Act like men
ACT LIKE MEN(1 Cor 16:13)
5 characteristics of Christian leaders.
Be firm in the faith
Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to take a key passage and apply it to some of the things I believe we will be facing as we face this pandemic. This morning I want to cover one last thing I believe we need, one last essential for facing this pandemic. We’ve seen our need for faith, for hope, and for sacrificial love. We looked at the life of Elijah and saw our need to embrace God’s providential plan in everything and to work with God through our prayers and to persevere in trusting Him and serving Him however difficult things get. But one more thing is vital if we are going to get through this pandemic and that is leadership. Godly, courageous Christian leadership.
We have entered a battle of a kind, this is possibly going to be the battle that defines this generation and which will shape the future for the next generation. The outcome, humanly speaking, will be defined by the leadership we offer during this time. God has created our society to need leadership, and to be defined by that leadership.
THE NEED FOR LEADERSHIP
In the beginning God created Adam and Eve, two human beings who were created in God’s image to know Him and to rule on His behalf. He created them equal in dignity, equal in nature and worth. Yet He created the man to be the head and the women to be the helper. When there were only two people, in the perfect world - still there was leadership, there was role distinction. One was to lead and the other to follow. Since then God has always worked in and through human leaders. He called Noah to embark on a boat building project that would end up preserving a remnant through the flood. He called Abraham to lead his household to the promised land and he became the father of nations. He called Moses to lead His people out of bondage to Egypt, Joshua to lead them into the promised land, Aaron to lead them in worship, and then a succession of kings to lead them to live under His law.
God has created all levels of society to function under leadership and in many respects the well being of our nation, of our families, of our companies, of our society is dependant upon the leadership we offer at a time like this. 5,10,15 years from now, the state of your company, your family, your church, your neighbourhood will be determined by the leadership you offer today and in the next few months.
Men are not the only ones who lead. Women lead in many spheres of life and wives work with their husbands to make or break their leadership. But this morning I do want to take aim at the men, because in the home and in the church God has made men to be the leaders and these form the building blocks of our society. So I have 3 words, aimed primarily at our men this morning, “Act like men.” Whatever else you do in this pandemic – God is calling you to “act like men.”
I want to look at 2 verses this morning to define what that looks like.
There are 5 short imperatives in these 2 verses which are right at the end of the letter. In many ways they summarize what Paul has been urging them to do throughout the letter. It’s like he summarizes his whole divinely inspired sermon to the Corinthian church in these 5 words, the 5 simple commands. 5 characteristics of Christian leaders.
· Be alert
· Be firm in the faith
· Be courageous
· Be steadfast
· Be loving
Men, these are the things God is calling you to be in the weeks and month that lie ahead. Whatever else you do, act like men and this is how Christian men act in battle.
1: Be alert
The esv translates the term “be watchful.” It means, be alert, be vigilant, arise, be on your guard, refrain from sleep, stay awake.
A leader that is distracted, or a leader that is absent, or caught unawares is a useless leader. Leadership requires that we anticipate what is coming, that we understand our enemy and the potential dangers and that we prepare ourselves and our families.
The term is used some 22 times in the New Testament – mostly in reference to spiritual concerns, spiritual threats.
· Be alert against Satan and His Schemes. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8–9).
· Be on the alert for temptation. “Keep watching and praying,” Jesus said, “that you may not come into temptation” (Mark 14:38)
· Watch out for spiritual apathy, for becoming luke warm towards the Lord as the church of Laodicea, or the church of Sardis which Christ could beckon in the words, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain” Rev 3:1-3
I think you get the idea – that as God looks down at the battlefield, He sees what we often don’t see. He sees that our battle is not against flesh and blood… Our battle is not primarily to put food on the table, or pay our rent or pass our school year. Our battle is primarily against the thing lying behind those things, which makes them so difficult – Satan and Sin and spiritual apathy
This Pandemic is going to tempt you and your families to sin – and its how you respond to that temptation that will define the impact that this pandemic will have on you in 5,10, 50 years from now.
