Becoming the Man God Wants You to Be
On the evenings of July 12th – July 15th, it was my good pleasure to share this series of messages with a group of 6th – 8th grade boys. This series served as our evening cabin devotionals at the 2010 FC Missouri Camp. I appreciate the attention and the focus that these young men showed during the study of this very important topic! This material was adapted from Robert Lewis’ book, Raising A Mondern-Day Knight. To those young men, to whom I came to know more personally during the week I leave this personal message:
Guys, Thanks for sharing a little bit of your summer with me. I regret that we were not able to spend even more time together. I left camp not having gotten to know some of you as well as I would have liked, but I hope you will be back next year and we can continue to work on those relationships.
Remember the invitation that I gave you to come to the Teen and Pre-Teen Studies in Kansas City (depending on whether you have crossed that magical dividing-line called “13”). Watch the fcmocamp.com website for dates, locations and directions. Also, if you ever need to talk about any of the kinds of things that we talked about this week at camp, call me or e-mail me. If you want to write an article for my website, particularly the Remembering My Creator page, send it to me via e-mail.
I know our day’s were filled with lots of good stuff. We were tired at the end of the day. The days ran late and we did not always have the time to cover this material to the degree that I had planned. I am glad to share the material with you here and would challenge you to an even deeper study of it in your own quiet time with God. Feel free to leave your public comments or if you would rather comment to me privately, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I love you guys and my earnest desire and prayer for you is that you might be saved in the day of judgement and that you will grow spiritually here to become the men God wants you to be. I have no greater joy than to know that you walk in the Lord!
Your Friend and Brother,
Monday – The Need for a Model
It is so very important that boys, growing to manhood in our time, receive this message. Our culture is in deep trouble because we have lost our vision for manhood.
There are three important questions that boys growing up in our culture need to know.
What is a man? What process produces a man? How do you know when you’ve become a man? Most, if not all of you, have dads that will help you answer these questions and ensure that you become a man of strength, heart, conviction and vision.
Sam Rayburn, one of this nation’s most powerful political leaders, recalled fondly during his latter years the days in 1900 when his father took him in horse and buggy to the train station as he headed off for college. As Sam’s father bid farewell to his son, he handed him $25. Realizing the sacrifice that his father had to make to give him that money, Sam was very touched. But then his dad uttered words that Sam wound fondly remember at later times of crises in his life. “Sam, be a man.”
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth said, “Act like Men.” (1st Corinthians 16:13) They had many problems, including conflicts among Christians who were pledging their allegiance to those who had converted them rather than to Jesus.
My suggestion is that we look at the Knighthood Model of the Medieval Ages to see what lessons we can learn about the process of becoming a man. But ultimately, we are not so concerned about making boys into knights but in determining how a boy becomes the man God wants him to be.
What knighthood offered that is lacking in our culture is a clear, biblically grounded definition of manhood, a process to embrace to achieve manhood, and a ceremony to celebrate a boys passing into manhood.
The “clearly marked path” from boy to man included 3 stages. The first stage was the Page Stage. At age 7 or 8, a boy went to live in a castle and learned of armor and weapons and performed household tasks at the castle. The second state was the Squire Stage. At age 14, a boy traveled with a knight who served as his mentor, instilling in him rigorous discipline. The squire served his knight in the most menial of tasks. The third stage was the Knight State. At age 21, a young man became eligible for knighthood and went through an elaborate initiation to confer it.
The three components that we will study in our cabin devotionals this week are: a vision for manhood, a code of conduct for manhood and a transcendent cause in which to invest your life.
Tuesday – A Vision for Manhood
William Marshal is considered to be the ideal knight, living at the peak of knighthood during the twelfth century. His courage and chivalry is illustrated by an incident that occurred in May 1197, as he lead an attack against the castle of Milli in France. As the battle burned strong, Marshal observed one of his men caught in the great fork of an attacker and hanging from the neck on a ladder that had been placed against the wall of the castle. Climbing the ladder by himself, Marshal freed his fellow night from his predicament. Historians say that Marshal’s valor proved to be the difference in the valor as his band of knights achieved the victory storming the castle.
Marshal demonstrated other worthy traits common of the knight’s code of conduct. He loved his family. He made provision for each of his 10 children and loved his wife, Isabel, greatly. Two influences in Marshal’s life account for such strong character. Marshal had a powerful mentor in his first cousin, William of Tancarville. He also lived in a particular kind of culture which offered a clear path to manhood.
The Scriptures speak of another man who demonstrated a similar strength of character and suggested a clear path to manhood. That man was Moses and the passage is Deuteronomy 11:18-21. Moses identifies the path. Fathers were to lay up his words in their hearts and in their souls and bind them as a sign on their hand and as frontlets between their eyes and to teach them to their sons, talking of them when they sat in their house, when they walked along the road, when they lay upon their beds and when they rose up. They were to write them on the doorposts of their house and on their gates so that their days and the days of their sons would be multiplied on the which the Lord swore to their fathers to give them, as long as the heaves remained above the earth.
