Features, Highlights

Passing on a godly legacy

Paul Khoo (left) leading the worship session with father, Julian (not in photo), and his son, Matthew

On 17 Oct 2020, “Passing on a Godly Legacy”, which was organised by a group of fathers, was held online. It was a call for Methodist fathers to gather, hear and learn about Godly fatherhood. 614 people from Methodist and other churches, both local and overseas, attended the webinar. This is an excerpt from Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung’s exhortation, which opened the online event.

I strongly support the Church’s push to equip fathers for their role in the family, and in their children’s growing up, to reclaim the spiritual position of fathers and to hold in esteem their role and responsibility as fathers. This is where fathers learn together with their sons and daughters, become companions on life’s journey, so that each may live a joyous, vibrant life and be a blessing to those near us.

There are many passages within the Bible directed at men, such as in the Book of Proverbs, that show us how to be good fathers and sons after God’s heart. The Bible tells of many such people who are worthy of our emulation. But there were also many great characters whose shortcomings left much to regret. For example, Abraham could not bridge the gap between his sons Ishmael and Isaac, and their enmity has lasted for generations. The resentment between Jacob and Esau, the twins born to Isaac, grew into deep hatred. Jacob had 12 children, but his older sons were united in their bitterness towards their brother Joseph, so they sold him off to Egypt.

But even after the Israelites settled in Canaan, we see the jealousy of King Saul (1 Sam 18), King David’s treachery (2 Sam 11), and how the violence continued (2 Sam 12). King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of which were of Gentile origin (1 Kings 11:1­–3). Eli the priest had two sons who behaved blasphemously towards Jehovah (1 Sam 2:12–25), not to mention that among the kings of the north and south kingdoms of Israel are many who, in Jehovah’s eyes, were wicked because of their idol worship and intermarrying with non-Jews.

Anyone, if they are not careful, can easily be tainted by vices and unrighteous ways.

By nature, we do not lean towards goodness or want to learn good. We need an elder, friend or companion, to watch over, urge and prompt us throughout our life’s journey, and to be our role model and encourage us during times of weakness and transgression.

An excellent father is never absent from his child’s growth. The kind of person a child becomes in the future rests largely on what their father teaches or leaves them with. This may also happen in certain unexpected, unplanned moments, without expressed teaching. If the father is devoted to his unique status and role, we will surely bring up a generation of good men, good husbands and good fathers.

I believe that by having such a platform to share about the challenges of fatherhood, the heart lessons, difficulties and joys, as well as being able to pray for one another, become chatgroup buddies, we can surely play out our role as fathers much better. We can become men after God’s heart, and as a result, our children will be richly blessed, and we will have greater bliss and joy in the family.

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(from left to right) Tan Gee Paw, Peter Tan and John Wu sharing their fatherhood experiences at the “Passing on a Godly Legacy” webinar
Jason Wong shares a photo of fathers from the Elijah7000 movement praying at 5 a.m. at Kum Yan MC (before COVID-19)

Fatherhood is a divinely-appointed duty. “Once you become a father, you cannot choose to ‘un-father’ yourself, whether your children are prodigal or not. In fact, the more prodigal they are, the more fathering is required,” said Tan Gee Paw, one of the speakers at “Passing on a Godly Legacy”, a webinar organised by the Methodist Father’s Movement (MFM) and held on 17 Oct 2020.

This was the first public event under The Methodist Church in Singapore’s (MCS) One MCS initiative, which encourages members from its three Annual Conferences to come together to support one another and bless the community. Six hundred and fourteen participants—Methodists and non-Methodists from Singapore, as well as participants from Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Vietnam—joined the two-hour Zoom session.

The event was helmed by three speakers from different generations: Gee Paw (in his 70s); Mr Peter Tan (coming to his 60s); and Mr John Wu (in his 40s). The three men shared their fathering experiences and the lessons they have learnt with an authenticity and humility that resonated deeply with all participants.

Love versus duty

Gee Paw recalled, “My father was always working hard as money was hard to come by. One day, when I was about seven years old, we were walking along Waterloo Street, where we had a rented room, to look for supper. For the first time, my father put his hand at the back of my head and led me along, with the rest of the family walking behind. At that moment, I learnt to distinguish between a father’s love and his duty.”

That was back when Asian fathers were conventionally not physically demonstrative with their affection, and Gee Paw realised then that it is important for fathers to express love to their children in a personal way. “Children expect their fathers to provide, but what they yearn is to feel the love of their father.”

Trust and friendship

Children often teach us more than we teach them. Gee Paw recalled when his elder daughter was in primary school, she unexpectedly and anxiously called him on the phone. “I forgot my Chinese textbook,” she blurted, before abruptly hanging up. Despite being busy in the office, he immediately drove home, collected whatever Chinese books he could find and brought them to her school. As he arrived, he saw her waiting for him at the school gate, although he had not told her he would be coming. It was then that God revealed to him what trust meant.

