The Heavenly Father and the Pastor
John 17:5—And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
John 17:23—I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
John 17:24—Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
Every pastor needs the good heavenly Father while he is preaching the Word, making disciples, and feeding the sheep. You have one in our “Green Thumb” Husbandman. Reread the verses above, and you will find two almost unbelievable truths.
1. God was a father before He was a creator! (5,24)
2. He loves you as He loved Jesus! (23) Bottom line, you have a perfect Father, and you are loved. Some of us had great earthly fathers. Some of us had neglectful, distracted, immoral, harsh, absentee, even abusive fathers. Some may have had no father at all. Your experience with your earthly father may have even left you with a father wound which has created a vacuum of encouragement for you as you try to encourage your flock. Perhaps you often find yourself running on fumes rather than ministering out of the overflow of your love relationship with the Father! Knowing that you have a Dad present who loves you unconditionally, like He did Jesus, while you negotiate the many tasks of the pastorate is indeed awesome! As you understand and experience this reality in your own life and ministry, you can both teach your flock and be an example to it.
Don’t wait for a feeling! Bible facts must be embraced by faith and acted upon before we can know the reality of them. So it is for us to know—reckon—yield. Here’s a fun ditty that has blessed me for years.
Three men were walking on a wall
Feeling, Faith and Fact;
When Feeling took an awful fall
And Faith was taken back;
So close was Faith to Feeling
He stumbled and fell too,
But Fact remained and pulled Faith up
And he brought Feeling too.
So here are the facts. God is lovingly fathering you right now with the same love with which He fathered Jesus in eternity past! Wow!
We are given permission to enjoy this participation with the Father by Jesus Himself. Six words into verse one of John 15, He introduces His Father! How do we miss Him? But we “go it alone” in trying to “abide” as a branch-leader who is trying to get our little flock to abide as well. We struggle, strain, and even employ many subtle substitutes for Jesus which is bad enough. We never call on the Father who is always there ready to lend a hand or say to us “Let it go—you don’t need that.”
He knows when we should work and when we should rest. He knows what we should include and what we should leave out. He knows who should be on the team and who should be cut. He sets the tone for the ministry which overflows with love, oneness, and joy through the Spirit (John 17:13; 23-24) which pours out into our hearts (Romans 5:5). So, our Father even establishes the atmosphere of our church-family home. What a Father! Embrace His presence in your life and ministry. What a delight to have all three members of the Trinity actively involved in our ministry.
Our definition of God must be built on the Son who reveals Him. As a Father, He must be familial. And if God is a father, then He must be relational and life-giving (Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1.34).
Someone whose very presence makes you better—even if only for a while when you are with them, is an invaluable asset for Christian life and ministry. We all know people like that, and they seem to be little pictures of how God is, according to John. This God, he says, is love in such a profound and potent way that you simply cannot know Him without yourself becoming loving. And that’s what Jesus asked us to do with the sheep He gives us. So again we see the Father’s help (I John 4:7-11).
Michael Reeves says this:
The most foundational thing in God is not some abstract quality, but the fact that he is Father. Again and again, the Scriptures equate the terms God and Father: in Exodus, the Lord calls Israel “my firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22; see also Is. 1:2; Jer. 31:9; Hos. 11:1); he carries his people “as a father carries his son” (Deut. 1:31), disciplines them “as a man disciplines his son” (Deut. 8:5); he calls to them saying: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Ps. 103:13) and “How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me” (Jer. 3:19; see also Jer. 3:4; Deut. 32:6; Mal. 1:6).
Isaiah thus prays, “You are our Father . . . you, O LORD, are our Father” (Is. 63:16; see also Is. 64.8); and a popular Old Testament name was Abijah (“The Lord is my father”). Then Jesus repeatedly refers to God as “the Father’ and directs prayer to “our Father”; he tells his disciples he will return to “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn. 20:17); Paul and Peter refer to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6; 1 Pet. 1:3); Paul writes of “one God, the Father” (I Cor. 8:6), of “God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 1:3); Hebrews counsels: “God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb. 12:7).
