Effective leaders know the needs of those they lead. What resources do they need? What concerns do they have? Have the goals and timelines been clearly communicated? So forth and so on.
Those types of questions may be good, but in the end they fail for fathers trying to lead at home. Yes, as a father I must be aware of the needs of my family. Which child needs a little ‘daddy’ time? What activities are causing stress and which ones are a blessing? But what my family needs most is much more subtle and way more important.
Pasotr Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness”.
I believe this is no less true for the father who shepherds a family. It isn’t easy. And it isn’t possible apart from the sanctifying work of our union with Christ. But it is our calling. All Christians, of course, are called to be holy, but leaders must take such commands with extra seriousness. Fathers are leaders.
The victories won’t be shouted from rooftops. The battles may be fought unseen. No one may look at you and say, “What a fantastic leader! He is a great communicator of family vision, a wonderful organizer of family night activities, a wizard with the family budget” or any such thing. But personal purity, the life lived dead to the world and alive to Christ, is your family’s greatest need.
Holiness, sanctification, purity; there is much to say about how to pursue such things. A few basics must suffice.
First, be in the Word. Jesus prays in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The Word of God is the sword with which we quench the fiery darts of the enemy (Ephesians 6:16). Constancy in reading the Word can be difficult. Life is busy. Short devotional reading may be all we have time for some days, but prolonged reading is better. I know my own struggles in this area and seek to overcome them. Memorizing the Word is important as well. The writer of Psalm 119 tells us, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” My children memorize passages of Scripture throughout the school year. As the family leader, I attempt to memorize along with them. This gives me the opportunity, at dinner times or family reading times, to meditate and discuss the verses they have been spending time with. But it isn’t just good for them; the memorizing and meditating is good for me and my pursuit of personal holiness.
Second, walk by the Spirit. Paul tells us that if we walk by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). This walking by the Spirit is primarily accomplished by seeing Christ work of the cross (Galatians 3:1-3). The Galatians heard the word preached and by this, Paul says, they had seen Christ crucified. This portrayal of the Messiah hanging between earth and sky awakened them to new life in Christ. Closeness to the crucified Savior is still the primary means of walking by the Spirit. And the way to stay close to Christ is to visit again, and again, the agony and glory of Calvary. There we will see the glory of God displayed and be empowered to walk worthy of our calling.
What my family needs most is my personal holiness. The enemy of the family is alive and active. Sin, and Satan, lurk. Fathers must be on guard to protect our families. This starts by protecting ourselves. Though unnoticed by many, our families will be blessed as we recognize and react to this need for holiness in our own lives.