“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” With these words from his third letter (3 John 4), John shows us what fatherhood is really all about. He underscores the endgame for fathers, and it is much simpler than we often consider – that our children walk in the truth. For a father, there is no greater joy.
It is worth noting that John was probably talking about his children in the faith – those he had taught and trained up in Christ. It is encouraging to know that even for those who don’t have biological children there is still tremendous opportunity and need for spiritual fathers who will guide and help shape young believers.
In his first letter John gives us a clue about how we can have the great joy of our children walking in the truth. “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:3). These things. What things? The things that help us understand the true nature of fellowship (or togetherness) with God and with each other (1:2). John wants His readers to experience in their daily lives the kind of walk with God that Jesus had spoken about in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John adds, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are…” (1 John 3:1). Our heavenly Father views us as His children – because He has made us that through Christ.
Simply put, John’s letters echo what Jesus taught in John 15 – that abiding in Christ will result in fruit and productivity, while not abiding in Him is a total waste. Believers have been given eternal life (John 3:16; 1 John 2:25), and that life doesn’t begin when we get to heaven; it begins the moment we believe. So we are not waiting for eternal life, we are simply waiting for some of the accompanying joys. Still, we have the opportunity, right here, right now, to walk with Him.
Jesus asks the Father for this very thing: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth…I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You…” (John 17:17, 20-21). He prayed for perfect unity among His children, so that “the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved me” (John 17:23). When we are walking with Him, as children, that walk portrays something important about God – something he wants the world to see, who He is, and what He has done.
Consequently, when we walk in the truth, we walk with Him. And when we walk with Him there is joy for us and for Him (John 17:13). That walk doesn’t happen by accident, though. Fathers are given the great responsibility of training up their children in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Fathers, if we wish for joy when it comes to our children, then let’s follow John’s example and invest in our children – leading by example, and teaching them to walk in the truth, to walk with Him every moment, every day. Let’s show them how to practice being with Him: to listen to what He says in His word, to pray without ceasing, and to share His joy with others. What greater gift can a father give his children? And what greater joy can children provide for their father?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but has eternal life” (John 3:16).