This is not the letter I wanted to write; if I it were down to me I’d write to you words of encouragement, words that would tell of Christ and his salvation, words that would paint pictures of the abounding love, grace and peace of God. But I can’t, there’s a greater burden on my heart, a burden that can no longer be ignored. This letter needs to be written and as no one seems to be writing it would seem that I must despite my lack of qualifications, my young age or that I write this letter to myself as much as anyone else.
More than anything I write to you as children because that is who we are. I do not like this knowledge but I find it to be undeniable: we are children, mere infants, because we have fallen so far short of the biblical call to manhood. We are children because our lives are marked by a distinct lack of responsibility, an abundance of apathy, an absence of discipline and a mindset of cowardice and fear. We call ourselves men but this is but a fiction for if we were men we would shake the world. Make no mistake, I will not mince my words or seek to hide behind pleasantries, I will be blunt, honest and hard because I will address you as the men you are not. This letter, if written correctly, will hurt you for I intend to strip you of everything and then lead you to Christ. In doing so brothers I strip myself of everything and lead myself to Christ, so come, if you are brave enough, let us face our faults, find them to be true, fall on our knees before God and so stand tall as men.
Though we are children and this is to our shame; it is not to our discouragement. Open your Bible and read and you will soon see that for every mighty deed performed by a godly man for his Father God there is a tragic act of sin and rebellion as well. Most of the men we see in the Word of God are no different to ourselves today: weak, confused, easily led astray, undisciplined, ungrateful, cowardly, foolish and childish. We are, brothers, in excellent company. This does not provide us with an excuse for there are other men who show us what it like to walk blameless before God, remember Job, Elisha, Daniel, Paul and of course in a category slightly higher than them all: our Saviour Jesus Christ. And if that weren’t enough there is the history of the great men of the church who did deeds that show our own paltry efforts to be feeble indeed. Shall I tell you of Martin Luther, George Whitefield, William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, John Paton, William Carey, Martin Lloyd Jones, Jonathan Edwards or a whole host of other saints who bare witness to what a godly man can achieve? Are their lives not to our shame?
My friends, you cannot deceive me, I know how you feel and who causes your heart to soar. I know that when I talk about strength and courage you prick up your ears, I know that when I say the words ‘Warrior of Christ’ your heart skips a beat, I know that you long to do mighty deeds in the name of your Mighty God because that is how I feel, indeed, that is how all men of God feel. For us is the thrill in fighting, for us is the heat of the battle, for us is the battle cry of Christ Jesus our victorious head. Strength brothers, strength and courage, these words stir you, do not deny it, they stir wild emotions within, a longing to step up and be counted and a shame, a shame that all godly men suffer because we so often fail in this calling. When we should fight we run away, when we should speak we remain silent, when the glory of our Father God demands battle we flee with our tails between our legs.
Do you not yearn to be that man who has the courage and strength to stand up for his God, to step up to the mark and be counted as Christ’s? Once again, though you hide it from yourselves you cannot hide it from me: your hearts are enslaved to Christ, you are his and you cannot help but know this. Does this surprise you? It surprised me to learn that Jesus Christ meant more to me than I could possibly imagine, it surprised me to learn that though Christ slay me yet will I trust him, it surprised me to learn that I would do anything for my Saviour and King. But I do nothing. Now this is a strange thing. I hope you will forgive me for being presumptuous but you too are like me. I’m sure you would admit truthfully that you are prepared to do anything for the sake of Jesus and yet find yourself doing nothing or very little. We are the boys who do not want to grow up. We are children suppressing the very urge that would make us men.
Our diagnosis is this: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7v18-19) We know this to be true; our problem is that we know only this to be. You are aware of your weakness, yes, your weakness: your temper, your lusts, your impatience, your laziness, your fear, your sin. At least I hope you are aware of your sin if not then it will not be so long before you become aware for the Holy Spirit cannot be silenced forever.
Please, learn from my mistakes, I was proud, convinced of my own self importance, satisfied with my walk with God, I was a Christian far and above my brothers around me. I would read Paul saying that he was the worst of all sinners and disagree for Paul was more holy than I ever thought I was yet there was no way that I was the worst of all sinners. And so God broke me. The details are largely irrelevant, suffice to say I spent seven months living in his silence, I spent seven months with a cloud across my Father God’s shining countenance, I spent seven months in darkness of the soul. There came a time when all was black, to pray was more anguish than not to because in praying I would reach out for my Father and I won’t be able to find him, and I felt the urge to throw it all in and give up on Christianity. Immediately barriers came down in my mind and a verse sprung to mind: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.” (John 10v29) I couldn’t help but notice the contrast: I was angry at God for not being there, resentful of the silence I lived under, in despair at the darkness of my soul and in return he kept me close. Christ gathered me, his lamb, in his arms and carried me close to his heart (Isaiah 40v11).
