It wasn’t easy growing up with a metabolism that traveled at the speed of light. Yes, I was the skinny kid. The painfully skinny kid of middle school. Although a slender physique does lend itself not having to count calories, it does nothing to profit an insecure sixth grader. I was an easy target for bullies and in more fights than I can remember…usually on the losing end. I really didn’t like sports, because physical activity and me really didn’t get along. Picture a new-born horse. Long gangly legs that can’t seem to coordinate the concept of movement in a graceful way. This was my profile in my first year of middle school. Awkwardly put together would be an understatement. I was head and shoulders taller than all the other kids, but physically much weaker than others my age. Even the girls.
I still remember the week it all changed. It started off in gym class one day. The coach had us divide up into teams to play basket ball….shirts and skins. Of course, as fate would have it I was on the skins team. Needless to say my bird chest and bony arms provided an ample laugh for the other boys. The game started and one of the kids on my team passed me the ball. I shot, and as usual, I missed. The boy who passed me the ball yelled a sarcastic remark at me and I yelled back at him. Yeah, not such a good idea when the boy yelling at you outweighs you by at least fifty pounds. Needless to say I ended up going to the nurses office with a black eye.
Later on that week in gym class, we had pull up competitions. Everyone in class could at least do one pull up, even the girls. Everyone except…yep, you guess it. Everyone except me. I was devastated. But this humiliating week was the straw to break the camel’s back. I had finally had enough. I was tired of being the skinny, weak kid. But I had quite the uphill battle ahead of me. My friends and I loved watching professional wrestling. The men the stepped into the ring each week were mountains of muscle. They trained long hard hours in the weight room to achieve their dominant statures. And I knew that this was where my journey would begin.
I signed up for a weight lifting club at the school. This was quite humbling. The weights were intimidating and I had no idea what I was doing. I began buying work out magazines and slowly learned how to design my own routines. I eventually talked my parents into buying me a gym membership at the age of fourteen. The gym was a good thirty minute drive from our house, but my parents were so supportive and loving that they drove me every single day to that gym. While other kids were playing the new Nintendo Entertainment System (I know I’m dating myself), I was spending my after school hours in an iron jungle lifting weights. I gladly traded leisure and comfort for sweat and pain. I trained hard and woke up the next morning sore all over, but eagerly went to the gym again the next day. I began to actually relish the pain of being sore, because I realized this was a byproduct of pushing myself hard.
Pretty soon I realized that diet had just as much to do with physique as training. I disciplined myself to cut out the junk food, and to eat high protein foods along with clean fruits and vegetables. It was quite a chore to be a teenager and not partake in enormous amounts of junk food. But my desire to transform myself physically far outweighed the sacrifice. Results were not immediate. It was very slow. While many other friends of mine could just pick up a weight and put on muscle rather quickly, with my skinny build, I had to literally fight for every pound of muscle I gained. And then I had to work twice as hard to keep it. There was a lot of sacrifice given to changing my skeleton like appearance. But again, the goal far outweighed what I was giving up.
I look back on that journey today and thank God for the trial. I still like to workout, although now I do it for health and not for appearance sake. I still eat clean ( for the most part), but more so to take care of myself. Even though this quest was birthed out of a rather vain pursuit, it taught me a discipline that I’ve learned to extend to every area of life.
Nothing worth having comes without a fight. There can be no victory without a struggle. Every prize worth attaining comes not without sacrifice. And manhood is such a journey as this. You see, when I was growing up, I thought what defined a real man was the one with the biggest muscles, or the man who was the best athlete, or the best hunter. Basically all the things that the world defines as manly. But I was so very wrong.
When Lacy and I had our first son, we named him Andy. I’ve yet to meet the person who said that their baby named itself. A husband and wife create a baby, and the creator is the one who defines the creation. In the same way, God made man. And the men that were most recognized by God were defined differently than we define men today. God defined them, not culture.
