Q: What does fatherhood mean to you? And how is it similar and different from motherhood?
JR: I believe our heavenly Father wants fathers to lead and inspire their families to seek God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. There’s no question, God does want men to lead—but that doesn’t mean to “lord over” anyone. Even though God has told women to honor their husbands, He has made it clear that husbands are to “love their wives like Christ loves the church.” I think it’s what every girl and boy looks for in a father, and every wife seeks—a man they can admire and who will inspire them to get to know the Father.
RR: Fatherhood is the greatest honor in life. A mother’s love is irreplaceable and when a father compliments that with a godly love, it creates an atmosphere for wholeness. While our heavenly Father can fill any missing part, when a mother and father work together to demonstrate that to their children we fulfill our God-given roles in the family and, in the process, find a wholeness for ourselves.
Q: James, how did you approach fatherhood, and what did you want to model for your son?
JR: I did not have a father. The only father I had was God. I had a foster dad who was a small part of my life, but he was very busy as a pastor. He was certainly a positive influence; however, I did not see many men I could look up to, even when I was attending church. They were just “religious folks.” That’s sad to say but true. I wanted our children to get to know the Father. I felt inadequate in so many ways because I had not seen fatherhood modeled. I sought God and spent a tremendous amount of time praying for our children.
Betty, my wife, was the greatest example anyone could hope for—designed perfectly as my wife and the one who, in fact, helped meet our family’s needs. One of the greatest joys of my life has been helping her grow in confidence, fearlessness and an understanding that God could use her to bless so many people by her calm, quiet spirit and her deep love for God. In my opinion, she was the greatest influence on our children.
Q: Randy, what is sonship, and what impact did your relationship with your dad have on your understanding of sonship?
RR: Sonship is the fulfillment of the commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” When we honor our fathers, regardless of their imperfections, we honor God. In that, He honors us.
Q: Randy, you’ve spent many years working with your dad. How has that transformed or matured your relationship with him?
RR: Having your father as “boss” can be complicated. At the same time, it still comes down to honoring him in both roles. Understanding that has enabled me to seek my own place in both the family and the ministry.
Q: James, tell us about growing up without a Father and how God showed Himself as a Father to you.
JR: Not having a father caused me to observe other men that I thought were good fathers, and I tried to learn from them watching their relationship with their children. When I saw children begin to reflect the heavenly Father’s qualities, I really took note of how that father led. It definitely served as an example. There were many men in the cities where I preached who, in a way, tried to adopt me and fulfill dreams and visions that were never fulfilled in my life as a child. In many ways that was very positive, but in some ways it caused me to fix my eyes too much on seeing my unfulfilled dreams, fulfilled. I think pursuing my dreams in some ways distracted me from fulfilling God’s dreams for my life—His kingdom purpose.
It’s easy to put something positive and the fruit of freedom and its blessings ahead of God’s kingdom purpose. That did happen to me for a time, but because I did see the heavenly Father so clearly and the great qualities in other men’s lives, I was always drawn back to God’s will, which I think was very important. That’s why we all need to be concerned about our example—beginning with our own families, our neighbors and beyond.
Q: What does God’s character teach us about fatherhood?
JR: One of the things I’ve learned just observing God as Father is to see how unconditional His love is. I’ve often said He has never made me feel like He is disappointed in me; He’s disappointed for me. He knows that when I miss His will, I miss the fullness and fruitfulness that living the Word can bring. It short-circuits the blessings freedom offers. We need to keep the focus on the Father, His love—which is unconditional—and on the life Jesus demonstrated as He did only those things which pleased the Father. Dear God, help us to learn to do that—and it begins with a strong desire in our heart to do it.
I use the illustration of the prodigal’s father to show how unconditionally the Father loves us. He gave the boy the blessings he asked for—not because he earned them, but he just gave them in love. The boy wasted everything in riotous living and rebellion, even casting a bad light on the family. He was captured by sin and ended up in a pigpen. That’s the last place a Jewish boy wants to find himself. I feel like the father was looking every day for that boy to come back. I’ve often said I think he not only stood outside looking for him…I think he went not just to the first bend in the road to look but also the second and third bend. I even think he actually saw the boy in the pigpen and loved him just as much there in that mess as he did when the boy was home. Proof of that unshakable, unconditional love is when the boy returned home. He didn’t shame him; he covered him. He put the ring of sonship on his finger and peace on his feet. That’s how God loves all of us in all circumstances and failures.
