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Be Men of Courage, Be Strong!

1 Corinthians 16:12-14

Jim Davis

"A second grade teacher asked her students to write a little essay about their mother or father. "Write anything you want,’ she told her students.

"Here is what a little boy wrote about hisw father:
"‘My dad can climb the highest mountain.
My dad can fly the fastest jet.
My dad can beat the meanest tiger.
But most of the time he just carries out the garbage.’" (Neil Eskelin, What To Do when you don’t know What To Do. Western Front, LOtd. Palos Verdes, CA. pg 13.)

I think that maybe this kid desired to see more in his father than the father desired to see in himself. I wonder if the father had so self-imposed the ideas of the world on himself he had lost the sense of his on manliness. I wonder if this is not true with many of us men. It is no doubt true with men and women.

The world is filled with great promise. As children we believed this. We dreamed of being "Superman" or should we say super-people, but somewhere along the way we allowed the philosophy of this world to rob us of our hope and steal our visions of tomorrow. We may be living in a rut the world has entrenched in our minds.

I have been typing on a key board that has raised ridges on the keys F and J. I am used to blindly placing my hand on the keyboard in the right place by feeling these ridges on either index finger of both hands. This has become ingrained into my brain so deeply that I used to never notice the raised ridges on the keys. That is until someone gave me a keyboard with raised ridges on the keys D and K. Those are the keys for the finger next to the index finger. Now when I switch from one computer to the other it becomes very obvious. Now I must make a conscious effort to place my fingers on the right keys when I am using the new keyboard.

Our ideas about ourselves and our world are often gleaned from the world so subtly we don’t realize how indoctrinated we are with the world’s values. Forces designed to change our thinking are so imperceptible we may never know our thinking is being challenged. We used to hold to the idea that if you would smile, the whole world would smile with you. Today the people who get the most attention are those who cry. We have become a crying society. Look at the negative crying headlines in the news. They are the ones that grab the world’s attention. This philosophy has changed us so subtly that we didn’t know that we were changing.

Our world is slowly but powerfully eroding the unique distinctions that make men men and women women. "If men are truly men and women women, this contrast will keep the sexes attracted to one another and reduce the tendency to unwholesome and destructive perversion . . ." (Aubrey P. Andelin, Man of Steel and Velvet, Pacific Press Santa Barbara, CA. Pg13.)

Real Men Face Change Courageously

It takes real courage to change. "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 16:12-13 NIV).

I heard a story of a Vietnamese Christian who lived in Vietnam in the 1950’s. The Communist were moving into Vietnam in those days. This Vietnamese Christian was seeking to flee Vietnam with three other families. They were building a boat to escape to Cambodia. Three Communist soldiers came to his door questioning whether he was building a boat. He was very afraid for his life and the lives of those helping him build the boat.

He lied and told them that he wasn’t building a boat. However, he was convicted in his heart that he should not have lied. He became so convicted that he was determined to tell the truth if the Communist soldiers came to his house again.

Real change begins with those little decisions. If you spent ten minutes a day for five years on one topic it would place you in the top one percent in any field of study. (Adapted from Neil Eskelin, What To Do when you don’t know What To Do. Western Front, Ltd. Palos Verdes, CA. pg 33.)

John F. Kennedy, said, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future." If you are in a rut, the only way you can get out of it is to face the changes you need to make head on.

Everett M. Dirksen observed, "Life is not a static thing. The only people who do not change their minds are incompetents in asylums, who can’t, and those in cemeteries."

Transforming our minds through faith in Christ is the world’s only hope. Bill Gates has changed the way I work. I do most of my writing on computer. I used to use a pencil, then I used a typewriter, but now I use a computer. I used to cut type written pages up in an effort to cut out the mistakes, then I would paste the pieces of pages together and copy them as one page on a copy machine. This was when you had a professor that only allowed three corrections on a page with whiteout before your grade was slashed. Today Bill Gates’ computer program even corrects much of my spelling instantly. If I misspell the word, it immediately corrects it with no prompting from me. If I fail to capitalize the first word of a sentence, Microsoft Word 2000 corrects it for me instantly. There is a difference in changing the way we do things and personal change.

Changing the way we do things without personal change is like changing clothes everyday, but never taking a bath. From a distance we may look great, but up close we may not smell so great. God commanded Israel to change her ways and actions.

Jeremiah 7:2-11
"'Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. 3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!" 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

9 "'Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"--safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD. NIV

Doing good things does not automatically turn us into good people. The Israelites would say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!" This was equivalent to being the right place for all the wrong reasons. They were at the temple the Lord built, but they were doing all the wrong things. It is equivalent to thinking all that is necessary to be in Christ, but being in Christ without amending our ways and actions is futile. It is like building a perfect foundation for a house, but building the house itself out of cellophane.

