Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Being a Man (Pt 2)

1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” To “act like men” means to act or behave like a fully mature man. It carries the idea of acting or living courageously. But what does that mean? Yesterday I reflected on the truth that to act like a man means to have the courage to stand alone. It also means having the courage to take the difficult path.

Just because something is hard does not necessarily mean it is right. I had a friend years ago who believed that if something was hard, difficult, or uncomfortable then that must be what God wanted him to do. That is bad theology. There is rest in following Christ. Hebrews 4:9 says, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” If rest is a central part of following Christ, then always choosing the path I do not want, or making the choice that is most difficult seems contrary to the will and purpose of God. Because my friend was trained and gifted in certain areas, he believed that it would be wrong for him to pursue work in those areas. That seemed too easy and therefore, he reasoned, it could not be God’s will. But it is God who gifts us. It would be a denial of God’s purpose to reject or ignore those giftings. So, hard does not necessarily mean right.

Always choosing to follow the easy path, however, is also bad theology. Matthew 7:13 warns that, “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction.” If you always choose the easy path you will fail to love your wife and family, you will fail to reach your potential, and you will fail to accomplish your calling. Marriage and family takes work. It is sometimes easier to walk away, but that is hardly God’s will. He calls husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). Read the record of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36ff), or the arrest, trial, and crucifixion that followed. Jesus path was hardly easy. If I am to love my wife like that, then it sometimes means sacrifice on my part for her good.

One of the things that irritates me is when a child will fail to try something because it is hard. Maybe they are not ready yet. I get that. But if they never learn to make difficult choices, if they never learn to do things that are hard, then they will never learn to succeed. No one becomes a great athlete by making the easy choices. To be a great athlete takes discipline, determination, and lots of hard work. No one becomes a great leader by only making easy choices. The leaders who always make the easy choices actually fail to lead. They become wishy washy. They change their minds and their direction often depending on the prevailing wind of opinion around them. They are not respected or honored. Great leadership takes hard decisions and personal discipline.

Acting like a man means being courageous enough to follow the path in which God is leading you no matter how hard it is. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Ps 23:4). Acting like a man means being courageous enough to love your wife no matter what. It means being courageous enough to love and discipline your children in ways that are in their best interest no matter what they want. It might mean taking a job you don’t like in order to feed your family. It might mean sacrificing something you want in order to stay out of debt and save for the future of your family. It might mean stepping into a ministry or leadership role that you don’t feel qualified for. I’ll let you in on a secret, no one is ever qualified for ministry and leadership. Effective ministry and leadership is about dependence on God, not independence and self-assurance. Acting like a man means being courageous enough to take the difficult path when that is where God leads. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor 16:13).

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