Since God is, before all things a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly. It is not that this God “does” being Father as a day job, only to kick back in the evenings as plain old “God.” It is not that he has a nice blob of fatherly icing on top. He is Father. All the way down. Thus all that he does, he does as Father. That is who he is. He creates as a Father, and he rules as a Father, and that means the way he rules over creation is not unlike the way any other God would rule over creation. (Delighting in the Trinity, InterVarsity Press, p. 23)
My ministry forever focused when I read The Ultimate Intention by Devern F. Fromke. I had often heard it said that the pastorate was a lonely place. Somehow, I didn’t think it had to be. Early on I realized I needed mentors and comrades. That really helped. We learned to move as a group and then through “Ultimate Intention” we as a group could participate with the Father. We were ignited in our hearts to then minister out of the overflow of fellowship with the Godhead. Here’s what Fromke says.
So our Father is ever seeking to move man beyond the shallows to the ocean depth itself—from living only in our purposes, to become alive to His purposes. Notice the progression of our fellowship with Him and with others. First, we are called into the “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5). This is wonderful, for we share in the common experience of God’s wonderful grace. But it is only a beginning. Then as we learn to walk, we are led into the “fellowship of the Spirit” (Phil. 2:1), and thus we recognize the call to walk after and be filled with the Spirit. But the Holy Spirit lives only to make Christ more real and so we are called into a deeper fellowship with His Son” ( I Cor. 1:9). What could be more wonderful? But as we share His mind and grown in this fellowship, we are like Paul, called into a “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Here is the call to those who would enter into a fruitful ministry, like the Lord Jesus, living unto the Father and sharing His resurrection power and authority.
We are convinced that none will continue long in his “fellowship of sufferings” unless they have, as Paul exhorted Timothy, moved into a larger fellowship in the Father-Himself and his own purposes. Accordingly, Paul unveils his own deepest concern in calling “all men to see what is the fellowship of the mystery (Eph. 3:9). Here is the ultimate in fellowship. Yet there are many who are content to leave it a mystery. They have never realized there is a participation in the Father whereby we might share in that “which from the beginning has been hid in God.’ But now, Paul reminds us, it is God’s intention to “make known by the church His manifold wisdom.” Surely this is His call to the Church to live in the eternal, to participate in the glorious purposes and intention of God. It means that we should live where all the parts find their perfect integration into the whole—His intention.
If you had one son in whom you found unspeakable delight, would it not be normal as a father to want many more? It is exactly so with the eternal Father, who by nature and choice, has desired and purposed to have a vast family of human-divine sons who are just like His only begotten Son.
Further as we view from His heart, it seems evident that the Father makes all His plans with His eternal Son in view; that in the unfolding ages ahead Jesus Christ might have a glorious Body in which to express His very life and a family of brothers with whom He might enjoy fellowship. (The Ultimate Intention, Devern F. Fromke, p. 41, 55)
At the end of the day, our Father wants His pastor-sons to work rested. The New Testament account of an Old Testament failure lets us know that there is a rest for the people of God. A careful look at Hebrews 3 and 4 reminds us that we miss God’s best when we refuse to rest. Our sweetly severe Father-Husbandman knows what he is doing in our corner of His Vineyard even when the giants seem big and the walls seem high. I outlined a prayer from Hebrews 4 that help to process the moment.
I don’t want to miss anything you have for me (us). (vs. 1)
I will choose to believe what you say. (vs. 2,3)
I thank you that all your works are finished from the foundation of the world. (vs. 3-5)
I will obey what you tell me. (vs. 6)
I will not harden my heart. (vs. 7)
I believe you have a rest for me. (vs. 8,9)
I will stop striving in my strength. (vs. 10)
I will be diligent to enter your rest because your Word is alive, and your eyes witness my life. (vs. 11-13)
I will hold fast my faith and not defect because of the finished work of Jesus. (vs. 14)
I will come boldly to your throne of grace to find grace and help because Jesus fully understands and yet was without sin. (vs. 15, 16)
Excerpts from “Good, Good Father” performed by Chris Tomlin (written by Tony Brown and Pat Barrett)
Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like,
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night,
And you tell me that you’re pleased, and that I’m never alone.
Oh, I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide,
But I’ve known we’re all searching
For answers only you provide,
Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word.
You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you,
It’s who I am, it’s who I am.