“As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.” (1 Kings 2:1–2)

Strength is the epitome of manliness. When we think of a man, we think of someone who is strong. In what sense? First, when we think of a man's man, we think of someone strong in body. The world gets this. Walk through the grocery store and look at the cover of various men’s magazines (most of them aren’t worth going any deeper than that, and some aren’t worth going even that far!). Invariably, they all show a topless male model or movie star with washboard abs and chiseled pecs. Their message is clear: This is what men are supposed to look like. If you want to be a man, lean down and hit the gym: no dad bods allowed here! Children instinctively know this, don't’ they? Dad is the man to whom mum gives the stubborn jar of pickles. He takes it in his mighty fist, and they gasp as he opens it with ease. That’s what men do; they’re strong! For many men in our culture today, this is as far as their strength goes. Their masculinity is only skin-deep.

Men should also be strong in their minds. They should have mental toughness. Paul teaches this in his little epistle to Titus. Again and again he says men should be sober minded (Titus 1:8; 2:2, 6, 12). It’s also a good quality to find in the fairer sex as well, by the way (Titus 2:5). The word sensible carries with it the idea of mental togetherness. The ability to keep one’s head when all about you are losing theirs. When your emotions are raging, your doubts are rising, your energy is flagging, and everything within you is calling for you to throw in the towel and give up, and yet you have the ability to find a mental perspective to do what you know is right, to press on, to lay aside every fear, every by path meadow, the path of least resistance, and lay hold of mental truth. And in that truth, God's Truth, the manly man finds a foundation to build sense and sensibility.

This mental toughness gives us the ability to be self-controlled in all our other faculties, to reign in out of control emotions, desires, appetites and to subdue them for the glory of God.

Picking up on last week’s theme of a poem for the day, there is much wisdom in Kipling’s famous poem, “If”— which sadly didn’t make it into my anthology! The gambling line is, perhaps, a little infelicitous, but I trust you get his drift!

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
— "If", Rudyard Kipling

The pathway to manliness begins with the renewal of our minds. The Word of Christ must dwell in us richly. It must be the foundation that, in our experience, rings more true than the logic of fear, panic, anxiety, and despair. The kind of men God wants to see in our midst are the kind of men who bleed Bibline-- Cut them and from their veins flows Scripture! As E.M.Bounds once said, the Church is looking for better methods. God is looking for better men. The road begins here: on our knees with an open Bible and a hungry soul. May God give us all grace so to do and so to be this year.

Christ Covenant Church