THE TRUE MEASURE OF A MAN

Sociologist, David Blankenhorn, in his 1994 book, ‘Fatherless America’ identified an alarming trend.

The United States is becoming an increasingly fatherless society… About 40% of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live… Never before have so many been voluntarily abandoned by their fathers…  Never before have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a father.

Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation… It is the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child sexual abuse, to domestic violence against women…

There is debate, even alarm, about specific social problems. Divorce. Out-of-wedlock child-bearing. Children growing up in poverty. Youth violence. Unsafe neighborhoods. Domestic violence. The weakening of parental authority. But in these discussions we seldom acknowledge the underlying phenomenon that binds together these otherwise desperate issues: the flight of males from their children’s lives…[i]

Stu Weber, in his book, ‘Four Pillars of A Man’s Heart echoes Blankenhorn’s sentiments:

…the root cause of the great bulk of our societal problems is fatherlessness. Another word for it would be a lack of manhood, for the term ‘father’ is the consummate masculine word. It is applied masculinity at its best. True fathering has very little to do with biology, but everything to do with responsibly caring for others. Whether a man has biological children or not, he is to be applying himself to fathering functions.[ii]

Weber is simply echoing the descriptive nature of spiritual maturity as described by John in his epistle. Spiritual maturity is being a ‘father.’ John, in describing spiritual development, classifies them by speaking of children, young men and finally fathers. “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.”[iii]

To grow up, to become spiritually mature means we become fathers, which is simply assuming responsibility for one’s life and the lives of others. It means willingly laying down our lives for the sake of those God calls us to serve. The apostle Paul reinforces this idea when he admonished the Corinthian believers by summarizing the nature of the Christian life in his concluding remarks in 1 Corinthians.    

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

Do everything in love.            [iv]

The New American Standard Version of this text translates it this way: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

But what does it mean to act like a man? We can see that in this context it means we must be vigilant, strong in our trust in God, courageous and above all, loving towards others. We need men to mentor and challenge others through their manner of life and example to grow spiritually. In our text today, we find the words of King David as he is dying, passing on some powerful words of instruction to his son Solomon in what it means to be a man. David is passing the torch of his kingdom to his son. He is relinquishing his responsibilities as king and turning them over to Solomon with these powerful words of instructions. In one sense it is a charge that every man needs to consider not only for himself, but also for the sake of those God is calling him to nurture, mentor and empower. Every man needs to take inventory about the legacy he is passing on to others. Let’s pick up this passing of the torch.

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.

I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said.  “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.[v]

What is the essence of this message that David is giving Solomon? He is to be the kind of man that will govern the nation successfully. For most of us, we need help just leading a family. How are we to hear and do what God is charging us to become? If we embrace David’s challenge to Solomon, which in reality is the charge of God to each and every man who knows God, then we will become the kind of man that God will use to impact the next generation.

Here we find three elements that reveal to us the nature and result of being a father or a godly man.

THE FIRST ELEMENT IN BEING A GODLY MAN IS TO BUILD A POWERFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

Fostering our relationship with God must become our first priority in life. If men are to step up and take responsibility not only for their own lives but also for the lives God entrusts to them, then we must grow in our relationship with God. Strength of character comes from a vital relationship with God. We were designed by God to be strong. John Eldredge, in his book Wild At Heart: Discovering The Secret Of A Man’s Soul writes,

…in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. …What is a man for? If you know what something is designed to do, then you know its purpose in life. …Let’s take adventure. Adam and all his sons after him are given an incredible mission: rule and subdue, be fruitful and multiply. …Let’s take another desire – why does a man long for a battle to fight? Because when we enter the story in Genesis, we step into a world at war. The lines have already been drawn. Evil is waiting to make its next move.[vi]

We need to understand that we are in a spiritual battle for our own soul and we must win that battle in order to help those around us.                   

