This One's for the Men and the Boys
I have four daughters and a granddaughter. And I’m a woman who regularly teaches other women. So when I read the Bible, I do so as one seeking wisdom for women. Not just women, of course. I do my best and ask the Lord to help me see what his intended message and meaning is in every passage for every person. But there’s no escaping the female bent and burden in my life.
Last week, though, I read two verses for the men and the boys and I haven’t stopped thinking about them since. I immediately prayed them for my nephews and texted them to my sister-in-law. I lingered over them and imagined what it would be like to live in a world where men obeyed them. I praised God for his Word and begged him to bring these verses to daily fruition in my husband and in all the men I know.
The verses are in Paul’s final instructions to the Corinthians in his first letter to them. He says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14).
Imagine with me: men who are watchful, firm in the faith, and strong. Men who do everything in love.
Of course such men exist and have always existed. Jesus is the only perfect man, but the Spirit has certainly empowered men throughout time to be watchful, firm in their faith, strong, and loving. Even now I can think of a number of men who exhibit these qualities. What a gift!
And yet these verses are striking because we read daily of men who fall woefully short. Men who are not watchful, but give way to temptation. Men who do not uphold their faith, but cast it aside with the changing of the wind. Men who are not strong, but who are weak and exploit the powerless. Men who are not loving, but self-seeking, merciless, and unkind. Our hearts break and our spirits cry out against such men who are all too common.
Wanting to know a little more about these words for men, some quick research showed me that same words words are found throughout the Old Testament:
As Israel was preparing to enter the promised land without Moses he told them, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of [the Amorites], for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).
Moses said to Joshua, who would lead Israel after he was gone, “‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed’” (Deut. 31:7, 8).
Even the Lord himself “commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you’” (Deut. 31:23).
After Moses died, the Lord said again to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Josh. 1:6-7).
After the defeat of Israel’s enemy and just prior to the execution of the five Amorite kings, Joshua said to said to the chiefs of the men of war, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight” (Josh. 10:25).
King David wrote Psalm 27 and its closing lines allow the people of God to spur one another on, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
A Psalm of Ascent says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (Psalm 130:5).
And just before his death, King David charged his son Solomon, saying, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished” (1 Chron. 28:20).
All of these instances throughout the history of Israel speak to God’s presence with them, his provision, his faithfulness to the promises he made them. They call on men to remember God’s character and his law. They stake the hope of Israel squarely on the nature of their sovereign and good God.
The watchfulness, the firm faith, the strength, and the love that the men of Israel are called to is found in their Father in heaven. He is the source of these good gifts and bestows them on the men who follow him, who wait on him.
And now, on this side of the cross, the men of God have Jesus to consider. They know now that he who loves lays down his life, pours himself out, considers others better than himself. Now, in the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of men who have surrendered to the perfect God man, empowering them to carry out this high and holy calling. Established firmly in the history and character of our God, Paul calls on the men of God to do as God does, by his power and his grace in them.
Therefore, let’s pray these verses for the men and the boys: for our sons, our nephews, our cousins, our fathers, our brothers, our husbands, our friends. It is a prayer God stands ready to answer, based on who he is and what he does. It is a prayer after God’s own heart and history.
Father in heaven, please empower the boys and the men in our lives to be watchful, to stand firm in the faith, to act like men, and to be strong. Help them to do all that they do in love. For your glory, Lord, please do it. Amen.
Author’s Note: After writing this whole blog, I asked my husband if this verse is commonly seen in men’s ministries—sort of cliche even. “Yep,” he said. As in, all over men’s devotionals and t-shirts and conferences? “Yep,” he said. So perhaps a better title would be, “This One’s for the Women and Girls Who Know Nothing of Men’s Ministries and Haven’t Noticed this Verse Before.” In any event, may it be, Lord, for your name’s sake!