Brokenness was now a reality I had to live with. My own sin is often before me as time and time again the good I want to do I do not do and the evil I don’t want to do I do. Truthfully now I would admit to being the worst of sinners because I turned aside from God and followed an idol, I reject him a hundred time by not speaking when I should, I defy his commands a thousand times more and take his exceedingly abundant grace for granted. My stubborn and cold heart is so slow to be warmed by the love of Christ. Willingly I nailed my Saviour to his cross. All too often I return and hammer them home a few more times. Yet still I stand, clothed in a righteousness not my own, washed by a blood from another’s veins, chosen by a will not my own and saved by a faith not of me but given.
As I was saying, we know of our brokenness, it is not hard to see. The more I think about this the more I am convinced that this is not our problem, indeed, it is our hope. The only way to stand is on our knees before God; yet we must face the reality that we are liable to be satisfied with crawling. Confronted with our own weakness we confront life with cowardice and fear. We see the sin in our life, we see the challenges of living for Christ, we see a hundred possible failures and so we fear and do nothing. Brothers, you know of what I speak of, your conscience betrays you, have you not known of a time when it was right to speak but you remained silent? Have you not thought of taking a risk but bowed out under fear of failure? What new paths have you forged recently? What leadership have you shown? What stand have you made for the glory of your God? Friends, when did you last dare to be a man?
Already I argue myself: it is too much this burden. I am so weak, why is Christian life so hard? Why does the battle have to be so tough? Why is fighting sin such a bitter struggle? The world lies before us in all its might, scorn, hatred and strength. The Evil One prowls around us penetrating our every weakness, hitting us hardest when we’re down and tempting us most with the sins we find hardest to put to death. This is the reality of the Christian walk. It is through much trail and tribulation that we will enter heaven. Knowing our weakness then should we not despair? Are we not fully justified in being so afraid? What’s the point in even trying or striving to holiness? With everything to die for and only brokenness to live for why do we go on?
Where is our faith? Where is our trust? Have we really forgotten the very gospel that saved us? Coward, I call you, and I would be right. You fearful boy, have you yet to grasp that whilst you are empty there is fullness to be found in Christ? Remember when Peter walked on water, saw the wind and waves and was afraid? Jesus rebuked him for his lack of faith. Brothers, that is a lesson all too pertinent for us today. We have no courage, we have no strength, we are so prone to silence because we have not the faith to shout. Yet the command to fear not is always followed by a promise that God is with us. Write Joshua 1v9 on your heart: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” With God with us all fear is heresy, with God with us all cowardice is folly, with God with us then we have a rock, a shield, a refuge and a mother hen to hide us under her wing (Psalm 91). If we truly believed God to be all he says he is then fear would be banished and we would stand tall in the strength of the one who is called the Almighty.
My fellow children, I sit here and dream of being a man, I dream of showing strength and courage, of standing tall and proud, boasting in the Lord, on my knees before God. My earnest desire is for a lion hearted meekness, a humble and indomitable courage, a full appreciation of my weakness and the strength to wrestle all the forces of darkness. These desires can only be fulfilled through Christ. It is a good thing to know of your weakness. It is a better thing to know of your Christ. I quoted earlier from Romans 7, allow me to finish it: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7v24-25) All too often we reach verse 24 and then forget verse 25. We know all too well our wretchedness; what we have yet to grasp is our Christfulness.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.” (Philippians 4v13) All too often our thoughts end with our weakness, it is too much for us to live distinctively, we are too weak, ask others Lord, we plead and to our shame we forget that God asks us nothing that he will not give us the strength to do. God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called. He does not call the strong but makes his power perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12v9). His grace is an ocean that cannot be measured; his love is vast, expansive and ever on his children and his mercy is abundant, shown forever in the cross. If we focus on our weakness and forget our God then we will be what we are this day. If we see our weakness then look further and see Christ is all his glory we will become more of the men we should be.
As I close this letter I urge you to pray, pray for courage, pray for strength, pray for manliness, pray that you would have the faith to see beyond your weakness and to the infinite love, power and grace of God. Ask that God would teach you to be a man after his own heart. This will be no easy path. But for the glory of Jesus Christ is it not worth it? Relying on ourselves has got us nowhere. Let us turn and seek out Christ and find in him everything we need to be godly men. Victory is certain, our future glory guaranteed, our souls are secure, so what is there to fear?
Yours in him,