“In the panic of life, you can trust your Heavenly Father. In times of hardship, we can turn to him.” Just as his daughter trusted him without question and believed that he would show up with her textbook, our Heavenly Father wants us to trust Him. Gee Paw resolved, from that day on, that He would be a father who could be trusted to see his children through the difficulties they faced. “Our children must trust completely that we will take care of them.”

After this incident, father and daughter became best friends, and his daughter readily confides in him to this day. Just as Jesus is our best friend, earthly fathers should strive to be best friends and confidantes to their children, especially during their teenage years.

The privilege of being called “father”

To be called “father”, just as God is called, is a tremendous honour, responsibility and privilege. “When fathers fail in their responsibility as a father, they actually betray God,” said Peter Tan, who facilitated the discussion.

Peter had an absent father, but was blessed to have Gee Paw as his Sunday School teacher at Barker Road Methodist Church. Gee Paw’s example made him think about the kind of father he wanted to be.

A school principal for more than 20 years, Peter shares that message to fathers every year through the ministries he serves. He reminds them that the greatest thing they can do for their children, besides teaching them to love God, is to love their mothers. “When wives are loved, they feel emotional warmth and psychological support. When a mother feels comfortable, the home is more stable.

“Besides loving their wives, fathers should treat every child just as they are, not having expectations or comparing them with other children. We should accept and love our children just as God made them.”

God is our role model

John also grew up without a father and was mentored by Peter, who guided and counselled him in his life’s journey. He shared that Peter gave him a safe place to be vulnerable, seek help and be allowed to make mistakes. John struggled with his identity as father until he became a Christian. As he grew to know and experience love from his Heavenly Father, his emotional wounds slowly healed.

He said, “Organisations can find someone else to replace you in a job, but a father is irreplaceable.” When his daughter was still a toddler, his wife once took a photo of her and him in which he was walking with his hands behind his back. She followed a few steps behind, mimicking her father’s posture.

“Our children want to follow in our footsteps. They respect and admire us. But if we do something bad, they will follow as well.” Similarly, fathers need to look to God as their model and guide so that they can show their children the right way.

He added, “Fathering is humbling and we must recognise our need for help. It is important to surround ourselves with godly men and brothers who do not judge, and can listen and pray with us. We will also make mistakes as we raise our children, but God is gracious and forgives.”

When his daughter was in primary school, they drifted apart. John said, “When our children move away from us, it is similar to how we move away from God. There is pain in our Father’s heart […] when that happens.”

His relationship with his daughter began to improve when he realised that he needed to provide a safe place for her, which meant sometimes putting aside his own feelings and controlling his tongue. Years later, God also spoke to her and she began to make changes in her life for the better. Just as God speaks to us, He can also speak to our children.

Our children are like empty vessels, longing to be filled with love

As the discussion drew to a close, Gee Paw shared an analogy. “Every child comes to their parents like a vessel that is empty, for their parents to take the time and effort to fill with unconditional love, or [the children will be filled] by the world with hatred, jealousy and strife.

“Just as vessels come in different shapes and sizes, every child is different. Some children bring small vessels that are easily topped up, while others have large vessels that never seem to get filled. Some vessels have wide openings that are easy to pour into, while others have narrow openings that require more effort.

“Whatever vessel the child brings, it is the parents’ responsibility to fill it till it overflows with love. When children have this reservoir of love, they will grow up strong and well-prepared to face life’s challenges.”

Never regret

When the three fathers were asked what they would change about their fathering journeys if they could, Peter shared that he would want to have spent more time with his children. As an educator, his work and commitments in church took up a lot of time. John likewise wished he had taken more time to be with his children when they felt vulnerable.

Gee Paw, on the other hand, shared that he had no regrets because despite our failures and imperfections, God is faithful. We may have failed to be the best fathers, but we should never live in regret because whatever the circumstances, all things work for good for those who love God (Rom 8:28).

He encouraged the participants: “God’s love is large enough to circumscribe all events in life such that all things will work out well in the end. The first prerequisite in fathering is to love God. So live life, enjoy your children and relax. Your life as a father will never be a life of regret.”

Fathers impact nations and generations

Jason Wong, Chairman of Focus on the Family, closed the meeting by sharing the heart of the Father’s Movement as well as why and how fathers can pass down a godly legacy to their children.

Fathers impact nations and generations. In Gen 18:18, God promised Abraham that he would be a great nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. “For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him” (Gen 18:19). When fathers teach their children the way of the Lord, God will impact the world through them. Jason also shared from Malachi 4:5­–6, which is the heart of the Elijah7000 Father’s Movement.

The two-hour webinar left participants feeling encouraged and blessed. Fatherhood is a high calling that requires God’s infinite grace and ability, and which ultimately impacts the generations that follow. Thankfully, even as fathering is a journey that lasts a lifetime, we can take comfort in knowing that there are others who walk with us. Most of all, we can rejoice that our Heavenly Father is our guide and that as long as we walk with Him, all will be well.

By the MCS Communications Team