He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.Psalms 112:7 NKJV
In a poll of random acquaintances, I asked the question, “When you hear the term manhood, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” I tallied the responses in the hope of identifying characteristics of manhood that are written in hearts, not what has been taught us in school or portrayed by the media. (See Man Alive: What is Manhood?) So far, we have covered 8 responses:
- “Inner strength.”
- ”A Protector”
- “Stands up for What’s Right”
Number 9 in the poll is “Stable and Consistent.” Though this is the last of our list, it is not the least important. In fact, as I wrote this, I began to think we might want to start here and grow up through the rest. This one is about foundations. The word “stable” when used of a building means it’s not likely to give way or overturn. Of a person it means one who is not easily upset or disturbed. In general, stable means anyone or anything that is not likely to change or fail. A stable man is firmly established.
That last word strikes a New Testament bell: “Established.” To establish something means to set it up in such a way that it will remain firm or permanent, to build or shore it up so as to make it stable. The Christian life is not an easy one if we take it seriously. Christian manhood demands stability, permanence, the ability to survive the storms of life without being blown away. You need to be established.
James tells us the source of stability: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:8 NKJV) Stability is a force in a man’s heart that holds him erect when trouble comes. It requires effort on my part to develop it. I am instructed to “establish” my own heart. Peter give us another clue, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.” (2 Peter 1:12 NKJV) Part of my stability comes from being established in the truth, in this case, the truth of the Gospel.
One of my favorite scriptures is the first Psalm where the steadfast believer is likened to a tree planted by the rivers of water. This person will bear fruit because his roots go down deep. When the wind blows, he is rooted. He may bend and shake, but he will not fall. When the sun beats down, he continues to flourish because his strength comes from the unseen reserves beneath the earth. He is rooted. Jeremiah said it this way:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV
Being rooted is a common biblical metaphor for being stable, able to withstand the storm and the drought. Jesus warns us about “having no root” in ourselves and being burned up by the heat of persecution and pressure. (Mark 4:5,6,16,17) Paul mentions two specific areas where we need strong roots:
- As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7 NKJV)
We come to Christ through an expression of faith in His saving work and submission to his Lordship. (Romans 10:9) We are changed. When we say “Amen,” we stand and begin to walk with Him, or as Paul says in Colossians 2:6, to walk “in Him,” every day. Now begins a process of growth and change that continues for the rest of our lives. We are newborns in the Kingdom of God. The new birth took place in an instant, but it takes a lifetime to understand what happened to us, and learn to live “in Him.”
The New Testament tells you who you have become or are becoming as a result of the work of Christ in you. It’s up to you to become “rooted and grounded in Him” by finding those things and adopting them as your new self-image. Look for phrases like “in Him,” “in Christ,” through Him,” or “through Christ.” There are about 200 in the King James Version. Most are specifically describing our faith “in Him.” meaning in the work He accomplished for us in His death and resurrection, as well as the work He now does as our new High Priest. My faith is not only in an historical event, but in a Person who now lives to make intercession for me. He is still saving me. (Hebrews 7:25)
In addition to our faith “in Him.” There are many other verses that tell us who we are and what we have as a result of the change He made in our lives. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” So if you are a new creation what does that mean? What has changed? How do you live? These are important questions that must be answered from the Word of God, believed in the heart, and applied to the life. That is how you become rooted in Him. You believe what He says about you and live like it’s true.
- Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (Ephesians 3:17 NLT)
Another aspect of having a strong root system is developing a deep experience of the love of God. There are two dimensions of being rooted in love. The first is simply to know that God loves you. He demonstrated that love by sending the Lord Jesus Christ as your substitute while you were still in your sinful condition. (Romans 5:8) You believe that event happened. You believe He is alive from the dead. You acknowledge Him as your Lord. But there’s more.
Paull describes a kind of love that carries us through even the toughest times. It keeps us stable in the storm:
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38-39 NKJV
Paul said he was persuaded. He was convinced that God loved him, and nothing could change that. Are you convinced? Are you persuaded of God’s unchanging love for you? Or do you waver back and forth depending on how things are going? God loves you on the bad days just as surely as on the good. He loves you equally when you mess up and when you do well. If you’re not convinced of the love of God you will always be wishy-washy, feeling like a failure when you fail and a conqueror when you succeed. Roller-coastering is not Christian manhood.
Having a strong foundation is another common symbol that communicates stability. The Bible uses this picture to describe faith in Jesus Christ as the basis for all that we do as Christians (1 Corinthians 3:11; 2 Timothy 2:19; Hebrews 6:1). Jesus used the concept of a strong foundation to describe a man who survives in the storm, whose building (life) is still standing after the wind and the rain stop and the sun comes out again:
“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”Luke 6:46-49 NLT
Notice, the storm comes to both men. The difference is the foundation. One man digs deep and lays his foundation on solid rock. The other is apparently lazy or indifferent. He just stacks a few bricks on top of the sand and gets blown away. When bad news comes to you, when life disappoints, how do you respond? Is your house still standing? Look carefully at what Jesus said: The foundation of the life that endures is hearing His teaching and following it. If you want to be solid, make obedience to what Jesus teaches the foundation of your life. Dig deep. Hear and do.
- If I ask who you are and what your purpose is in life, what are the first things that come to mind? Be honest, are you happy with that? If I’m watching you this week, what will I think your purpose is? Who will I perceive you to be?
- How do you determine the value of your life? Is it based on what you do or don’t do? What you have or don’t have? Are you a failure when you fail? How much importance do you place on the opinions of other people?
- Do you believe God loves you no matter what? On what do you base your answer to that question?