· Some of you are going to be tempted to give up, to become hopeless. To sit in a heap and do nothing or maybe even want to take your life – because you would rather die than face life like this.
· Some of you are going to be tempted to seek comfort in sinful ways – alcohol, or drugs, or sitting in front of the tv, or just lying in bed doing nothing rather than something, or pornography or wiling away the time on social media.
· Some of you are going to be tempted to sin against people – to lie, to threaten, to bribe, to cheat, to use and abuse them to get what you want.
· Some of you are going to want to take out your frustrations on your wives or children or employees as if it’s their fault.
Men – be alert as to where the real battle lies and where the real victory is won. Beware of Satan and Sin and Spiritual apathy. Beware of losing sight of Christ and allowing your families to wander from Him amidst the smoke and din of the physical battle which wages around us.
Will you be a man of action, a man of active holiness?
2:Be firm in the faith
The second imperative in vs 13 is “stand firm,” to stand fast, to be immovable.
· This is what stands behind the imagery which we find throughout the Bible – our God is a refuge and strength, a shelter from the storm, a firm foundation, a mighty fortress, a rock and redeemer, a pillar of strength, an anchor and a shield.
· God has created every leader to be the strong man of the household, the family, the church, the company – whatever sphere he places you over.
· As with the other commands, this is in the present tense. This is to be our permanent abiding condition. Whenever people need a place to run to – they shouldn’t have any question in their minds as to whether they can run to us and find stability, shelter, steadfatness of hope and conviction.
· Notice that the command is modified by the prepositional phrase “in the faith.” So physical strength and stability is not primarily what God has in mind here. Obviously physical strength is of limited value if the battle is primarily spiritual, primarily against the attack of Satan and sin and spiritual apathy.
· This is a battle for the truth, over the truth and it is fought and won by truth.
· In this battle the primary sword we wield is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God according to Eph 6.
Illustration Jesus temptations
When Satan wanted to try take Jesus out, he didn’t fight Jesus with lightening bolts or rocks or atomic bombs. He came at Jesus with deception, with distortions of God’s truth and Jesus repelled Him in every instance by saying, “It is written.” It is written, it is written.
Some of us as men, have been lazy when it comes to training ourselves to wield the Spiritual sword of the Scriptures. We’ve been happy to let our wives go to Bible study while we stay home and play video games and sleep on the couch. And now we are being asked to fight for our families in a spiritual battle with a weapon which we don’t even know how to hold…..and all I can say is we better start training…
It is so easy at times like this, to slip into wrong thinking, wrong belief, and wrong behavior. We can so easily go astray and allow our families to go astray, to wander off from the truth if we do not stand firm in the truth of God’s Word.
There are so many decisions to be made at a time like this and so many conflicting sources of wisdom and Christian leaders are required to lead their families and companies and communities in making biblical decisions. We need to be men of firm, immoveable biblical convictions.
· Who are we going to use our resources to help and who are we not going to help?
· Are we going to retrench, or cut salaries or neither?
· How are we going to cut our expenses and pay out debts? Is mom going to go back to work, or is dad going to get a second job?
· How are we going to disciple and school the kids or change their schooling?
How are you going to make all these decisions? Are you going to do whatever works, or whatever the neighbours are doing or what the experts advise – or are you going to open your Bibles and seek for God’s wisdom there and make decisions based on biblical truth and biblical convictions. Are you going to lead your family to stand fast in the truth, to find peace in God’s promises, to make decisions which are guided by biblical principles rather than practical convenience?
I think this text is not only telling us what we are to stand fast in, but also how we are to stand fast. It is as we are in the Scriptures, as we lead our families daily, weekly, regularly, faithfully into God’s truth – that we will receive the wisdom and the perspective and the spiritual strength and conviction that we need to stand fast – when the world around is giving way…
Be alert - Will you be a man of action, of active obedience?
Be firm in the faith - Will you be a man of the word?....
3: Be courageous
The third imperative there is “andrizomai.” The Greek word for man is andras so the root of this word means to be a man. That’s why the ESV and NASB have translated it “act like men.” The Lexham Bible gets at the intent by translating it “act courageously.”
