A letter to young men

I have a young friend just graduating high school. His parents asked me to provide something to read to, and over, him today at his graduation celebration.  I thought long and hard about it… what does a young person in this day and age need to know?  I couldn’t write something fluffy and empty, it’s just not in me to do so.  Prayerfully, this is what I wrote him, and what I’m now publishing in the hope that it can speak into other young lives through the power of the internet.  Names have been changed so people who know me don’t necessarily know who I am referring to.  If this blesses you, share it with those who need to read it. Help me reach people for Jesus.

Jake, I’ve known you since you were born.  Now you’re a man, ready to step out into your unknown future and leave some sort of mark on this world.  What that mark will be is yet to be seen.

I’m going to talk to you as an adult today.  You might want to have your mom sit down for this, or leave the room temporarily… I might just say some things that are controversial, but this is my time with you and I’m going to be direct, honest, and yeah maybe a bit controversial.

One of the worst things Christianity has done to men in the last 50 years is to emasculate them. Modern Christianity’s ideal man is some skinny jeans wearing soy boy.  Somehow we have warped the Godly notion of manhood into some gender-less blob of weakness.  We have wrongly taught that meekness means weakness.  This couldn’t be further from the heart of God towards His creation.  Let me explain.

Many Christians point to Jesus as an example of meekness, and rightfully so, but attribute qualities of passivity to Him.  They say “He was meek and mild.  He turned the other cheek. He let His beard be pulled out and didn’t even condemn His accusers.  Jesus never fought, never grew angry, never had a pair (if I can be disrespectful).”  But the truth is, meekness literally means great power under great control.  Jesus wasn’t a pansy.  We often talk quickly about that when talking about Him fashioning a bullwhip and beating the money changers and merchants out of the temple.  But think about it.  He went full Rambo, flipped tables, scattered wares, beat people with whips literally forced them out of the temple.  And the Bible continues this picture of divine violence in Revelation when John sees Jesus returning… No longer the Lamb that was slain, but now the mighty Lion of the tribe of Judah, warrior indomitable. He is seen riding a war horse, prepared for war. He is wearing a robe dipped in blood. He has a sword and with it He kills all who have stood against God with the anti-Christ.  Kills. Them. All. In a heartbeat tens of thousands of people who tried to war against Almighty God, killed by the Son, that same Lamb of God.  That isn’t mild.  That isn’t weak.  That isn’t soy boy man-bun skinny jeans.  This is a warrior. This is someone who isn’t afraid to use violence for the right purpose.

There is only one man in the Bible in all of history who God Himself referred to as a man after His own heart, the warrior-poet David. David had a soft heart for God. In all of his screw-ups, he always let God lead his life.  Soft? Weak? Timid?  Not David.  The Israelites sang songs of his killing of tens of thousands of God’s enemies.  He was a soldier, a warrior, a peaceful man who was familiar, and comfortable, with violence for the right reasons.

Why did I choose to start with this?  We are in a world where good is considered evil, and evil is praised.  Where the church no longer makes an impact on culture, but culture has weakened the church.  You’re a man now. The time for being a child is rapidly passing. In this new world, turned on its head in chaos and confusion, fear and dread, it’s the most important time for young men to know who they are, who their identity is in Christ, and just what the fullness of that means.

God wired you to be a warrior. A protector. A guardian of all that is good.  This means that the call to you is to stand up. Stand alone if you have to. Be the person God needs you to be in this life. Weak when you must be, strong when you must be. Wise to know the difference. Able to adapt and change based on what is required around you.  It means being unafraid of standing up for what is right, even if no one else does. It means saying “I will make the difference; I will take responsibility”.  This world is desperate for hope, desperate for truth, desperate for heroes.  Today God is offering you the chance to fill that void with how you choose to live your life.  You can be the hero, you can stand for truth, you can fight for justice, for Godliness, for fairness.  The alternative is to take the easy route, be a blob like so many others, live your life and make no eternal impact.  I can’t imagine you wanting to be that person.  You’re not created to be that person.

It’s not easy.  In fact, its likely harder than anything you’ll need to do.  People won’t understand you. Often, you’ll stand alone, you and God. People might say bad things about you.  At the end of time, though, it will all be vindicated when you hear Jesus say, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Why did I start with violence?  This was a letter of hope, of encouragement.  I started there because one thing you have to wrestle with early on is who you decide to become.  It takes someone strong to lead. It takes someone wise to bring change. It takes someone meek to know when NOT to be powerful and intimidating, but to lead with love, to be selfless, to know when to lay yourself, your dreams, even your safety, down on the altar of service and trust God with the consequences.

It’s equally important that you are aware.  Your head is up, you’re not lost in video games or cell phones or social media.  It means looking around you, understanding what’s happening, where you fit in. It’s evaluating what you see, determining what you need to do, where you need to be, how you need to get there. It’s having a plan, and a backup plan, executing that plan, and being humble enough to change direction on God’s leading.

