Fathered by God
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear,
but you received the Spirit of sonship.” Romans 8:15
Through countless observations and now, through my own journey with the Lord, I’ve come to recognize a lie pervading the lives of all too many believers. I’ve seen it steering Christian leaders, and I’ve watched it steal from people close to me. Over the past few years, I’ve also recognized it within my own heart and have watched the Lord uproot it.
This lie can manifest itself in a variety of ways:
Maybe you continually strive to please people. The thought of rejection is simply too uncomfortable. So you say ‘yes’ to things you have no desire to do because you fear disappointing others. Disappointment would mean disapproval. And you simply can’t have other people disapproving of you.
Maybe unexpected expenses send your blood pressure through the roof – and leave you scrounging for ideas to make ends meet.
Maybe you rely entirely on logic and current trends to make your business decisions – and often carry a heavy weight regarding your work.
Maybe you are unnerved when you think about the future. Will things keep changing? Will the relationship last? Will I make through this transition?
Maybe you’re a student who has aspirations of further education. Your standards are extremely high. You often stress about grades because if you don’t perform well enough, you might not get into that Masters or Ph.D program you’re dreaming of.
Maybe you’re fearful about your children. Am I parenting them well? Am I missing it horribly? Are they going to be okay? What if I can’t stop them from making bad decisions? What if they get hurt?
Maybe you’re a workaholic. No level of accomplishment is ever good enough. You keep striving and striving and can’t ever rest. You fear that other people’s success is stealing from you.
Maybe you lost someone dear and ever since, a feeling of abandonment has taken root. You fear that others will abandon you too.
Maybe you grew up on the heels of the Great Depression and live with fear of running out of resources. You want to be a generous giver, but you can’t fathom stepping out in faith financially. So you play it safe and keep saving every penny you make so that you don’t have to risk loss.
Maybe you over-plan. You brainstorm, strategize, and attempt to figure everything out ahead of time. You make detailed plans and take great comfort in them. And when your plans occasionally go awry, you are beside yourself. The entire pursuit seems tainted now – all because your plans got messed up.
Maybe you are relentlessly pursuing a dream. You spend all your energy attempting to connect with the right people and to make a name for yourself. There’s no time to rest because your ultimate success depends entirely on you.
Subtly woven through each of these scenarios is a cruel lie:
“You’ve been left to fend for yourself.”
You’re on your own.
Left by yourself to figure things out.
On your own to tackle life’s obstacles.
You probably wouldn’t have ever articulated it quite this way. But these responses to life all stem from the same root: orphan thinking. Thinking that tells you: “I’m alone. No one is taking care of me. It won’t get done if I don’t do it. I’m in charge of my destiny. The weight of my life is on me.”
What a burden to carry! Too many of us are living under the tyranny of this burden. It’s tragic to watch believers live this way. Start listening to conversations. Watch people during transition. Orphan thinking is everywhere.
People have a genuine salvation experience but then believe the lie that for the rest of their lives, they’re on their own. Sure, Jesus will get you to heaven. But you’re on your own in your business decisions. You’re on your own in parenting. You’re on your own in your educational pursuits. You’re on your own with your career. You’re on your own with your relationships. You’re on your own to make something of yourself. This thinking reveals itself in the fact that very few of us ever invite God into these spheres. We assume, since we’ve essentially believed ourselves to be orphans, that God has nothing to offer these facets of our lives. We assume we have to fend for ourselves. So we do.
Into our lonely, exhausted hearts, the Father whispers, “You are not an orphan. You’re my daughter; you’re my son.” (John 14:18; Romans 8:12-17)
When we said ‘yes’ to Jesus, when we chose to rest our faith on Him alone, something glorious happened. [Actually, MANY glorious things happened.] We were adopted as God’s children. We became members of the best family. We were given His name. We became a son or daughter.
We are not alone. We are fathered by God.
Every single day. Every single moment. In every single detail. He is actively, kindly, intimately fathering us.
We each hear “father” in a unique way. We come to the table bringing different experiences of fatherly love. Maybe we had an absentee father. Maybe we never even met him. Or maybe he was physically present but a million miles away relationally. Maybe we had a wonderful father who was our biggest encourager. Maybe we never measured up to our father’s standards. Maybe our father has already passed away.
Despite the varying experiences we’ve had with our earthly fathers, here’s the truth: our hearts were made for the perfect fatherly love that only God can give.
Whatever our experience with our father, be it wonderful or excruciating, our hearts were made for more.