The Bible is not siding with radical feminists here when it commands women to act like men. It’s highlighting a particular characterstic, a particular trait that is so bound up with being a man, that is so characteristic of being a man – that women can be told to be like men in this regard. The trait is this = courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, its what you do when do feel afraid and have reason to feel afraid.
It’s the only place in the N.T that this word is used, but it is used in the Greek translation of the Old testament in passages like
· Deut 6:31: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
· Josh 1:6-7: “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.”
· You can see that it is surrounded by the same kind of words in our present context – be strong, stand firm, be courageous.
In the Old Testament context there were battles to be fought, there were enemies of God, enemies of the faith who needed to be driven out of the land, there was a promised inheritance that needed to be laid hold of. Time and again they are told not to take courage in themselves, but to take courage in the Lord, to strengthen themselves in the Lord, to remember that God is with them and God will enable them and God will fight alongside them. Again in these contexts, the Word of God is to be their guide. Joshua is commended not to turn from God’s law either to the right or to the left. Then you will have good success. And the Word of God is their source of courage. Josh 1:8 God goes on to command Josh to not let the book of the Law depart from his mouth, but meditate on it day and night. This is a very strange charge to give an army general as he’s about to go into battle with sword and shield in hand….. “Remember to take you Bible along and make sure you keep up your daily devotions.” But God knows that the battle is ultimately spiritual, not physical. He’s got the physical battle covered, but will we trust Him and obey Him? Spiritual courage comes from faith in God, from strengthening our faith in the Scriptures so that we direct our lives according to biblical principles and values.
There are many things to be afraid of in our present context. We might be afraid of sucumming to the virus and losing our life or the lives of our loved ones. The fact is that many people are going to die in this battle. We might be afraid of losing our jobs, or our houses, or certain possessions. The fact is that many people are going to lose their jobs and their houses in this battle. We might be afraid of losing our honour and dignity and have to put our pride in our pocket and ask for help. The fact is that many people are going to be economically humbled in this battle and are going to need help from others.
Courage is not the absence of fear, its what you do when you are afraid. Courage determines whether you will be guided by fear and give in to fear, or guided by faith and strengthen yourself in the Lord.
Be alert – will you be a man of action, of active obedience?
Be firm in the faith – will you be a man of the word?
Be courageous = will you be a man of resolute convictions?
4: Be steadfast
All the major English translations translate this word “be strong” but the Greek is in the passive. In other words, this is not something that I do, but something that is done to me, that I must allow to be done to me so the idea is not so much be strong, as make sure you are strengthened.
The idea that the Christian man stands alone and summons up courage and strength within himself is completely unbiblical. That might be true of physical strength, but spiritual strength comes from the Lord, comes from God’s people and God’s Word, from stand side by side with other believers, from fervent prayer
· This word is used in Eph 3:16-17 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”
· We are strengthened by God’s Spirit, strengthened as we stand in grace, as we stand in the gospel of God’s unconditional love in Christ.
The Christian leader has to learn to summon spiritual reserves, spiritual resources from outside of himself. He is not a man of great inherent strength, or great inner strength, but a man of great faith, a man of great prayer, a man who has learned to walk in daily dependence upon God for divine strength.
Illustration: Jesus - Gethsemane
I think about Jesus who understood his own weakness and so went to Gethsamene to pray and He prayed and prayed until the Lord strengthened him for the task of the cross which He was about to undertake. Peter thought he was strong and courage so he slept – and the next day he caught off guard and taken out…
The opposite of this word is to be weak and weary, to be sick and tired. I we find ourselves there as men, find ourselves wanting to stay in bed and wait for better days – it’s because we haven’t been strengthening ourselves in the Lord, strengthening ourselves in prayer, in the Scriptures, in fellowship with the saints. We have been relying on our own strength and reserves and soon or later these run out….
Be alert – will you be a man of action, of active obedience
Be firm in the faith – will you be a man of the word
Be courageous – will you be a man of resoute conviction
Be strengthened – will you be a man of prayerful dependence?
