Our Father in heaven… In the Old Testament, God is referred to as the father of the nation of Israel. The main revelation of God as Heavenly Father comes by Jesus Christ. Most NT references to the heavenly Father or Father in heaven are in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mountain” in Matthew. It’s really a sermon about the perfection and goodness of God the Father. Jesus revealed a dramatic new relationship made possible between God as Father and people. Children don’t call their father “father.” They always say “dad or daddy” which is a more intimate and affectionate term. This is how Jesus referred to God the Father. Jesus prayed “Abba, Father…” even when his soul was overwhelmed to the point of death (Mark 14:36). The Aramaic abba that stands behind the Greek pater was an intimate and affectionate title used by children. Children call their father “dad,” but they also learn to respect his discipline.
In the Sermon there is intimacy with the Father and the distance of discipline; it’s the kind of distance you have with someone who is respected as an authority. The heavenly Father is the standard of perfection and we cannot measure up to his standard of perfection (5:48). We fall short and need grace. Did any of you have an earthly father who demanded perfection and you failed to measure up? (The Father’s grace provides the perfection we need in His Son’s righteousness.) The heavenly Father will forgive us only if we forgive others who sin against us (6:14; 18:35). Did any of you have a abusive earthly father who refused to forgive your mistakes? (Watch I Can Only Imagine.) God is good and he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous; therefore, we ought to love and pray for enemies who persecute us (5:44-46). The heavenly Father provides everything his children need to live when they seek Him first (6:25-34).
Do you ever struggle with the goodness of your heavenly Father? I know this may sound unbelievable from a pastor of 30 years, but I sometimes worry that my heavenly Father cannot provide for my physical, mental and emotional needs. I know my spiritual needs of forgiveness and assurance of life after death have been satisfied by Christ’s death and resurrection, but sometimes I get stressed out over my need for meaning and purpose as I now move into my latter years.
I am a father who would accept any sacrifice to meet the needs of my children. If I, as an earthly (and sinful) father, would do this for my children, how much more will my good heavenly Father provide for his children. I am the Father’s child and he has an obligation to provide for me. The Father will do what he has promised. Matthew 7:7-11: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
The best gift the heavenly Father can give us is his Son to save us and then his Holy Spirit to fill us and assure us of his love. When we are worried and stressed out the best thing we can ask for is the Holy Spirit. His presence is peace. Luke 11:13 identifies the best “good thing” the Father gives us (see Matthew 7:7-11): If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! The Holy Spirit brings us into the loving relationship he has with the Father. Romans 8:15: For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. When we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit we want to cry “Abba! Father!” and we are never too old to do it.
I pray this way, “My good Father in heaven, every good and perfect gift comes down from you, the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17). Father God, you are light and there is no darkness in you (1 John 1:5). Good Father, you give the gift of the Holy Spirit. If I ask for a fish, you will not give me a snake. If I ask for an egg, you will not give me a scorpion. I am evil and I want to give good gifts to my children, then how much more will you, good heavenly Father, give the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen me when I ask (Luke 11:5-13). Thank you, good Father in heaven.”