The Earthly Search for a Heavenly Father

Written by Jack Hayford
The Earthly Search for a Heavenly Father

…you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God… – Romans 8:15, 16

I don’t know any part of our lives in which there is more confusion than in the area of authority relationships. And tragically, the fallout of that confusion always manifests itself in a limited perspective on Father God and His relationship to us.

There is only one resolution, and it’s found in having our relationship with Father God brought fully into completion. You may wonder, “Pastor Jack, I am a believer in Jesus Christ. What do you mean about my relationship to Father God being limited?” That’s a good question, and without going into an extended teaching on the Trinity, let me explain.

Jesus came to show us the Father

After He finished His ministry, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to advance what He began, which was to show us the Father. In John chapter 1 it says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus was the only One who could mirror the Father, the only One who was a true and pure expression of Him. People saw Him “full of grace and truth.”

Most of us know that “Abba” means “Daddy,” and that’s not just an interesting or nice fact. By Jesus, God has both mirrored Himself in His Son and poured forth His Spirit into our hearts that we might relate to Him in an intimate way, as our “Papa God.”

Irrespective of how good your relationships may have been with various authority figures throughout your life (parents, older siblings, teachers, employers, pastors, etc.), all of us, nonetheless, have certain points at which something imperfect has tarnished our sense of what Father God, the ultimate authority figure, is really like. I’ve spoken many times with people who, in private counsel, tell me, “You speak of having a relationship with Papa God, but I don’t even want to talk about that. When I think of ‘Papa,’ I can’t think of anything good.” These dear ones are hindered from knowing who their Heavenly Father truly is because of violation or damage by an authority relationship that has stained their picture of Him.

Let’s begin by looking at John chapter 20. Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb, not knowing that Jesus had been resurrected, and began to weep upon finding it empty. But then she saw the living Jesus, and Mary ran to embrace Him; it was the most natural thing any person would do, finding someone alive whom they thought was dead. And doubtless Mary’s embrace was returned, though not in an immoral way.

But then Jesus said, “Do not cling to me,” instructing her to go to His disciples and tell them He was ascending, in His words, “to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” Jesus had fulfilled His mission as Savior-Redeemer so the wall of sin could be broken down and now those who’d put their trust in Him could come to Father God. By telling Mary not to cling to Him, Jesus was saying that the time come to quit focusing on the physical presence of the picture of God that He had given in His Person, and to become intimately and personally acquainted with “Abba Father” for herself.

Like Mary, all of us tend to an earthly search for the Heavenly Father. And while there is an appropriate and spiritual way in which the Lord will use people to help us see what Father God is like, often that can become twisted or distorted, adding to the confusion.

Where and how the picture of Father God is broken

There are three basic relationships in life, any of which, if violated, can damage one’s image of Father God. They are:

The parent-child relationship where the primary task is to train, care for, and grow up the child.

The husband-wife relationship which is a redemptive partnership.

The brother-sister relationship which involves keeping and assisting people. This extends beyond biological siblings to authority relationships such as parent-teacher and employer-employee, among others.

Then there are six basic violations of human authority relationships that sever trust and result in broken pictures of the Father:

Lust, which hinders one’s sense of confidence and security to move into an intimate relationship with Papa God. Lust poisons and pollutes the possibility of a pure image of the Father coming into your heart.

Neglectful treatment such as fathers who never hugged their children or told them, “I love you.”

Weak men who engender an unforgiving attitude in their children and, ironically, can provoke them into the same kind of behavior.

Injurious relationships in which an authority figure is unduly stern, unreasonably demanding, or physically or emotionally abusive.

Disappointing relationships with authority figures who don’t keep their promises.

Absent authority figures such as a father who is out of home due to death, divorce, or desertion.

God’s answer to those broken pictures

Jesus has declared the Father to us (John 14), and while some might say they love Jesus because He’s patient and understanding, they cower at the idea of feeling that way about the Father because He sits on the throne. They may or may not hold God to blame for violating or disappointing them, but they have layered their image of damaged authority onto God’s face. But the final resolution of issues we struggle with will only happen when we come to know and personally relate to our Heavenly Father; the earthly search will never satisfy that.

In John 17: 6, 8, and 22 Jesus reveals He’s shown us three things about the Father: His Name, which is indicative of God’s character; His Word, in which God fulfills all His promises, and His glory, which is His presence. Jesus comes to usher us into an into sense of Papa God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit comes to make the Father real to us, not just in theological ideas.

No matter how hard another person may try (or how much we may attempt to put them on a pedestal), there can never be a human substitute for depending on God, for having an intimate and personal relationship with Him. Only Father God can secure you (Psalm 27:10), only Father God can sustain you (Isaiah 49:13-17), only Father God can shape you (Isaiah 64:8), and only Father God will satisfy you (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

What must we do to open the door?

Some people have yet to discover the Father’s Person because they have never renounced a “false paternity.” That have established lying authority over themselves, and it will require one or more of the following actions to bring deliverance and open the way to an intimate, fulfilling relationship with Daddy God.

Confess any case in which you’ve sinned by allowing a substitute for Father God, which is idolatry.

Forgive those damaging things that were imposed on you. You may be innocent of them, but you’re not innocent of nursing the hatred, refusing to be comforted, or holding onto bitterness.

Repent of any conscious disobedience, selfishness, rebellion, or manipulation.

Accept the God-given authority He’s given you. All of us need to do that. The Father is the One to whom who we ultimately relate for the answer to our deepest yearnings and our hunger for security and strength.

Copyright © 1982, 2010 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries. All rights reserved.

Our gift of this teaching article by Pastor Jack Hayford is made possible by your gracious support of the ministry. Partner with us online or call toll-free 1-800-776-8180 to donate (within the U.S.).