Historians report that the impact of the disciplined, rigorous lifestyle of knighthood at its peak, harnessed the “unrestrained passions of masculinity” mostly for good. Boys were trained from an early age! They were given a code of conduct! Their progress from adolescence to manhood was marked with ceremony and celebration.
Modern culture, on the other hand, does little to harness the energy and passions of men for good. Our culture is marked by some alarming statistics. Did you know that 90% of major crimes are committed by men? Men commit 100% of rapes, 95% of burglaries, 91% of offenses against families, and 94% of drunk drivers are men!
Boys become the men God wants them to be in the presence of a clear vision of manhood. But, “where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained” (Proverbs 29:18). In the past there were three sources for this vision. The community, like the Nuer people of Southern Sudan and various tribes of Native American Indians provided extreme initiations. In the past, the family often provided a vision for sons as they grew to carry on the family name, the family business, family traditions, etc. But today we live in the era of the “absent father.” In the past, churches took a strong stand in proclaiming the role of husbands and fathers. But today, many churches have given in to the feminist ideology and abandoned the teaching of Scripture relative to the man’s responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the family.
Scripture (1st Corinthians 15:45-47) gives us two examples, one positive and one negative, that symbolize the essence of masculinity. Adam illustrates life separated from God and a failed manhood. Adam was influenced by physical direction and based on fleshly desires. Christ, referred to as “the last Adam” in our text, represents life in union with God and a successful manhood. Christ was influenced by spiritual direction and based on faith.
One way to look at the examples of Adam and Christ is to note the defining differences between the two. I would suggest to you that these are components of the answer to the question, “What is a man?”. Robert Lewis in his book states them in terms of rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility, leading courageously and expecting the greater reward. Let us notice each of these in order.
A Real Man Rejects Passivity.
The male of the species is naturally, innately aggressive, ready to initiate, explorative, and competitive to achieve physically and psychologically. But his tendency is to be the polar opposite when it comes to the social and spiritual realm. The man who wants to be what God wants him to be has to reject this tendency to be passive. He must actively engage his whole soul, body and mind in the pursuit of spiritual goals and objectives and in leading his family to heaven. In this regard Adam failed to intervene as he stood by and watched the serpent tempt his wife and scripture says, “she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6). Jesus, on the other hand, initiated action. Philippians 2:5-8 speak of Him, emptying, taking the form of a servant, humbling himself, and becoming obedient.
A Real Man Accepts Responsibility.
Adam was given a will to obey (“don’t eat”), a work to do (“till the garden”) an a woman to love (Eve). He failed to accept his responsibility. Jesus was also given a will to obey (His Father’s), a work to do (save the lost) and a woman to love (the church). Jesus accepted His responsibilities and they defined His life as a man!
A Real Man Leads Courageously.
God created man to lead. But in order for us to do so we must “master” our passions. The Apostle Paul said, “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1st Corinthians 9:27).
A Real Man Expects The Greater Reward.
Manhood is challenging but not burdensome! Manhood was designed by God to be a means of great reward (John 10:10; 1st Corinthians 2:9; 1st Timothy 4:8; 6:6). Those rewards include an honorable name, an “excellent wife,” children who look up to and respect you, the respect of other men an a satisfying and fulfilling life!
Wednesday – A Code of Conduct for Manhood
Perhaps you have heard it said, “You are what you are when no one else is looking.” How true that statement is! We can pretend to be something we are not , but that pretense will not fool God and will only lead the hypocrite into further areas of conflict. Brother Dick Modin had an outstanding message about “Being You” in one of his evening devotionals.
Robert Lewis, in his book, retells the story, “The Catch of a Lifetime,” that initially appeared in the February 1989 Reader’s Digest. In the story, James P. Lenfestey tells of an 11-year-old boy’s fishing adventure with his dad on a New Hampshire lake. As the story goes, the boy caught an amazingly large bass but hooked it two hours before bass season officially opened, so his father made him throw it back. One of the points of the story was that no one else was around, so no one else would have known, but the father insisted that his son abide by the fishing regulations and throw the bass back. Lewis says, “The incident occurred 34 years ago. Never again would the boy catch such a magnificent fish. But what he did catch that day was something much better: a lesson in moral character. For as his father taught him, ethics are simple matters of right and wrong. It is only the practice of ethics that is difficult. Do we do right when no one is looking? Do we refuse to cut corners… When a dad imparts a code of conduct, when he establishes boundaries and reinforces truth, a son is forever strengthened… (Proverbs 11:3)”
It is my hope and prayer that each of you has a dad who is imparting a code of conduct to you! I pray that you are seeing a father’s love being demonstrated toward you in how he establishes boundaries for you and how he reinforces truth for you! Because, my brother, you will be strengthened forever!
Let’s illustrate how our culture, despite progress in other areas, has failed to provide an adequate code of conduct for young people. In the 1940’s, major school problems included: talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls, cutting in line, dress code violations, and littering. Today’s major school problems include: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault. What is missing? I would suggest to you that it is a clearly defined, biblically grounded, code of conduct!