- What changes would you need to make in order to live in a way that pleases the Lord, to be one who hears and obeys? Are you willing? If not, why not?
- Look through the New Testament, beginning in Romans. Go a chapter at a time looking for phrases like “in Him”, “in Christ”, “through Him,” or “through Christ.” When you find one, write it down. When you’re done, narrow down the list to the top 20 that speak to you. (You can also purchase a copy of the mini-book “In Him” by Kenneth Hagin here.)
- Take one verse from your list each day. Read it out loud until you can recite it without looking.
- Think about today’s “In Him” Scripture. What does it mean? How would your life change if you believed it to be true of you? In your thought life, your speech about yourself, and your actions, act as if that Word is true, just for today.
Consistent or Erratic?
Our poll responders gave this last characteristic two parts. They are closely related, but not identical. A man is both stable and consistent. Consistency means acting the same way over time, regardless of circumstances. Kids look for their parents to be consistent in their application of the rules. It makes them feel secure. We want our supervisors at work to be consistent in what they expect of us. It reduces anxiety. Though it makes good storytelling, dealing with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character makes for a terrible work or home environment. We crave a certain level of predictability in those who have influence in our lives.
The consistent man is one whose responses are based on principle, not emotion or circumstance. One whose core is strong. He knows who he is and what he believes. The term “consistent” developed from the Latin in the 16th century. It originated from a term that refers to what a thing is made or composed of, the ingredients that go into its construction. When I make a hamburger, it consists of meat, bread, cheese, condiments and toppings. The consistent man is one who responds to life from a core of good ingredients, the things he is made of.
There is a wonderful story about the evangelist, Smith Wigglesworth. When asked about his constantly faith-filled and positive demeanor, he said, “I don’t ever ask Smith Wigglesworth how he feels!” We live in a culture that exalts feelings above all else. A man who lives life reacting to circumstances on the outside and his own human desires on the inside will not only make a mess, he will certainly be inconsistent, even erratic. Why? Because feelings change. They change because of circumstances, weariness, physiological changes, diet, age, etc. Truth doesn’t change.
So, how does a man go from being an emotion and desire-driven, erratic mess to being a person whose responses to life are consistent? The answer comes in changing what he consists of, remaking the core on the inside. Consistency in dealing with your outward life comes from a consistent inner life, from becoming consistent in basic Christian disciplines that feed and transform the inner man, the core of your being. What you consist of is determined by what you do consistently to build yourself up, your regular spiritual habits. These habits, once formed, will remain constant even in times of turmoil and will provide the internal balance to stay steady. There are a many good things you could do, but a few things you must do..
Consistent habits that form a consistent man:
- Pray: Start every day this way. Make it a habit!
- Praise to God. Gratitude is a necessary attribute of humility. It’s the opposite of pride. Take time every day to thank Him for what He has done in your life and worship Him for who He is. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18;
- Submission to God. Reaffirm your commitment to follow Him. Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come, right here on earth in my life. Ask His guidance for your day. Colossians 1:9-12; Matthew 26:39
- Forgiveness for others. Pray for those who have wronged or offended you. Forgive and forget. Don’t carry offence into your new day. It is pure poison to your faith. Mark 11:22-25
- Leave the worry with the Lord and don’t take it back on yourself. Once you have prayed about it, let it go! Philippians 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:6-7.
- Prayer in the Spirit. Praying with other tongues is an invaluable tool. It sensitizes you to the voice of the Spirit on the inside. It helps to get your mind quiet. It builds you up and expands the reality of the love of God in your heart. 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4,1 4-15; Jude 20-21
- Study. Open your Bible and read it but go beyond just reading. Ask questions of the text. What does the author mean here? What did this mean to those who first read it? How does this apply to my life today? This is the beginning of mediation: Getting your mind set on the things of God. The Word of God is your spiritual food. Eat it every day. Make it a habit! Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:15; Philippians 4:8; Joshua 1:8
- Connect: Christianity is never to be done alone. You are part of a body of believers. God sets people in churches for a reason, both to benefit you and to enable you to benefit the Kingdom of God. We need each other. Go to church when the door is open, pray for the other members and leaders every day. Make it a habit! Hebrews 10-24-25; Romans 12:3-8;
- Serve: You can never keep what you don’t give away. Your faith isn’t just for you, it’s for those in the world around you. Do something that allows you to give to others in a way that costs you something. Look for opportunities to be a blessing. Never leave the house without praying, “Lord, make me a blessing to someone today.” Make it a habit! Galatians 6:7-10; Titus 2:14
“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”John Maxwell
Do you need to get stabilized and be more consistent? Are you ready to make a change? Let’s apply the change process from Man Alive: Change Gonna Come
- Admit you need it. You can’t change something you won’t admit. 1 John 1:8-9
- Find scriptures that tell you what God thinks about it. Review these passages daily. Say them out loud. Psalm 19:7-11
- Go to the Lord and ask Him to help you make this change. Psalm 121:1-2
- Commit to a process of learning to listen and obey. God will guide you if you take a moment to listen. There is a place in your heart that knows what to do when you need to do it. Romans 8:14-16
- Address the root, not just the behavior. Trade in your ideas and values and prejudices for the thoughts of God. He is God. He’s always right. Get your mind in line with His. Romans 12:1-8
- Make a very specific plan for change and begin walking in that direction. What are you going to do and when are you going to do it? Write it down! Habakkuk 2:1-4
- Find someone you can trust and talk with them. Share the problem, share the plan, ask for input. Pray together and stay in contact to report your progress. James 5:16
- If you screw up, get up. One step in the right direction is one more than you made before. Process the lesson and take another step. Romans 8:31-37
OK, let’s do this! Dig deep, build your foundation!