The Power of a Father’s Faith
He doesn’t have to say much. What he says, or does not say, will have a mighty impact. The course of my life has been guided at times by just a few words from my father. What he says, and what he does, is watched more carefully than he knows. Every boy loves his mother, but every boy emulates his father.
It has been this way for centuries. And it was no different for Saint Augustine in the fourth century.
Augustine was “raised in a Christian home.” His mother was a Christian and he refers to himself as a believer from an early age. But not everyone in his household shared the same worldview. In his work Confessions, Augustine writes:
“I then already believed; and my mother, and the whole household, except my father; yet did not he prevail over he power of my mother’s piety in me, that as he did not yet believe, so neither should I. For it was her earnest care that Thou my God, rather than he, shouldest be my father; and in this Thou didst aid her to prevail over her husband, whom she, the better, obeyed, therein also obeying Thee, who hast so commanded.” 1
If there is one thing to be learned in todays culture of disposable marriages, it is the importance of being united with your spouse in a worldview.
Augustine found himself in a home divided between a mother’s heart for Christ and a father’s heart yet unopened.
“As he did not yet believe, so neither should I.”
A father’s worldview is powerful.
But our Father’s ways are more powerful. In his wisdom did he aid Augustine’s mother to “prevail over her husband,” all the while remaining in a spirit of respect for her husband and obedience to God.
How skillfully does God work through the women in our lives, allowing them to guide and teach us, to shape our thinking without insult, to strengthen our character without offense, and to exercise patience without contempt.
But in the beginning, Augustine followed his earthly father:
“Thou light of my heart, Thou bread of my inmost soul, Thou Power who givest vigour to my mind, who quickenest my thoughts, I love Thee not. I committed fornication against Thee, and all around me thus fornicating there echoed ‘Well done! well done!’ for the friendship of this world is fornication against Thee. . .” 2
Augustine spends the early pages of his work lamenting the burden of his studies. He was being trained to be a great orator. But as a young boy, he preferred mischief and play, and he frequently questioned why God allowed him to stray so far for so long.
“Is not all this smoke and wind? and was there nothing else whereon to exercise my wit and tongue? Thy praises, Lord, Thy praises might have stayed the yet tender shoot of my heart by the prop of Thy Scriptures; so had it not trailed away amid these empty trifles, a defiled prey for the fowls of the air. For in more ways than one do men sacrifice to the rebellious angels.” 3
His parents would not be united in a Christian worldview until his father’s conversion shortly before his death.
Author and apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias shares a personal story about a father’s change of heart. His brother-in-law’s father was a devout Hindu all his life until the very end, where he shocked his family with this revelation:
“‘All my life I have just wanted one thing, and that is the truth. And now as I’m dying, I’m discovering it now; I wish I’d discovered it earlier. I want to tell all of you I have found the truth. Do you know what it is?” he said. Friends from all around the Temple were standing around the bed, in this Toronto bed, and he looked at them and he said, “I have found the truth today, it is in Jesus Christ, my Savior, and I hope that today you, too, will find him and that truth in Him.’ His children, grandchildren, and all of his friends stunned with it.” 4
(Watch the video HERE, scrub to 1:02)
How many tender shoots are growing under your roof? Are their hearts being propped up by the substance of faith? Or are they trailing away towards empty trifles?
The fowls in the air are many, screeching “Well done! well done!” as they circle overhead in rebellion.
A father’s faith is powerful.
In whom are you putting yours?
1 Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Tr. by Edward Bouverie Pusey, Kindle Ed., 13.
2 Ibid., 14.
3 Ibid., 18.
4 Ravi Zacharias, “A Night With Dr. Ravi Zacharias at Highlands Church,” http://vimeo.com/30771866
Photo Credit: Philippe Champaigne (1602-1674), PD
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About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.