Again, when we miss the mark, we suffer loss of the fruitfulness and the blessings living in the shelter and the shadow of the Father makes possible. We’re not going to find the “green pastures,” the “calm water,” and the “peace in the darkest valleys with his table before us in the presence of all our enemies” if we don’t desire the Father’s will and allow the Lord to be our Shepherd.
When we seek Him, we get His covering, His blessings, and the Shepherd’s watchcare and protection from the beasts of the field, and yes, the effect of the deceived dominating, destructive forces of any Goliath.
RR: Above all, it’s seeking the best for His (and our) children according to His truth.
Q: Randy, what’s the biggest lesson you learned from your father?
RR: Seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and every other good thing will be added as He sees fit.
Q: Let’s talk about the issue of father wounds. Why are they so detrimental?
JR: When we talk about father wounds, we can talk about wounds the father brings on us. My father brought many on me by being absent, by being a terrible example, by never loving me or caring for me. He never bought me a pair of shoes or, as far as I know, a meal. The brief time my alcoholic father was in our home, he tried to destroy my mother and me. It was very sad. One thing I knew, I didn’t want alcohol to have any effect on my life because of the horrific damage it caused my father and adversely affected in his life.
Q: Why is it important for someone to deal with their father wounds, and how do they do that?
JR: The wound I still know is huge in my life, and I’m sure there are several: I never had much-needed encouragement or heard a father say, “Way to go,” “Great catch,” “Great throw, “Great job.” I never heard that. That’s why it remains important to me for someone I respect to let me know I bless them or that my message is effective, they love to hear me preach. Those are encouraging words child needs—boy or girl—and every wife needs. So I’ve desired and chosen to be an encourager, and I believe God has given me the anointing to be one. I’ve been blessed to encourage many people who have impacted more lives than we can imagine. What a joy that is! That’s very fulfilling. I think I have become a father force to heal the wounds in many others, and I pray I haven’t imposed wounds on those I’ve been around and on my own family.
One thing I well-remember is when I failed and knew I failed, I certainly was aware that the children noticed it, and I would always make certain to tell them, “Dad was wrong. I handled that wrong. Forgive me. That was not best and wasn’t even right.” I think it’s important for children to hear fathers say, “I was wrong,” and ask for forgiveness from their own family.
Q: Let’s talk about legacy. Why should fathers be mindful of the legacy they are building and leaving for their children?
JR: I don’t really like to talk about legacy. It looks like something too much about us. But I think I was moved by God to try to say something very clearly not only to my family, but to our viewers and all the people who ever heard me preach. Billy Graham and his attorneys established my ministry as the James Robison Evangelistic Association. They set up the whole 501(c)(3) ministry. They did it excellently, guarding our ministry and our ministry against wounds Billy had seen poorly set-up organizations allow to be inflicted on their founders and the ministry leaders. They built it in such a way that they gave us a security and leadership that was amazing and very wise. They used my name, and as humble as Billy was, he never even gave thought to his name. But I knew people were putting ministers’ and leaders’ names up too high. I didn’t want our ministry to be the James Robison ministry or the James Robison television show. I wanted it to be something about life and fulfilling God’s kingdom purpose.
Through much prayer, we re-established the ministry totally as a 501(c)(3) church organization, Churches for LIFE and LIFE Outreach, and the television program, “LIFE Today.” It’s amazing how many other ministries were inspired to start emphasizing LIFE—even the titles of their ministries and television programming reflected that. It is “life” that He offers—and He offers it freely and abundantly…not necessarily with abundance of things, but abundance of life: His life. His love. I want people to love the ministry because of kingdom purpose being fulfilled and to support the purpose and effectiveness of it, not the personality. I think our children see that very clearly, and I believe with all my heart that is their desire: that we all be about God’s kingdom purpose. I think people see that in Randy and all of our family, including our grandchildren.
I’m honored that Daystar would ask us our feelings about fatherhood. I think it’s the first time Randy and I have done a father-son interview, even though we now do so much together on television. Randy and Sheila Walsh have become a team and, in our opinion, as effective as Betty and I are. That’s exactly the way we think about legacy. We don’t leave something behind that’s built around a personality, but God’s kingdom purpose.
RR: My goal is to leave a legacy that is not about me, but about Jesus Christ. Though my father’s ministry was built on his personality, he has sought “more of Him and less of me.” That is my vision for the future.
Q: Randy, what legacy has your dad passed down to you?
RR: James Robison has built an outreach on ministry and missions – helping hurting people in their physical, emotional and spiritual difficulties. My calling is to multiply the ministry and missions of LIFE. We will point more people to our heavenly Father, save more lives around the world and usher great multitudes in the Kingdom of God.