A. Here in our text, David begins by challenging Solomon to be strong.

Why would he begin here? Solomon was an inexperienced young man. There would be incredible challenges ahead. There would be things so challenging that his soul might shrink back from them. I am sure David had in mind the words that God spoke to Joshua as Joshua was assuming the role of the leader and was about to embark on the great challenge of leading the people of God into the promise land. David, you have to remember, was a man that was deeply acquainted with the Word of God. David, the attributed author of Psalm 1, understands what is takes to prosper and succeed.

In Psalm 1, David challenges us to step away from evil influences, rather to meditate on God’s word, day and night in order to act upon them. This is the key to fulfilling God’s good purposes in our lives. David had reflected on the words in the first chapter of Joshua and is now restating that truth in Psalm 1. Hear God’s words to Joshua as he is about to embark on his great leadership responsibility.

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.[vii]

God makes promises that are conditional on our application of His word to our lives. What do we say? How do we say it? Is God’s word the criteria of our thoughts and words? Are we putting them into practice? When we do, we can anticipate that they will empower us to accomplish God’s purposes for our lives.

Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.[viii]

A great responsibility and an incredible task was set before Solomon. Solomon felt overwhelmed by the responsibility. Sometimes we feel like that as a parent, as a father. The responsibility of caring for our family. Regardless if we are married, or have children. God brings people into our lives that we are responsible for.  Yet God states that we are to be strong. The apostle Paul picks up this theme in his letter to the Ephesians. Regarding the incredible battle that we are engaged in our world. It is primarily a spiritual battle. It is a battle for our minds, and our affections. Whom will we serve? Ourselves? Our selfish desires? Or will we lay down our lives for the sake of our families and those God calls us to? 

In Ephesians 6:10 we read, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” We are challenged to find our strength in God. We are to be strong in him. We may be weak, we may feel inadequate for the task that has been laid out before us; but we are to find our strength in God. This was the verse that God gave me when I was about to enter the ministry. God knew that I would have to find strength in Him in order to do what He had called me to do.

David knew all about this kind of thing from his own experiences. While running from King Saul in the wilderness, he went to the land of the Philistines and worked under the king of Gath, in a town called Ziklag. David returned from a canceled military engagement to find that the town of Ziklag was burned to the ground and his family and those of his men taken captive by a raiding party of Amalekites. David and his men were so overwhelmed with sorrow, that they addressed their despair and anger toward David. How often in tragedy we tend to blame rather than look for solutions.

When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep….

David was greatly distressed because his men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.  But David found strength in the Lord his God.[ix]

David knew from experience that Solomon would need to find his strength in God to be the kind of leader he needed to be for the sake of the people, to be able to overcome some of the most challenging moments of his life.

When we are gone, our children and those God has called us to, will have been taught by our example to trust and depend on the Lord. He is the One that will be a Father to them. Solomon got the message. Listen to his prayer to God when God appeared to him at Gibeon.

Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.

Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?[x]

Solomon realized his great dependency on God. We hear it reflected in his prayer. How many have discovered that you are never too old to need a spiritual mentor? To have a father who cares, understands, and will give you good counsel. Sometimes we have that in a human father figure, but there will come times that we need to go to our heavenly Father to find our strength. He will strengthen us to continue in spite of difficulty because His grace. 

THE SECOND ELEMENT IN BEING A MAN IS TO BEHAVE LIKE ONE

In other words, men, we need to grow up!  We need to assume our responsibilities. I realize that many are struggling with what it means to be a man in our world that is continually trying to emasculate men. Men today are struggling with a sense of identity. Can we see how our society is struggling with identity issues? When we reject God’s model, exploitation and confusion are all that is left. Our culture portrays men in a variety of ways. There’s the macho version, the muscular, athletic, the smart, successful type or the Tim Allen type: handling life by making fun of it. Just laughing your way through. But what does it mean to be a man? Who are you modeling your life after?

