Man-Up! >> A Message for Men

On Thursday mornings at 6:30, a group of men meet in the fellowship hall at CCO for what we call EpicLife. Our goal is to recover and install a Biblical model of manhood. It’s in-depth discipleship. One of the men describes it as “warrior training.” We won’t allow this fallen world nor our contemporary culture to shape our ideas about what it means to be a man.  We want to discover, then apply what God intends us to be → as MEN.
I had the privilege of speaking to the men at EpicLife this morning. I want to share that here . . .

The letter of James has much to say to us in our pursuit of God’s idea of what it means to be a man.

James 1:2–8 • My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let’s break this down.

My brethren >> This refers of course to the family of God’s redeemed sons and daughters. But certainly James means this as being applicable in a special way to men, thus his use of “brethren.”

My brethren, count it >> The word means to consider something, to regard it as such, to come to a settle opinion on something. This is a reckoning that becomes a person’s settled view.

My brethren, count it all joy >> The Greek word for joy is chara. It is morethan the passing emotion of euphoria. The word refers to the cause of that euphoric emotion that proves it’s there because you experience joy.

This illustration is weak but may help us see the difference. You’re watching Frodo & Sam labor up the side of Mt. Doom to destroy the ring in the last of the Lord of the Rings movies, The Return of the King. They collapse in utter exhaustion a couple hundred feet below the door to the Crack of Doom, the only place the ring can be destroyed. It doesn’t look like they’ll go another step.

They start to talk about their home far away in the Shire. Sam wonders what his friends are doing. He remembers their play among the green hills, the songs, the food and laughter. Frodo says he can no longer remember those things. The world is all a gray mist. The evil of the ring of power he carries has just about consumed him. But remembering home and all the good and innocence that is going to be lost if the ring isn’t destroyed, Sam gets a burst of energy, rises, and hoists Frodo onto his shoulders. Frodo won’t let Sam carry the ring, so Sam carries Frodo. He hauls him to the door and carries him to the very Crack of Doom where the ring is hurled into the fire and Middle Earth is saved.

Watching in our seat in the theater or at home on a cozy couch, we’re thrilled by Sam’s heroism. But it’s a movie. What Sam does isn’t ours. We only observe it and at best are inspired by it.

If the story were real, what would Sam feel? What would his emotion be as he hoisted Frodo onto his shoulders and hauled him into Mt. Doom? Even more, what would Sam’s abiding emotion be in the years after he returned to the Shire he single-handedly saved from destruction. Sitting in his living room with his wife Rosie and their three little munchkins running around his feet?

Joy! An indescribable sense of inner happiness, contentment, and peace that no external threat could ever take away.

This is what you and I as followers of Jesus are to have. Not just a joy that comes from hearing about the victory of others. It’s a joy gained from our own victories. Reading doesn’t bring this joy; LIVING brings it. Look →

My brethren, count it all joy when YOU fall into various trials,

The word fall means to encounter something accidentally. The trials James means aren’t blow-back from our foolishness nor consequences for our sin. He means the inevitable challenges we’re going to face in life. The hard things we wouldn’t chose, but nevertheless have to deal with.

We don’t need to seek out hardship on our own. We don’t need to, as the ancient Desert Hermits did, pursue a difficult life to prove our devotion to God. Our course through this fallen world will bring its own hardships. In fact, pursuing a hard course to prove ourselves may in fact short-circuit or complicate the path God intends for us. Hardships are coming; we don’t need to pursue them. We just need to be faithful when they come.

The word trials refers to a test that proves the quality of what’s tested.

You stop at the coffee-shop and buy a cup of coffee. It has a lid. You get into your car and put the cup into one of the 37 cup-holders they’re putting in new cars. Someone can’t tell what’s in that cup by looking at it. It might be an Americano, a mocha, or a triple shot café ole, no whip, soy, no sugar added. You drive down the street and hit a pothole. Now, what’s inside the cup jostles and some shots out the sip hole and drips down the side of the cup. Now others can see what’s inside the cup. The pothole revealed it.

That’s the idea here. Life has lots of potholes. It’s when we hit them that we discover what’s really inside us. We claim to be followers of Jesus; that’s the ‘cup’ we are. But it’s how we deal with the inevitable difficulties of life that reveal what we’re really made of. That’s when others can see, taste, smell what’s inside.

James calls us to change our perspective on the challenges that we’re going to face in life. He knows it’s human nature to seek the easy way and get upset when things are hard. He calls us to shift our perspective so instead of being bummed out when things are tough, we have a permanent opinion that regards the inevitable hard things as a plus. They are good. Not a bummer; they’re a boon.

Again, we aren’t to seek trials. He’s not calling us to pursue difficulty. We don’t need to; they’re coming all on their own. What we need to do is stop belly-aching about how hard life is and Man-Up!

James doesn’t just say, “Hey, Be happy.” He tells us why we’re to embrace a permanent attitude of joy. We need to take the long-view.→

My brethren, count it all joy when YOU fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

When facing something hard, instead of whining about it, we’re to look thru it to what it can produce in us by God’s grace.

Here is where the natural world furnishes us with a great object lesson. The vast majority of people who work out or go to the gym don’t actually like running or lifting weights. It’s hard. It hurts. In fact, they want it to hurt because they know it’s that challenge that produces the results they’re working out FOR; to get stronger and build endurance.

You see people at the gym who don’t get this and don’t like sweating or raising their heart-rate. The gym for them is a place to show off their latest outfit and meet and chat with friends. They avoid any pain or discomfort like the plague. You can tell just by looking at them they don’t get what being at the gym is for.

No pain: No gain.

The Fall sold out Planet Earth to the devil and sin. And the Fall is still in effect. Things continue to fall; the natural direction of the world is down, not up. But you and I are called to rise with Christ. We’re headed in the opposite direction from the current of this fallen and falling world. That means running face-first into all kinds of difficulty. To lay hold of the life and virtue Jesus made possible for us, we must repent of our penchant for the wide and easy, and actively take hold of the narrow, more difficult path. This doesn’t mean we become some kind of twisted spiritual masochists. No; we look through the trials and challenges to what virtues they produce; patience, courage, integrity, loyalty, and all the flavors of the fruit of the Spirit.

But let patience have its perfect [full] work, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.

This is especially potent for us as men; the need to be mature, full-grown MEN. Not just old boys.
Our culture has really done a number on men. Men have been emasculated, feminized, neutered, metroed, and kept stunted by a society that attributes all that’s wrong with the world to men. That’s a lie born in the deepest pit of hell. The devil is afraid of men who are real men as God intends because they are warriors who know the real battle is with him and he’s already lost. So he does everything he can to silence that message and distort what it means to be a Man. He’s done a good job over the generations at turning men into mockeries of themselves. He deceives them to be either cowards or brutes.

Let’s be honest: Homosexuality is nothing less than a satanic ploy to destroy men. How perfectly insidious than to get a man to identify as something else at the core of his identity. Then, what a coup if satan can get an entire society to accept that as normal, acceptable, an alternative lifestyle?

To be a mature man, not just a grown up boy, we need to consider life in this world like an obstacle course to get thru as fast and as well as possible. We’re not going to wimp out and sit down, whining about how hard it is. We’re not going to go around, or cheat to get it over with. We’re going to go through it, realizing that the one who designed the course is using it to make us better, faster, stronger.

To make us champions.

We’ll end there but vs. 5-8 are part of this. Read them on your own and meditate on how what James says there applies to this. He speaks about asking God for wisdom. For what? For this!