It means working hard, but smart. It means doing something the right way the first time, not taking the easy way out. It means sacrificing yourself for the people you love, the people God gave you.  Sometimes it means letting dreams die, knowing that nothing offered to God is ever forgotten nor in vain.

It means being self-aware, knowing how God made you, the good and the bad. It means knowing your strengths but not being prideful, and knowing your weakness and not allowing fear or insecurity to hold you back. It’s a juxtaposition of strength with weakness, of confidence with humility, of action with planning.

Being a man of God in this current world is not for the faint of heart.  A true man of God? It will require perseverance when you want to give up or things feel like they won’t ever work out.  It requires honestly evaluating your options, prayerfully picking wise directions to pursue, giving yourself completely to it, willing to adjust as God directs.

There are so many things you are gifted at.  Those talents and gifts are balanced against fears and insecurities, some you were born with, some that you allowed to build, some that are ghosts to be ignored.  Learn your strengths. Build them, explore them, train them.  Refuse to let your weaknesses hold you back, intimidate you, make you feel less-than. All will be used by God if you let Him.

Remember that success isn’t something that happens quickly.  Success is a never-ending process of growth, evaluation, adjustment, and effort.  Success is not defined by your social status, your economic status, your relational status.  Yes, you can BE successful in these areas, but true success is defined as so much more.  True success is being who God created you to be, no matter where that takes you, no matter if you’re rich or poor, famous or unknown, alone or partnered with one you love.  Success is knowing that you have done your best, you have made the wisest decisions, worked your hardest, learned continually, grown as an individual.  Success and growth are always tied. You cannot have sustainable success unless you are constantly growing, changing, maturing and learning.

This principle is proven in all aspects of life. It applies to your career, your education, your relationships. Every place of success, or the lack thereof, is dominated by your passion, your planning, your growth, and your perseverance and commitment to success in the long term.  You will constantly live a disappointed, frustrated life if you look for quick wins, easy victory, effortless growth.  Even here, you must take a degree of violence, commit ruthlessly to being your best, loving selflessly, controlling your thoughts and emotions, knowing when to be gentle, when to be strong, when to push in, when to readjust. It means violently tearing apart anything that keeps you from God, controlling your mind, will and emotions, bringing them under control, submitting them to God and His principles, even when everything in you is screaming to do something else, something easier, something that requires less pain, less push, less effort.

The greatest warriors are those who never quit.  They are always reading the landscape, understanding the factors in play, adjusting, moving, changing, and overcoming. Think of Jiu Jitsu. If someone gets you in a hold, you don’t just immediately tap out.  That’s for the weak. Instead, you read your opponent, you shift your bodyweight, you adjust your stance, you fight. You fight until you win, or you’re unconscious.  It’s much the same with life. Nothing you truly, deeply want will come without a fight.  It won’t come without years of training, years of struggle, years of effort, failures, and restarts.  But the warrior who approaches life with humility balanced with confidence will continue to look for opportunity, will understand the variables in play, will adjust their stance, and will win.  The push won’t end until your life does.  If you let it end before then, you’ll waste your opportunity. Life is fleeting, but what you choose to do here in life will resonate in eternity, for good or for evil.

I learned much of this through trial and error, through repeated failings, through countless false starts and dead ends.  I know it works; I’ve seen it work in my own life. It can be a lonely road. You don’t get to always be the cool kid, the center of attention, the life of the party. Standing alone takes guts, takes commitment, takes understanding your identity through the eyes of Jesus.  I can promise you though, the hard road fought wisely, bravely, and persistently, is the only way to your God-given dreams. You will fight and bite and claw your way into heaven this way, but you will live gloriously in eternity as a true warrior of the Cross, one of God’s elect chosen to transform this world one life, one encounter, one moment at a time.

The power to radically change the world around you is in you through Jesus.  So many are called, but the chosen are few… why? Mostly because we haven’t taught our young people directly enough, we haven’t prepared them for what to expect, we’ve falsely promised gain without effort, fame without devotion, reward without sacrifice. Is it any wonder why so many give up and never reach their dreams? Always languishing in some state of bored existence, craving sports, social media, and whatever other distraction of the week an empty and vacuous society drums up?  Don’t waste your life on those trivial things.  Life is serious. The work you were created to do is serious.  Yes, you can enjoy it, you can rest, you can recreate, you can laugh and love and take all of the good in this world for yourself, as long as you do it humbly, with purpose, with vision, with direction always guiding you, always pushing you, always leading you to greater, to more, success…success in the eternal perspective.

You can do it. You’ve always had it in you to do. You are wired to succeed, to be victorious, to be a champion. Be sure you don’t miss your moment. Work for it, push for it, sweat and bleed for it and always lay it down, constantly, persistently, at the feet of Jesus.  With Him as your guide, your coach, your cheerleader, and your power-source, you cannot, will not, fail.  Make me proud, Jake.

Much love for you, mighty warrior.



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