We are given the perfect model of what a man ought to be from the Scriptures. Jesus Christ was not only God, but also the perfect man. Here was a man that remained single. Yet he fathered his disciples. He fathered the women who followed him. What was Jesus like? Jesus is the picture of true masculinity. He is loving, tender, forgiving, strong, standing for what is right by laying down his life for those He loves. When we look at Jesus we see a lifestyle that reveals some of the spiritual disciplines. These disciplines were practiced by the early church because the apostles saw how Jesus lived and embraced His lifestyle.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.[xi]

They were people who gave themselves to the study of the Word of God, to building relationships with each other, to observance of the communion table which is a renewal of their relationship with God and to communicating with God. In a capsule: A man of God, a champion for God, finds his strength in God, emulates the life of Christ and practices a disciplined lifestyle. He is going to be all he can be for the glory of God!  But he is not a loner. That is an image the movies have given us. A real man is someone that is interdependent on others, and absolutely dependent on God! What is the result of a manly, godly life? That person will become strong and confident in the Lord. He will address issues that affect the lives of others through both word, and more importantly, actions. We see in Jesus someone who evidenced dependance upon His heavenly Father. Jesus is the model of what a man, a leader, ought to be. He is there to serve others, rather than have them serving Him. People wanted to serve Jesus, because of the love He demonstrated to them. If you look at godly men from the Scriptures, people like Moses, David and Jesus, they served those whom they led.

Hey! Dad! That is our calling! It is time to grow up and assume responsibility in our lives. We are called to serve rather than be served. Certainly there are moments when you are appreciated, but for the most part, we don’t serve to get. There will be more moments when you will be criticized by the very people you are laying down your life for. Moses, David and Jesus were misunderstood, even by their followers. There were moments when they were criticized rather than being appreciated. But they still served, loved, and forgave. That is what fathering is all about. Serving for the sake of others. So what is the true measure of a man? The true measure of a man is not what he gets out of life, but rather what he puts or invests into life. It is what we put into the lives of others that really matters. It is what we invest in our families first, then others that will make an eternal difference. David challenges Solomon to be a man. The word “man” there can be translated as champion, a good man, a godly man. God is looking for champions today! Men who will be godly men.

THE FINAL ELEMENT IN BEING A MAN IS THE BENEFITS OF EMBRACING GOD’S STANDARDS OF MANHOOD

When we do what God says, amazing results happen in both our lives as men of God and those we are influencing. David stated it this way:

and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go,[xii]

What was David saying? Walk with God. How? By following the way of God as outlined in the Word of God. Even though we are no longer under the Old Covenant, as believers in Christ we are under a New Covenant. What are the requirements of the New Covenant? The New Covenant reveals a call to obedience, to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a call to follow Christ. So, what are some of the benefits of being a man of God? 

1. Men who follow God’s ways are the ones who will prosper in all they do and wherever they go.

Their lives will count in the lives of others. There comes a point where we cannot do much more for our children. When we are about to die, there is little more we can do. But we know that if they walk with God, God will take care of them. He is able to do for them what we cannot do. He is able to do for them what we never were able to do for them. He is always there! 

If Solomon kept the covenant provisions, David knew he would prosper! The idea of prosperity supersedes our general concept of materialistic gain. It speaks of a total sense of wellbeing. It speaks of wholeness. Can you imagine being promised success in all you do and wherever you go? That is the promise! God promises that to us. He states that He will never leave us or forsake us. It is incredible! He is always there to help us.

2. Our children receive an incredible heritage.

I am not just speaking of biological children. We can father many people. In the passage before us, David is promised an incredible inheritance by God. In II Samuel 7:4-16, David was promised a descendant upon his throne if they would walk in the ways of God. Even when they failed, God in his mercy kept David’s light burning in Jerusalem. One of his descendants ruled as king of Judah until the exile. They were never cut off. You can trace David’s line all the way down to Mary and Joseph who were both descendants of King David. Jesus Christ Himself wasw born of that lineage. God is able to do what He says, in spite of man’s unfaithful and sinful ways.

This speaks to me of what God wants to do in our lives. He desires that our families continue to walk with Him. If you are a godly person, God has an inheritance in store for you. The power of a godly life is the spiritual legacy that we leave for our children. How powerful is a man’s influence in the life of his children?

