Tag Archives: men

helmet and armor

Men Need Men

(A four-minute read)

If you’re a man, and lonely for a friend, or need encouragement, you need a man in your life, not a woman.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting down women. They are lovely and empathize well and are more likely to express their feelings overtly than a man. I married a woman, and she’s great!

But I’ve found that women in general are not as good at keeping me accountable as my male friends. And accountability is a critical thing in the life of men.

There are two reasons why I need men for this. One, my biggest challenges are not the same as a woman’s. That Mars-Venus thing is real. Two, there are things I can only share with a man, and won’t share with a woman, not even my wife.

Men Save My Life

Finding men to whom I can be accountable is an important survival tactic. I won’t thrive without it. These guys help keep me from avoidable (read: stupid) mistakes. They tell me the truth. They help me turn back to what’s right when I stumble.

The race of life is not a sprint. Nor is it a marathon. It’s not even a relay race. It’s a combination of the three. I run the race of life for the long haul, as fast as I can, but I do it in the midst of other runners whom I trust. We stick together.

These runners keep my eye on God’s horizon, so I stay on his narrow way, instead of wandering off into the weeds somewhere. It takes focus and dedication and thinking a different way than the world does. It works better in a group.

Men also keep me from freaking out. Don’t succumb to a spirit of fear, guys. You have power, can act in love and – in community – have a sound mind.2

Don’t Go Alone

Why did I add ‘in community’ here? Look at the context (2 Timothy 1:7-9). It’s about us: God has not given us; God who has saved us and called us; not by our works; His…grace which was given us.

Christian men can forget we must be an us not a me. We’re in this together – like it or not – but are all too often tempted to go it alone.

I was called to account on this just today – the day of this writing. I have a weekly call with a friend and in the course of our talking through what God is doing, what we are doing, where things are going, what we want to pray about, I mentioned that I want to learn more about the Fear of the Lord.

My friend immediately suggested we do that together, for accountability.

I’m abashed. I hadn’t thought of that. I forgot the point of this essay, that men are strong in community and weak alone. So I’m preaching to myself here.

Think about King David’s so-called Mighty Men. They were mighty because they were together as a force. Scripture shows that they were mighty as individuals, but they were much more mighty as a team. Read 2 Samuel 23:8-39 in this light. Of course in those days and in that culture how many foes they had slain was the mark of achievement.

Nowadays we are still in battle, but the weapons of our warfare are generally not for hurting flesh and blood as in David’s day. Instead, they are mighty for keeping our minds and hearts free of all the junk and lies the world throws at them.3 These weapons help us take territory from the enemy of God, the devil, and those who serve him. Too many of our family, friends and neighbors have been deceived into unwittingly doing the enemy’s bidding.4 We must fight on their behalf.

Even the Mightiest Can Fall

David himself fell into his great sins of adultery with Bathsheba, and the cowardly murder of her husband Uriah, because he didn’t stick with his men. He went off alone. It was in the spring of the year when kings go out to battle that David stayed back in Jerusalem, vulnerable and alone. He separated himself from his men.3

Men need one another. Let’s never forget that. Culture says otherwise, but don’t listen to it. Culture says men function best as individuals, that we can choose our own destinies. This is not true. The African proverb proves right here: alone we can only run fast, but together is how we run far.

Running fast, being alone, may get us to a destiny first, but we will find no one is there to celebrate with us. No one shares our victory. Running far, in our own groups of Mighty Men, gets us all successfully to the end of the race. And we will be victorious.5 And we will all celebrate together.

1. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
2. 2 Timothy 1:7
3. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
4. 2 Samuel 11:1
5. Philippians 3:12

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relay race

Run the Race

(a three minute read)

I’ve just come off a long weekend with 50 other men. It was called Returning Sons, clearly a reference to Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son, who returned to his father after a period of, well, let’s just call it ‘questionable living.’

Anyway, these types of Christian retreats are always uplifting, inspirational, meaningful and memorable. We cook meat. We burn stuff. We camp out. We sing and pray together. We prophesy over one another. We cover old ground and dig up new. Long-time friendships are rekindled and new ones are born. We breathe in fresh life and leave renewed because we take much time to praise God and reverence Him.

But then what?

As I write this, it’s now Wednesday – the third day. And one of our tribe, Jake, just posted this on the group chat:

‘This is about the time whether to choose to keep the momentum going or to drop back in to cruise mode and make it “just another conference”.’

Oh, ain’t that the truth! Thanks Jake, for shaking my tree. I attended Returning Sons for exactly that reason – to get out of cruise mode. In modern Britain, living a middle-class life, it’s way too easy to cruise.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes an observation, followed by indispensable advice:

‘Do you not know that all those who run in a race run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain it. Everyone who strives for the prize exercises self-control in all things…’ 1

Keep your eye on the finish line, but know you get there in part by exercising self-control. It’s hard to do that alone.

A simple reading of these verses suggests a sprint, where one runner finishes first and gets the gold. But life (like Scripture) is deeper and more nuanced than this.

In my school years I was a long-distance runner, part of a cross-country team. Sure, we all wanted to finish first in our six-mile (now 10,000 meter) race. We worked and worked to get our times down. But more important than getting the trophy was helping the team win.

Cross-country works like this: The lowest scoring team wins. The first runner across the line gets one point, the second two points, and so on, through the first five runners on a team. If I’m the sixth or seventh finisher on my team I don’t score points, but I can keep my adversary from scoring points by displacing him to a lower finishing position.

You can see there is individual strategy here as well as team strategy.

Like my Christian life, I run the race, but I run with multiple outcomes in mind. I have to manage my own race (with self-discipline) and be aware of what my body is doing and what it’s capable of doing.

At the same time, I need to encourage my brothers as I run. My teammate Scott and I were well-matched in ability, so we’d run as a pair, egging one another on, keeping one another going, and pacing ourselves.

Finally, I need to keep an eye on my position in the pack. Where am I in the overall group – am I top five? Was I top five on my team? Was I ahead of the top runners on other teams?

I can’t win a team race alone. I need my brothers. Our relationships are valuable and vital. Some are ahead of me and some behind, but we are together.

It’s the same in the Christian life. We run the race, but we are only victorious together. You’ve heard the folk wisdom: if you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.

Again, the apostle Paul refers to this teamwork in his letter to the Romans: ‘I always thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…2 ‘For I long to see you…so that you may be strengthened…’ 3 This is so that I may be encouraged together with you by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.’ 4

So back to Jake’s question: Do I ‘keep the momentum going or drop back in to cruise mode?’

This is set against a larger backdrop, namely whether I am a producer of Godly relationships and encouragement, or merely a consumer of them. This investment – to be a producer – is vital to my growth and success. I need to keep after it and stay stuck in. If I invest in a weekend away for a transformational experience, I must allow God to change me through it. And keep changing me. Otherwise it’s merely transitory.

The choice is mine to keep the momentum going. I’m the one who is running the race. When I look back I lose. I must press on.

‘Brothers…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ 5

To successfully reach forward, I have to regard where I am with all honesty, and find men to share that with. Iron sharpens iron5 it’s true, and it’s also true that iron left to itself will rust and become useless.

Thanks and honor go to all the men in my life who help keep me sharp and rust-free. You know who you are, and you know that I love you.

1. 1 Corinthians 9:24
2. Romans 1:8
3. Romans 1:11
4. Romans 1:12
5. Philippians 3:13-14
6. Proverbs 27:17

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