Written and preached by David P. Nolte


What a privilege and responsibility, what a joy and a job it is to be a worthy father. We hold in our hands the clay which will be fashioned into a vessel of honor or dishonor for the Lord. It is heavy upon us to walk, therefore, in wisdom. Let me tell you about one father and see what lessons we can garner from his example. It seems that a strange dog showed up at the preacher's house one day. It didn't take long for the preacher, his wife and their two sons to become attached to the mongrel. The dog was coal black, but there were three very prominent and distinct white hairs growing in its tail. About a week later, they noticed an ad about a lost dog in the local paper. The description tallied perfectly with their newfound friend - right down to the three white hairs in the tail. They were heartsick because they knew without a doubt the ad was in reference to the dog they had come to love. They were in a quandary. What would they do? What should they do? Would they ignore the ad as if they had not seen it? Would they call the owner and return the dog? Here the family had an opportunity to make a choice between right and wrong; between what they wanted to do and what they ought to do; between the easy and the hard. Each of us is faced daily with such a dilemma. What will we do when confronted with a choice of right and wrong? How will we handle the situation? In the Ephesians text, Paul has reminded us that the days are evil, so it is imperative that we walk wisely. In the Colossian letter he adds three vital insights as to how to do that. This is Father's Day; Fathers: walk in wisdom. But father or not, the principles apply to all who would walk in wisdom.
    1. When we think of opportunity, two figures come to mind:
      1. First: the ancient Greeks depicted opportunity as a runner; bald but for a long lock of hair on the forehead. The point is that you can seize opportunity when it is present, but you cannot catch it once it is past. Then it is out of reach.
      2. Second: a statue with winged feet and a face covered with long flowing hair. The sculptor said, "This is opportunity; its face is covered because we often don't recognize it as it comes and it has winged feet because it swiftly passes by."
    2. Some people say, "Opportunity only knocks once." True and false.
      1. It is true some opportunities are here but once and you seize them or miss them forever.
      2. But, at the same time, other opportunities are with us frequently; yet we must not presume that opportunity will remain.
    3. Every encounter, every difficulty, every problem, every decision represents opportunity. You have opportunity right now.  And never forget that the flip side of opportunity is responsibility!
      1. To lead your child or some other individual to know Jesus Christ.
      2. To make or break the self-confidence of your child or that of someone else. You can build on their successes, point out their good points, help them succeed or destroy them.
      3. To reach out and touch and help those who are bearing incredible burdens too heavy for their backs, too big for their shoulders.
      4. To make someone feel welcome and included here or shut out and unwanted.
      5. To give God glory for the good things that happen, or to take the credit or to bless good luck for them.
    4. William Taylor said, "We travel through this world only once; so let us live to some purpose. The day that dawned this morning will never come again. The opportunities it brought will never return. If we fail to fill our measure of time with the service it requires of us there will be no possibility of returning to this day to repair the mischief. The wheels of time's chariot have ratchets on them - they move only forward!"
The preacher's family was faced with a choice that was also an opportunity to be people of integrity. At the insistence of the preacher's wife, they phoned the owner and let him come see the dog. The man showed up at the preacher's house that evening to claim the dog. But the preacher, thinking himself quite clever, had disguised the dog. He winked at his boys as he removed the three telling white hairs from the dog's coal black tail. It was his intention to make the animal appear to be a similar, but different, dog. His conduct was a contradiction to his confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Now, many act quite decently and honestly and honorably who have no relationship to Jesus; but if we have a relationship with Him, our conduct ought to jibe and be consistent with our confession. Fathers: walk in wisdom. And what does that mean?
    1. While Christianity is not in essence or at the very basis mere behavior, still behavior is part of the package. Paul said,
      1. "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;" Philippians 1:27 (NASB).
      2. "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called," Ephesians 4:1 (NASB).
      3. "You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;" 1 Thessalonians 2:10 (NASB).
    2. When you consider your conduct or behavior, there are some significant considerations:
      1. "Will this bring glory or shame to Christ and His church?"
      2. "Will this behavior radiate Christ or obscure Him?"
      3. "Will this conduct lead someone else astray or help them walk closer to Christ?"
      4. "Will this harm me, destroy my reputation, or damage others?"
      5. "Will this ruin or establish my testimony as a Christian?"
      6. Will this grieve or bring joy to Jesus?"
    3. Conduct counts! Behavior matters! It influences others, and blesses or grieves our heavenly Father.
    4. A doctor gave medical treatment to six young girls of doubtful morals and invited them to church. Surprisingly, they came! But several members of the congregation were incensed! They gasped when the young women shyly walked into the worship center, and for the next two Sundays they totally ignored the girls, though they did a lot of glaring. Then someone started a whisper campaign and soon there was a demand that such undesirable creatures be kept out of their church. But no action was necessary - the girls never came back. The conduct of that congregation was reprehensible and disgraceful. It harmed the girls and grieved the heart of the Father.
The conduct of the preacher who plucked out the three white hairs was no better than the conduct of that congregation. When the dog's owner came to the house, the dog showed every sign of recognition and welcome, so the man was ready to take her home. The preacher spoke up, "Didn't you say the dog would be identified by three white hairs in her tail?" Thus speaking, he uttered an implied untruth. The owner, unable to find the white hairs was forced to leave without his pet. Not only did the preacher fail in his conduct, but he added to his sin by a lie. His behavior was off track and so was his speech. Fathers: walk in wisdom! What will that mean?
    1. The Bible has much to say about what we say:
      1. Hear Solomon:
        1. "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise." Proverbs 10:19 (NASB).
        2. "He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." Proverbs 17:27 (NASB).
        3. "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 29:20 (NASB).
      2. Hear Jesus: "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." Matthew 12:36-37 (NASB).
      3. Hear Paul: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29 (NASB).
      4. Hear James:
        1. "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless." James 1:26 (NASB).
        2. "But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." James 3:8-10 (NASB).
    2. So what's the issue? What is so important about mere words?
      1. Words are an indicator of an internal condition of heart. "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." Matthew 12:34 (NASB).
      2. Words, contra that old lie "Words can never hurt me" are harmful. They crush, maim, demean, discourage and belittle.
      3. Words once uttered can not be retrieved anymore than smoke blown to the wind.
    3. Words are powerful tools for good or ill; for building or tearing down; for helping or hindering.
    4. So, the words of that child song are fitting: "Oh, be careful little mouth what you say; oh be careful, little mouth what you say; for the Father up above is looking down in love; oh be careful little mouth what you say!"
The preacher's misuse of opportunity to do right, his abysmal behavior and untrue speech was costly. He kept the dog - and lost his boys. They grew up with no respect for him, for the church or for the Bible he preached. What an onus rests upon us all: walk in wisdom! Make the most of every opportunity do to right; maintain Godly conduct; Monitor your speech. Someone is watching, learning, following - and it might be your children! Let the words, "I would be true" be more than a song; let them express your commitment; let it be your lifestyle; let it be your character. Walk in wisdom as you make the most of each opportunity, as you maintain Godly conduct and as you monitor your speech.
Story from unknown source

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