In an article entitled, “Father for life”, Gene Veith states:

The one factor that most clearly determines the well-being and future success of children is whether or not they grew up with a father in the home. Sociologist and family expert Wade Horn, chairman of the National Fatherhood Initiative, reviewed the research and compiled some telling statistics:

Seventy percent of long-term prison inmates grew up fatherless. Girls without a father in the home are one and a half times more likely to get pregnant before marriage. Children in families without fathers are five times more likely to grow up in poverty, are two to three times more likely to abuse drugs, and are three to four times more likely to commit suicide.

Significantly – perhaps proving the biblical promise that God will look after the widow and orphans – the negative effects disappear when the reason for the father’s absence is that he has died.[xiii]     

One of the criticisms of Christianity is that it is a crutch for the weak. Belief in God is considered by some to be nothing more than an illusion to satisfy unconscious needs. Paul Vitz wondered the opposite: suppose it’s the atheists who are engaging in unconscious wish-fulfillment.

To find the answer, Vitz scanned the last four centuries for patterns that distinguish the lives of atheists from the lives of theists [those who believe in a personal God]. After studying the lives of more than a dozen of the world’s most influential atheists, Vitz discovered they all had one thing in common: defective relationships with their fathers. Vitz defines “defective” fathers as those who were dead, abusive, weak, or who abandoned their children.

Sigmund Freud wrote that his father was a sexual pervert. Thomas Hobbes’s father was an Anglican clergyman who got into a fight with another man in the churchyard and, subsequently, abandoned his family. Ludwig Feuerbach, at age 13, was abandoned by his father, who openly took up living with another woman in a different town. Voltaire fought constantly with his father, causing him later to reject his surname.

Schopenhauer’s father committed suicide when he was 16. Both Bertrand Russell and Nietzsche lost their fathers at the age of four. Sartre’s father died before Sartre was born, and Camus was a year old when he lost his father. Hume also lost his father in early childhood. Hitler’s father was a violent man who unmercifully beat Adolf, his mother, and even the family dog; he died when Adolf was 14. Stalin’s father also administered brutal beatings to his son.

Obviously, much more evidence needs to be obtained on the “defective father” hypothesis. But the information already available is substantial; it is unlikely to be an accident.[xiv]

But what happens when men act like men are designed to act? 

When George McCluskey married and started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer because he wanted his kids to follow Christ. After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Every day between 11 am and noon, he prayed for the next three generations.

As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into full time ministry. The two couples produced four girls and one boy. Each of the girls married a minster, and the boy became a pastor. 

The first two children born to this generation were both boys. Upon graduation from High School, the two cousins chose the same college and became roommates. During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry. The other didn’t. He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but he chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology.

He earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers.  He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day. The man’s name is James Dobson. Through his life and prayers, George McCluskey influenced the lives of not only his family but generations to come.[xv]

So, the question begs to be asked: Will you become God’s man? Will you embrace your God-given call and to live by serving others by laying down your life for them?

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[i]     David Blankenhorn, Fatherless in America, (New York, N.Y.: Basic Books, 1995, 1-2,13 as taken from Stu Weber, Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, 27-28.

[ii]    Stu Weber, Four Pillars Of A Man’s Heart, (Sisters, Or: Multnomah Press, 1997), 28.

[iii]    1 John 2:13, The New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan, 2011.

[iv]    1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

[v]     I Kings 2:1-4.

[vi]    John Eldredge, Wild At Heart, (Nashville, Tn: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 9,49-50.

[vii]   Joshua 1:6-8.

[viii] Joshua 1:9.

[ix]    1Samuel 30:3-4, 6.  

[x]     1 Kings 3:7-9.

[xi]    Acts 2:42.

[xii]   1 Kings 2:3.

[xiii] Gene Edward Veith, “World Magazine” May 17/24, 1997), 23.

[xiv]   Professor Paul C. Vitz, “The Psychology of Atheism,” Truth Journal and his lecture, “The Psychology of Atheism,” delivered at Columbia University (9-24-97); Anne Morse, “Atheism and Its Link to Bad Dads,” Boundless.

[xv]   Unknown.

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