Quit You Like Men

I’ve been working on a course I’ll be teaching in our Bible college, “Christian Manhood.” We often bemoan the lack of manhood in our generation, yet, it is nothing peculiar to our generation. Calling for men to be men is something that goes back further than any of us living today can remember. Manhood may be something more easily recognized when it is missing than when it is exhibited. But the charge to men to be men goes back as far as man.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Paul exhorted the Corinthians, among other things, to “quit you like men.”  A way of saying, “be manly” or “act like men.”  That means there is a way that is manly that is commonly understood.  Yet, as we consider manhood, it is a moving target in this world.  What one generation considers manly differs from other generations.  What certain cultures consider to be the characteristics of manliness differ from that of counter cultures.

For some, their idea of manhood comes from what is portrayed in the movies put out by Hollywood.  It can include everthing from the muscular weapon bearing man who is able to perform impossible feats against an unimaginable foe to the man who can drink more than anyone else, smoke more than anyone else, and be surrounded by more women than other men.  There are those who define being a man simply by what one is able to endure in the world of sports – the physical capabilities being greater than another’s coordination or strength.

In all generations there has been the need for champions; those heroes we look to, who in some way do what other other men only dream of doing.  Somehow, they become the “real men” and the rest of us are, well, less real?  One of the problems we have to deal with today, and again it is not necessarily new, is defining what it means to be a man.  A real, honest to God, man.

If we look to the world to define, for us, what manhood is, we will have an ever changing idea of manhood; ever shifting sands, upon which building will leave men frustrated and for the most part feeling unfulfilled.  However, if we look to the Word of God to find out what the Creator of man intends for man to be – we can find real fulfilment in the gender God chose for us to posses.  The God-man, Jesus Christ, is the greatest man to have ever set foot upon this terrestrial ball we call earth.  Yet for many, the perception of Jesus is not one of manliness, but softness.  He may be the most misunderstood man that has ever walked this planet in addition to being the greatest.  That should teach us something in itself.  Those who would desire to live up to the gender God made them, may not feel like they’ve hit the mark if they judge themselves by the world’s standard, and may be misunderstood as weak and pathetic the closer they come to God’s idea of manhood.

It’s not that Christian manhood produces weak men; the contrary is true.  It is a matter of the measure you use to determine the level of manhood or to define the word, “real.”

The world may stand in awe of the man who can lift great amounts of weight.  Yet, the difference between the Christian man and the man of the world is the reason for lifting the weight.  One is to impress his fellow man with his ability – the other is to accomplish the task that His God has given him to do.

The world may stand amazed at the man who can endure great pain and suffering.  Yet, the difference between the Christian man and the man of the world is “for what” he is willing to suffer.  One revels in his ability to go longer without breaking than others – the other is willing to suffer “for right” even while knowing it may not be long that he is capable of enduring.

The world may measure a man as manly because of the amount of vice that doesn’t seem to affect him, or the number of others, who also engaged in the same vices, which accept him among their number.  Yet, the difference between the Christian man and the man of the world is the company he chooses to keep.  The Christian man realizes that he cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God.  That he cannot keep company with fools who deny God and the power of God, and at the same time fellowship with the Saviour of the World.  How can one promote and participate happily in the world from which he needs a Saviour?  To do so sends a message that he does not see himself truly in need of a Saviour.

And maybe this is the real issue.  Men who see themselves as men, yet needing a Saviour, versus the men who interpret the need of a Saviour as robbing them of their manliness.

I propose that sin strips man of his manliness – it keeps man from truly being what God made man to be.  No man can restore himself to manliness, but through Christ the old man can be passed away and the new man can be realized – the man restored in the image of Him Who created Him.

We need a new definition of manhood – really, an original definition of manhood that has been lost.  We need to reject, and teach our children to reject the ideas that come out of this world that do not lead a man to greater heights but instead, bring a man low – even unto death.  We need to get men to Christ and allow Him to do a work in man that allows that man to realize his real potential – to labor together with God in the greatest of causes.

