adulthood in the far country of Fool’s Folly – all uphill and adventure on the ascent with the slippery slope of guilt, shame, and death on the backside.
He was found in December all alone in an abandoned parking lot, frozen, with a heroin needle in his arm. His mates had put a portable heater in the car, shut the door behind them, got another ride and left him alone there in the night. They did care enough to call 911 after they were long gone and, while there were no vitals at the scene, the doctors put him on a vascular by-pass machine in hopes to ‘jump-start’ him by warming him up, he was so cold. None of the doctors gave much chance of that happening, however.
When Sandy and I (1,123 miles away) got the news (she at work, me at home), we immediately sought the Lord.
Will our boy live?
If he dies, will he be with You?
How will we know?
Lord, HAVE MERCY!
Christ, HAVE MERCY!
I have to admit, my theology would’ve struggled to put Graham anywhere else but hell right then. It’s horrible to admit, I know. My own son! Oh Absalom, my Absalom!
God knew that, and He met my unbending dogma with – what else? – the Gospel (not easy-believism, mind you; remember, God acted in mercy to discipline my son so dramatically; Graham always had a place for Christ in his heart, no matter how covered over with sin it was). I needed the Gospel more than anything. I needed His Good News to break into my world of bad news.
In those moments – as Sandy raced through the warehouse and parking lot of UPS to her car, and as I sat in a stupor at our dining room table – with an open Bible – God preached the gospel tenderly to us in the only ways our agonized hearts would both get it. He cued a worship song on her car radio, and to me He gave a pointed scripture. Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” was the first thing my wife heard as her car roared to life. Psalm 85:2,3,8-10 was my portion in the exact moment He was singing over Sandy on Fulton Industrial.
“You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger…
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.”
We got our answer immediately, even independently. “Graham is here with Me.”
Four years earlier, God told us to stop fretting, toiling, enabling, bearing guilt, hearing the accuser say “if you had only…if you didn’t…if you never…if you hadn’t” and trying to “fix” our son. I was tired of failing as a Dad. Harsh words and illogical punishments were clearly not working. I was weak, helpless, and totally out of options. Hope was elusive. My wife pulled away from life and cried, prayed, pled, and begged. We were both at a loss.
LORD, SAVE US!
The Father asked us to do a very hard thing: let go. To do this was to admit we couldn’t. We were ‘failures’ at parenting. While learning to trust God to parent our boy was humbling, sure, but it was also one of the most freeing things we ever imagined. So we did, and that mercy gave my wife and I four whole years to heal and prepare for December 16, 2013. It was during this time God spoke clearly to my broken-down Dad heart: “from now on, when your son calls for money, give it to him – NO QUESTIONS ASKED. When he needs an emergency place to crash, you are not to refuse him. Kill him with kindness.”
On the last night we ever saw him, because the next day he would move to Minnesota to live with his birth-mom and get away from the mean streets of Atlanta, my wife took him shopping and bought him a whole new “Minnesota wardrobe.” Her only child, whom she was sending to live with the mother who didn’t raise him – with no guarantees she’d ever see him again – she took him out and spoiled her boy one last time. She mercifully killed him with kindness.
In the end, it was the Gospel that saved our family. And it was the Gospel that rescued my son from his hell on earth.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation…”
The Gospel that got us through was:
- “I am for you.”
- “I will not leave you alone in this mess.”
- “Trust Me to redeem this and bring you through.”
Paul, a weak, suffering apostle, said:
“The Gospel is the POWER – the δυναμις – of God for salvation…”
Then he proceeds to develop what salvation is throughout his long letter. He says it’s sufficient to forgive, cleanse, and justify us before a holy and vengeful God. He further says it brings us into Life with God, not only saving us from sin and hell, but empowering us for holy living and fitting us for glory. Finally, he blows us away with the future hope of our ultimate glorification and eternal joy as “sons of God”!
- Paul says it’s all predicated on the Gospel.
- Paul says our daily survival is grounded in the Gospel.
- Paul said our only power comes from the Gospel
- Paul says our only hope is…the Gospel.
Scott Sauls wrote “the gospel isn’t merely a message but a power because it’ll change you.”
Of the 6 words for power, Paul chose the one that best describes divine energy. He says the Gospel is “dynamic”! (Dynamite comes from this word – Rome, you know, was all about power – Paul said the Gospel was more powerful still!)
1. pertaining to or characterized by energy or effective action; vigorously active or forceful; energetic.
What does the Gospel mean for weak, helpless Dads?
The Gospel is our daily power:
as men in this culture,
husbands to our wives,
and dads to our kids!
What does the Gospel tell us?
• How lost we are.
• How loved we are.
(“You’re a good, good Father,
that’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
that’s who I am”)
It also tells us:
• How weak and helpless we are.
• How strong and capable He is.
Tell me something: is the Gospel only useful and powerful to get us to heaven? Or is it the power of God to get us through this life?
Take it from me:
GOD IS GOOD.
Take it from me:
GOD LOVES WEAK DADS
Take it from me:
HE STILL WORKS EVERYTHING – EVERYTHING! – TOGETHER FOR OUR GOOD AND HIS GLORY
Take it from me:
HE’S STILL MAKING ALL THINGS – YOUR THINGS, MY THINGS – NEW
Take it from me:
THE GOSPEL IS STILL GOOD NEWS
Take it from me:
THE GOSPEL IS STILL THE POWER OF GOD – THE δυναμις – FOR SALVATION OF ANY AND EVERY SITUATION
So Let’s light this candle. How can we see Gospel power move in us, through us, for us?
- Fill your personal universe with the gospel (Rom 1:16,17)
- Unilaterally surrender to the kind demands of the gospel (Rom 4:13-26; 6:1-4)
- Stand in His gospel grace that equips you for everything…and anything (Rom 5:1-4)
- Encourage yourself in the gospel promise He works everything together for our good and His glory (Rom 8:28,29)