Real change is an inside job. The New Testament condemns slavery in no uncertain terms (1 Timothy 1:10).However, it is amazing in almost the same breath Paul tells them to remain in their calling (1 Corinthians 7:20-23), but he tells them to serve their masters as if they were serving the Lord (Colossians 3:23). The catch was that they were to do it with sincerity of heart (Colossians 3:22).

You can only succeed in doing what God asks by allowing God to change your heart. We know what it is to reprogram or update a computer. Essentially God seeks to change the way our computer thinks.

Lasting change is brought about by the power of God. I am amazed at how many churches are trying to build God’s kingdom through the power of the flesh. I have heard amazing remarks about church growth. One preacher said the greatest thing his congregation had going for it was its great spirit, i.e., it was friendly. I went to hear one speaker speak on church growth and he said if you want to build a church you have to have a clean nursery. Some think they could build a great church if the kids were seen but not heard.

My wife told me something one of the kids said last night. He said he wanted to be a preacher when he grows up. How long has it been since you heard a boy say that? That’s a great dream with eternal ramifications for a lost world.

The greatest and really the only asset to winning souls to the Lord’s kingdom is God; God is our only asset, without him we have no assets. Jesus tells us that the Spirit of God gives life, fleshly efforts amount to nothing (John 6:62). Too many are spending all their time battling the flesh rather than living by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 6:12). We are to put no confidence in our fleshly efforts (Philippians 3:4).

Sidney Harris says, "Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we want is for things to remain the same but get better."

Hindrances to Change

Many go to the Bible only looking for relief. We want to receive forgiveness, remove the guilt, we want things go get better without having to change. But the Bible is about the need to change through a rebirth of the mind--repentance.

We may desire to follow the ways of the world because we think the great people of the world are smarter, stronger, and successful. We may adopt their ways without experiencing personal transformation.

You would be surprised how much this idea is entrenched into our minds everyday. We see the Gold Medal winners’ pictures on cereal boxes as we seek to eat what they eat. We try to buy the brand name shoes the athletes wear. We want to buy trucks that have Eddie Bauer’s name on them. We have muscled models and beautiful women advertising clothes and all sorts of perfumes. We are motivated to buy by a subconscious belief that eating what they eat, walking in the kind of shoes they walk in, driving the vehicles they drive, wearing the same clothes and smelling like they smell will make us like them.

Jim Furyk didn’t become the third person in the history of the U. S. open to come in 10 under par because he wore the clothes that successful athletes have worn.

We are convinced that we must make a big splash in our world before any real personal transformational can take place. We need men of courage that realize that change doesn’t begin with a big splash.

Today’s ideas about the need for dominance are hindering change for men and women. It leaves us thinking that we must be able to dominate our circumstances before any real change occurs. The need for dominance can easily turn into a doctrine of self-preservation.

The secular world is pushing the philosophy of positional theology. It leaves us believing that position is more important than disposition. Jesus gave up his position, i.e., equality with God, to take upon himself the disposition of a servant.

The ideal of dominance usually leaves us rigid and inwardly inflexible. We may seek to accomplish dominance through believing the end justifies the means. We become motivated by external pressures rather than the need to change inwardly. Dominance stifles our creativity. Have you noticed how often dominant people paint themselves into a corner where there is no way to escape.

How many corporation executives have destroyed companies from within because they sought dominance on Wall Street? They have also destroyed themselves.

The power to choose is our greatest asset, but there is no real power in choices which are not for the purpose of directing our lives into the center of God’s will for our lives.

Decisions you make to bring you into the center of God’s will are blessed with God’s power. The Vietnamese Christian I spoke of a moment ago made a choice to do what he believed was right thing the next time the soldiers came. He decided that he would tell the truth. The three soldiers did return to his home inquiring about the boat he was building. The Christian confessed that he was building a boat. They said, "Oh, we want to go with you!" The boat was finished and they set out to sea. In their journey they encountered a huge storm. The Christian said they would have been lost at sea if it were not for the skills of those soldiers who went with them.

The power to choose is meaningless unless you choose. Do not allow external influences to influence your inward decisions. Peer pressure, the media, social or political considerations are minor compared to the decisions we make internally.

Guidance only comes to things that are in motion. Have you ever noticed you can only steer a bicycle if it is moving. It will fall over if you sit still. If you get it moving it is almost effortless. You will never discover God’s guidance sitting still. When we get our lives in motion we discover God’s guidance.

Conclusion:

You can’t be decisive without having a vision for your life. Most of us don’t want to just carry out the garbage for the rest of our lives. Making decisions to move your life into the center of God’s will is visionary.

Albert Einstein stated that "Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

Too many of our decisions are based upon what we know and understand about God, but our faith must lead us to embrace all there is of God—when this type of faith overwhelms us it will take us far beyond anything we are capable of thinking or imagining.

Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. NIV

Albert Einstein stated imagination is more important than knowledge; according to Paul God can take us much father than anything we can think or imagine. If the full power of God lies beyond what we know or imagine a courageous faith is the only thing that can take us there.

 

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