If our fatherly relationship was painful, we know this already. But if it was fairly good, it can take a while for us to recognize that something is still lacking. No matter how great our dad is, he will still fail us in one way or another. He will still have shortcomings that leave our hearts hungering for more. And instead of embittering us, this lack is meant to point us to our ultimate Father.
The One who never fails.
The One who will never leave us.
The One who fathers perfectly.
The One who always listens to us, never distances himself from us, knows us intimately, and fights for our hearts. The One who provides for us, hides us under his wing, and rescues us with his unfailing love.
Beloved, this is our invitation: to step into life as a daughter or son. To allow him to father us out of our orphanhood. For our eyes to be opened to his constant care. To stop striving and let him take the lead. To breathe a sigh of relief.
We are not alone.
He is taking care of us.
The weight of our lives is not for us to carry. It’s his.
When we do this – when we learn to rest and simply receive from him – it changes everything. No longer do we fear the future; our Father holds the future in his hands. No longer do we fear death; for in death, too, he will father us. No longer do we fear missing our destiny; our Father assures us that he is completing our life’s work. No longer do we fear man’s rejection; our Father has chosen us as his own – and he will never change his mind.
No longer do we strive for self-sufficiency; his provision and constant care allow us to rest. No longer do we carry an unhealthy burden for our children; they were his children before they were ever ours. No longer do we cling to our resources; our Father is the endless source behind those resources, and he never runs out.
No longer do we rely on logic and business sense as our sole source of wisdom. No. We’ve been given access to true Wisdom. Living Wisdom. Our Father’s counsel beats logic every. single. time. Why live on the limited knowledge of the finite human mind when the Spirit living inside us has the answer to our every question?
No longer do we waste energy over-planning or find false comfort in human strategies. The Father’s plot twists make much better stories than our feeble plans could ever fathom.
No longer do we feel abandoned; our Father will never leave us, never forsake us. And his constant presence overturns even the worst experiences of human abandonment.
No longer are we boxed in to the world’s definition and schedule for success. Our life is telling his story, not ours – and not our culture’s. So his time frame is all that matters. Who says we have to earn that degree before a certain age? Who says we have to make a certain salary for our worth to be validated? Who says we have to reach that position before we turn thirty? Who says we’re missing out on something while we wait? Who says that our significance is measured by our social media following?
Our Father never said any of these things. So let’s stop believing them.
Let’s open our hearts fully to his fatherhood. Let’s invite him into the orphaned places in our hearts. Let’s stop striving in our own efforts to make life happen. Let’s rest in his strength and initiative. Let’s stop comparing our lives to the lives of others and, instead, take joy in the unique story the Father is telling through our individual journeys.
We have a choice to make. The Father isn’t going to force freedom on us. By definition, that would not be freedom. Rather, he is inviting us into this life of sonship and daughtership. He beckons us to step into it. A life that’s free from the world’s measuring sticks. A life that watches wonders unfold. A life that replenishes. A life marked by joy. A life that leans on the everlasting arms.
I’m taking him up on this invitation!
Orphanhood versus Sonship
Orphans fend for themselves; sons and daughters rest in God’s oversight and provision.
Orphans try to prove themselves; sons and daughters are already proven worthy by their Father.
Orphans promote themselves; sons and daughters wait on their Father to promote them.
Orphans try to bust doors open for themselves; sons and daughters walk through the doors God opens for them.
Orphans network in the flesh – try to get connected to the right people; sons and daughters are already connected to the highest authority in the universe.
Orphans try to win the approval of people; sons and daughters rest, knowing they already have God’s approval.
Orphans are led solely logic; sons and daughters are led by the Spirit.
Orphans are slaves to fear; sons and daughters rest in the safety of their Father’s presence.
Orphans think they’re abandoned when life gets hard; sons and daughters yield to the Father during seasons of difficulty.
Orphans try to make things happen on their own schedule; sons and daughters rest in God’s perfect timing.
Orphans hoard their resources and money; sons and daughters give generously.
Orphans over plan for the future; sons and daughters leave room for God’s unexpected twists and turns.
Orphans speculate and try to figure everything out; sons and daughters rest, knowing their Father already has it figured out.
Orphans have to have answers; sons and daughters trust their Father despite unanswered questions.
Father, thank you for drawing orphans home. Thank you for calling us your own. Make us new as we rest in your presence. May your glory rest on our lives and reflect your beauty to the world.
[The sermon I preached on this topic is on my YouTube channel.]
1. Wilson X at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wilson_x/
2. “Father and Daughter” by Andy Mort