They were men of faith. They were men of prayer. They were men who stood strong in the face of persecution. They were men of God. And God still calls men to Biblical Manhood today, but there are few who are willing to pay the sacrifice.
It is awkward for a man to start praying with his wife daily. You may feel the skinny kid who is struggling to do one pull up in front of a class full of athletes, but God will honor your efforts. And over time, what was once awkward will little by little become more the norm. It’s challenging to lead your kids in family worship daily. You may feel like a person who has just walked into a gym for the first time and has no clue as to how to design an exercise routine much less use the machines. But God will honor your dedication. And you will learn what works and what does not, and begin to see transformation. It is humbling to own up to past sins. Pride is the number one killer of Biblical manhood. But God will honor true repentance.
Biblical manhood is never achieved without men being strong and persevering through the hard things.
Men of God are not born naturally, they are forged like iron. Jesus never said follow Him would be easy. He never said all it would take is a small sacrifice of driving to church once a week and trying to be a good person. Rather, he challenged his disciples to count the costs, because unless they were willing to persevere through in the hard things, Jesus said they would fail.
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28-33.
Men were made to work. Men were made to strive. Men were made to seek out great adventures. Little boys begin at an early age wrestling and playing superheroes in the backyard. And this doesn’t change when men get older. Grown men are drawn to video games and movies based on great adventures. Sadly, we’ve cheated our God-given adventure seeking nature and settled for less than what we were created for.
God never designed men to play video games. God never designed men to live vicariously in front of a television set. God created men to live the greatest adventure of advancing the Kingdom of God. So many men are bored out of their minds at a typical Sunday morning church service, and rightly so! God never designed men to sit complacently in a pew!! He designed men to live with a passion for Him! To be soldiers of His great Gospel, and seeking to make Christ known first to our families, then our communities, and ultimately the nations!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.
Men, we have been called to a great adventure of GLOBAL proportions. Unfortunately, Satan has robbed men of their joy and lulled many men to sleep, leading them away from experiencing such abundant life. And because many men have not realized what it is God created them for, they keep searching to fulfill this deep longing of the soul for accomplishment in other temporal things that will never eternally satisfy.
If a person is extremely out of shape, the journey to achieve their fitness goals can seem like a thousand mile hike. And because of the distance, many will give up before they get started in frustration. But although results are not immediate, the one who overcomes is who takes that first step. The one who runs that first mile, and continues to do so even though it is not easy.
In the same way, it is not easy to lead for Christ. It is not easy begin to read the Word daily. But the one who perseveres is the one who reaches the goal. The greatest man who has ever or will ever walk the face of this earth (besides Jesus) was John the Baptist. Jesus said this about John;
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Matthew 11:11.
John the Baptist was a man’s man. He would be the mile marker God would use as a standard for biblical men. John the Baptist was not concerned with the latest fashions or caught up in attempts to please other men. One trait that enveloped John was a trait that is almost lost in men today. And that trait is self denial.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30.
These were the words John the Baptist lived by. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Do these words describe you? When you are tired after a long day of work, it is so much easier to feel entitled to just veg out on the couch. It takes self denial to love your wife. To check on her heart. It takes self denial to work hard all day, and then come home and spend time with your kids wrestling and playing. It takes self denial to pray with your family at night and disciple them in the things of the Lord. These are all hard things for a man to do. But what was it about John the Baptist that made him stand out above all other men?
“He must increase, I must decrease.”
It’s hard to read the Bible. But He must increase.
Its easier to watch TV. But I must decrease.
It’s hard to begin praying with your spouse. He must increase.
Its easier to just turn over and go to sleep. But I must decrease.
It’s hard to make family worship mandatory with your kids. He must increase.
Its much easier to talk about their day at school. But I must decrease.
Real men die to themselves every day. There is a difference between biblical men…real men, and boys who can shave. It is a thousand mile walk into biblical manhood. When will you take the first step? When will you begin training for the race? There is no prize without sacrifice. And there can be no true man without God.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.