As Dr. Ed Cole famously said, “Being a male is a matter of birth, but being a man is a matter of choice.” Something similar could be stated about being a dad. Because some men are little more than sperm donors who either don’t care anything whatsoever about the child they helped to conceive, or in other cases where many Christian men are concerned, they aren’t willing to pay the price to raise their own children to live a godly lifestyle, and to succeed as productive members of society. And what a shame that is.

My own dad was a good guy but lacking in many areas of what it meant to be a dad. Now to be clear, we never went hungry. My dad worked all the days of my life until he finally retired from a job he had held for over thirty years. So, he was no deadbeat dad to be sure. And we always had a roof over our head, decent clothes on our backs, and although never anything extravagant, we had a pretty good life all things considered.

However, my grandfather died when my dad was only about six months old, so he grew up not knowing the role of a father in his life at all. And then when his own children came along, he only had his own experiences of being fatherless to draw from as a pattern for being a dad to us. And although I can’t speak for my siblings, I know that as for me in my life, I grew up with my dad not being as involved as I would have desired.

For example, I played on baseball and basketball teams when I was a kid, but I was always dropped off at the locations where our games or practices were held. My dad never attended those events, except for one of my baseball games (and only because another dad had pestered him about attending it with him), and one of my Jr. High School basketball games. I will never forget him being there at those two events. And the fact that these events still stand out in my mind is an indicator of how monumental it was for me to have my dad attend, and even show interest in what I was involved in.

As Donald Rumsfeld, a former Secretary of Defense once said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” And because my dad knew only what he knew about being a dad, he did his best based on that limited knowledge. And as an adult, I have no issues with it whatsoever. I don’t feel maimed or scarred for life, and I have not allowed myself to feel cheated over any of it, even though I wish it could have been different.  But what’s more is that I have I never allowed it to be an excuse in my own life for not being the man and the dad I needed to be.

Instead, when I reached young adulthood, I remembered all the things that I wished I had had my dad involved with in my life, and all of the things I wished he would have told me or imparted to me about life and manhood and money and tons and tons of other things. And I decided that to the best of my own ability, I would become the dad to my children that I needed and wanted growing up.

And to accomplish this, I began to read solid Christian books on manhood and fatherhood. Dozens and dozens of them in fact, all while still in my early to mid-twenties. And I also began to study real men by watching their lifestyle and example. These were men who were strong in the Lord and lived fervently for Jesus, and were not the spiritually lethargic, weak, and selfish men I had come across most of my life in church. Men who couldn’t even show up to church faithfully or on time, and whose wives had become the spiritual leader of their homes by default. Instead, I was interested in learning from true men who lived their Christian life fervently at church, at home, at work, and in public, as examples to follow.

I looked for Christian men to imitate who were doing this:

6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 5:6-7 NASU

I looked for dads that I could pattern after who cared enough about how their children would turn out and where they would end up, not only in this life but for eternity as well, and who fed their children the Word of God by both precept and example. And listen to me fellow dads, you will have to do the exact same thing.

One of the most deceptive things I see that happens among believers is when they begin to compare themselves to those who are doing a poorer job then they are, as a means of making them feel good about themselves. But those aren’t the people to look to as your examples in what a real Christian father is to look like. Look to dads who are doing things right and not wimping out and making excuses all the time. And to be clear, those men won’t be perfect, because none of us are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing a good job leading their family, if they are doing things God’s way, and according to the pattern God gave us in the Bible.

The alternative of course is to just let your family go, and just wait and see how things are going to turn out. But I can assure you, it won’t turn out good for either you or your family doing things like that. I have watched as this scenario of just letting it go style of parenting has played out in hundreds of families in my decades as a pastor and minister, and oh how horrible the outcome is to witness.

Take Eli as an example of this. Here this man was a priest, a high and holy office, yet he was a complete failure and embarrassment to God as a dad, and a pathetic example to others. And I believe God preserved the story of Eli’s failure as a man, a minister, and as a father, to not only demonstrate how not to do it, but to also reveal the outcome of a family such as this.

12 On that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I [now] announce to him that I will judge and punish his house forever for the iniquity of which he knew, for his sons were bringing a curse upon themselves [blaspheming God], and he did not restrain them.” 1 Samuel 3:12-13 AMP

Be a real man of God in front of your kids and teach them what it means to be a true Christian, and a man of integrity, honor, righteousness, and godliness. Don’t let your kids go to Hell. Get fully involved in every aspect of their lives, and don’t disconnect. They need you desperately!

The Word of God will teach you how to be a real Christian man and father. So be that dad to your kids, the dad you’ll find in the Scriptures. And just watch how the Holy Spirit will aid you and anoint you as a father, as you conform yourself to the Word of God.