The more like Christ one becomes, the greater the man he becomes.  The less like Christ one decides to live, the further from mahood he descends.  Oh, may we heed Paul’s words to the Corinthians.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Vessels of Earth

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

For the past week I’ve been physically ill and have felt so limited.  My regular schedule already leaves me feeling, from day to day, that I can never accomplish everything that needs to be done.  My desk hardly ever sees the light of day, and the back burner never goes out.  Then, when you add illness on top of that, it is a recipe for feeling even less capable.  My illness has affected my throat and it is painful to swallow, let alone speak.  When you’re the pastor, not being able to speak makes you feel even more useless.  What good can come out of this?  How can being sick help me to do what God has called me to do?  Or what others depend upon me to do?

I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels…”  That is all we are, vessels of earth – of clay.  God has put the most wonderful, valuable, incredible treasure, not into vessels of fine gold or some other durable substance, but into frail, breakable, and unimpressive vessels of earth.  This was not a mistake on God’s part.  He purposely chose that we, who would carry the message of the Gospel, and know the riches of Christ, be nothing more than vessels made from the dust of this world.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:14

Have you ever felt useless?  Have you ever felt incapable?  Have you ever thought that you’re not up to the task?  Have you ever wondered why God didn’t choose someone else more capable, or who seems to “have it all together?”  Well, you’re not alone in wondering, but there is an answer if you’ll accept it.  “…that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”   God is not looking at our vessel the same as we do.  He does not expect our vessel to be impressive.  In fact, the less impressive our vessel is, the more impressed others can be with God instead of us.  It’s not our power, but His power that needs to be excellent.

Sometimes we just need reminders of what we are made of.  We are something He has formed and fashioned for His purposes.  Not every vessel will be the same size, the same shape, or for the same purpose.  However, every vessel has its purpose – not to be questioned by the vessel, but accepted by the vessel.  What matters is not what we want to be used to do, but how He chooses to use us.  Not what we can handle, but Whose hands we are in.  Not that we are trophies, but that we carry His treasure.  We are clay and it is futile – absolutely useless – to pretend we are anything more.  A reminder by illness or circumstances outside of our control are needed from time to time lest we forget the real source of excellency – the real power behind what it appears we do.  For our value is not determined by what we can do, but by the One who has chosen to use us earthen vessels.

Thanks for the reminder Paul!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Meekness is not Weakness

The apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12 that one of the things we are to “put on” as the elect of God, born-again believers, is meekness.  Meekness is sometimes defined as humility, because it requires humility, but meekness is deciding not to use or show all of your strength.  It is keeping your strength under control. In fact, real meekness hides your strength so well that the perception by others could be that you are weak. 

The example God gives of the man who was “very meek,” even more so than any other man on earth at the time, was Moses. One could hardly call Moses weak. He had strength. He killed a man, faced Pharaoh, led the Israelites out of bondage, across the desert and through the Red Sea.   He had gone up in the mountain while others at the foot of the mountain stood in fear.   But God said of Moses that he was “very meek.”

In the same chapter where God points out his meekness, nothing more is said of it, and no definition is given. Yet those words are there for a purpose and if we examine what took place, we can see that to Moses’s sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron, Moses must have appeared weak; so weak that they were emboldened and not afraid to speak against him as God’s servant. 

Meekness is not weakness. But it can appear to others that way. Jesus called Himself meek. 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” – Matthew 11:29

Who of us would call Jesus weak?  But there were those who thought He was weak because He did not show His power when most men would believe it necessary to show their strength.  He allowed Himself to be arrested. He did not answer His accusers, He allowed the mock trial to proceed, and allowed Pilate to think himself in charge by not challenging his power.   As they stood around the cross, they mockingly called to Jesus to save Himself. He could have, but He did not use His power or strength for Himself. He restrained His power for our sakes. 

We need to put on meekness even though those around us may feel emboldened because they perceive in us a weakness.  Meekness is a thing of beauty to God; as it is in a woman to a man. 

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” – 1 Peter 3:4

In a world where boys are being feminized, or at the other end manliness is associated with macho. May the Christian man find himself the gentleman. The man who has strength and knows when and where to properly use that strength; in the service of others and not for self preservation or self promotion. 

Put on meekness.