5: Be loving
The final imperative in this section is found in the next verse, “Do everything in love.” The Greek says literally, “let everything of yours come into being by love.”
· The verb means to come into being or existence, to be produced. It is used of flowers coming into existence from seeds, or babies being born from their mothers.
· So it is really saying, whatever your life produces, whatever comes into existence as a result of your life – let the origin or motive or root cause be love.
· Let the seed or kernel which motivates your life and actions and decisions and interactions – be sacrificial love for others.
The Christian leader is not a selfish leader, not a self-centered leader. He doesn’t get everyone and everything revolving around him and his plans and his schedule in order to satisfy his ambitions or his desires.
Illustration – Christ Phil 2
Yet again, Christ is the model of the Christian leader – who summoned all His glory and power and resources and privilege that He enjoyed as God and used it to become a man and as man to become a servant and as servant to lay down his life unto death, even death on the cross. To make himself the sinless, all sufficient sacrifice for sin – so that guilty sinners could go free. Christ who was and is everything made himself nothing. That is the epitome of the Christian leader – like Christ, to lay down our lives for the good of others.
Will you be a man of self-sacrificing love?
That’s my challenge to you as men.
I grew up in a non-Christian home, so I didn’t learn a whole lot about the Lord from my parents. But my dad did teach me a lot about what it means to be a man. Not so much by instruction, but by example.
· I watched my dad sometimes have to crawl to the bathroom at night because he had such bad back pain he could hardly walk and then somehow find the strength to get up the next day and go to work as a mechanic, bending over cars. Because that’s what a man has to do sometimes to provide. I always saw him working, in the home, in the garden, in the kitchen – always serving never sitting back waiting to be served….and concluded that is what it means to be a man.
· One day I saw my dad hit another man 3 meters clear across the room and yet I never saw him use any of that strength and power to lift as much as a finger against my mom. Because men use their strength to protect and preserve, not to hit and hurt. I do remember him looking me and Rob in the eye one day and saying that if we ever disrespect my mom like that again he would knock our heads clean off our shoulders and we believed him, and so my mom became the prized trophy in our house and we didn’t dare dishonour her and the thought of hurting her in anyway was unthinkable. To mess with me mom was to invite the wrath of my dad.
· I sat in a car once as a mob of protestors surrounded us and watched my dad jump out and warn them that they better back off or else. He was around 60 at the time, so I really don’t know what he would have done if they hadn’t listened – but they evidently found him convicing enough to back off. I used to think my dad was fearless, but as I’ve grown older I have realized that that was my dad when he was afraid. If you backed him in a corner and there was no way out, he would fight his way out, claw his way our or climb his way out – whatever it takes.
· If there is one man I would want beside me in battle it would be my dad because of this incredible mixture of strength, courage and love – which is what it means to be a man.
· Some of you know my dad, he’s become a believer and a member of our church and you are thinking, he’s hardly as impressive as I’m making out and you’re probably right. But I hope you sense some of the awe that my dad inspires in me – because that is what leadership does.
· Leadership inspires awe, it earns our respect, it summons courage in us and calls us to follow and makes us believe we have what it takes to get where we need to go. A leader summons the troops and says – come people, lets take that mountain.
· Many of you have your own dad stories because somehow, fallen as they are – God has used these leaders in our lives.
· And you are being called to be a leader, a Christian leader at this critical time.
I’m not a courageous man, leadership doesn’t come naturally or easy to me. The biggest part of me wants to run into the desert and hide away and be left alone. But God has entrusted 9 family members to my care and called me to shepherd a congregation of saints along with my fellow elders. I am God’s chosen man for this job. So deep inside me, in my very genes – is the x-factor. God has hard wired me to be a man and as man to lead with courage and conviction. As a Christian God has given me Jesus Christ and called me to be a Christian man, a Christian leader. Alert, immovable, courageous, strong and loving….
So I have 3 words for you men this morning – “Act like men” Be the man that God has called you to be – and your children, you church, you company and your country will thank you for it. And Jesus Christ will reward you for it.
Whatever you do in this pandemic – act like men.