The Knight’s Code of Conduct stipulated that he must:
- Be Loyal
- Conduct himself like a champion by showing courage and valor
- Win the love of a woman by his romanticism and chivalry
- Practice generosity
In becoming the man God wants you to be:
You have a will to obey. Ecclesiastes 12: 1, 13 defines that will as remembering your creator in the days of your youth and to live all the days of your life fearing God and keeping His commandments. The Bible is your handbook. The handbook ideals include: loyalty (Hosea 6:6), servant-leadership (Matthew 20:26-27), kindness (Proverbs 19:22), humility (Philippians 2:3), purity (1st Timothy 4:12), honesty (Ephesians 4:25), self-discipline (1st Timothy 4:7-8), excellence (1st Corinthians 9:24), integrity (Proverbs 10:9), and perseverance (Galatians 6:9).
You have a work to do. You will have the opportunity as you grow and mature to determine what gifts and talents you have and make an appropriate selection for your chosen profession. But you will also have the opportunity to discover your spiritual giftedness. Don’t be afraid to try those things that initially seem uncomfortable to you. It is only through the process of growth described in Hebrews 5: 11- 6:3 that your are able to progress beyond the state of being “unskilled in the word of righteousness” to “go on to maturity.”
You will have a woman to love. This will be one of the most important earthly relationships you will ever have! She will play a central role in your life (Genesis 2:18). One of your chief responsibilities will be to take care of her (Ephesians 5:25-30), to be the provider for your family (1st Timothy 5:8), so that she can “work at home” (Titus 2:5). This is a great need today – for young men to realize their responsibility to prepare appropriately for vocations that will earn them enough to allow their wives to be engaged in the day-to-day care of their homes and children!
Thursday – A Transcendent Cause in Which to Invest Your Life
The “conventional vision” equates manhood with what a man does instead of who he is. When men get together, they often introduce themselves by name followed very quickly by a description of what they do for a living (i.e. “Hi, I am Randy, I am a lawyer.”
In the conventional model, a man’s value is earned, therefore he becomes highly competitive. The drive to accomplish, to win, to out-think, to out-work, to out-earn the other guy motivates him in much of what he does! Often, this evaluation of man’s value creates a lopsided time management system with higher priorities placed on job-related tasks than on family-oriented activities.
Success is the goal in this model of manhood. A level of this type of thinking will be a natural outgrowth of the “work ethic” that God expects all men to innately possess. But When “climbing the corporate ladder” becomes the primary goal of a man’s existence, often a man’s marriage relationship, and his relationships with his kids suffer.
In the conventional model, power is the reward. And often this power becomes “intoxicating,” driving the wedge even deeper between the man and his wife and kids. This component is more appropriate to God’s vision for manhood when the word “power” is replaced with the word “influence.” Corporate success that puts us in a position to influence more people with the gospel is good (what Paul calls the adorning of the gospel in Titus 2:10).
The final component of this conventional vision is that success brings wealth and affluence. But the down side is that it rarely satisfies! Note in the passage noted below, Solomon’s evaluation of the satisfaction brought by material wealth.
If held in proper balance, this conventional vision of manhood is not altogether wrong, but it is certainly incomplete! It lacks a transcendent cause in which we can invest our lives! It is lacking in a mission which lifts us beyond ourselves. It is laking in a passion which stirs us to self-sacrifice.
Solomon’s commentary on a life lived in the pursuit of earthly pleasures and rewards is found in Ecclesiastes 2:4-11. He says, “I enlarged my my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees…” He also says, “Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem…. I did not with withhold my heart from any pleasure….” His conclusion at the end of these experiences, “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” And then his conclusion at the end of the book, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment. everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
In his book, Robert Lewis tells the story of Bill Smith and how, on a plane trip he met a man who reminded him of himself in his younger days. The point of the story is that men, in the pursuit of this conventional vision of manhood, sometimes lose touch with their families and after a time find that, what they have worked so hard for is at the center of their lives, but everything else is crumbling around them. In the end of the story, Bill Smith explains to his new friend the meaning with which he filled the “hole in his heart” that was left by devoting all his energies in pursuit of the three goals of his life: to make a lot of money, to meet powerful/influential people and to travel. His life-changing decision to follow Jesus Christ invested his life with new meaning.
Until you commit your life to a cause that calls forth sacrifice, that is significant beyond the moment and is truly meaningful, no amount of success will satisfy your heart! Jesus is that transcendent cause in which, if you are wise, you will invest your life! Jesus calls forth sacrifice. He calls us all to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). Jesus is significant beyond the moment. He is the same yesterday, and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is truly meaningful. He the way, the truth and the life. He is the light of the world and those who follow Him will invest their lives with that more valuable than anything this world has to offer (John 14:6; 8:12).
This is important stuff guys! Please take it to heart! It was my pleasure to share this information with you this week and my challenge to you is this. Take the material that you received at camp this week and drill down deeper into it in your own quiet time with God. Read the scriptures. Think on them, and decide how you will respond. Will you grow spiritually from the the valuable instruction you have received this week and come to camp next year even stronger? Will you continue to build upon the new friendships you have made this week and to deepen the existing relationships? Or Will you simply move back into bad habits that you had before you came to camp and look back upon the week at camp as simply a week of summer fun? My prayer is that you will grow spiritually from your time this week.