“Take courage and be a man.” I Kings 2:1-3
King David was at the end of his life and was passing the baton as ruler of Israel to his son, Solomon. His words were simple, clear and penetrating, “Take courage and be a man.” This is the kind of challenge that we don’t just throw down to a young teenager. We walk our way into it one step at a time. Let’s talk about that challenge.
It isn’t clear how old Solomon was when David looked at Solomon and “called him out” with these words about courage. Before my son was 16 he was 6’3” and on his way to 190 pounds. He could already do more pull-ups that I could and soon would be bench pressing close to 250. Only my experience in boxing, judo and unarmed combat gave me any kind of an edge as he tested me physically on a regular basis. He was faster and stronger – but is that what it means to be a man?
One day as we drove in the car I asked him a question. “Son, why do you think God has made you bigger and stronger than most people around you?” Those are the kind of questions that lead us into discussion on what manhood is really all about. Often the questions are more important than immediately having the right or complete answer. As we drove together that day we talked about how so many young men use their strength to intimidate others or to try to make a name for themselves.
Of course, the adolescent years can be a very difficult time of discovering and forming a life identity. It is even more difficult for a boy if his physical development is slower than that of his peers. I started school a year early and graduated from high school a few months after turning 17. I was tall, but I was skinny. I joke that I could have been a much better high school wrestler except for two things – I was weak and I was slow. I got a varsity letter in tennis, but I would have gotten broken in half on the football field.
Grades in school and how hard we need to work to get good grades can be a real influence in shaping our identity as well. We all face challenges in becoming a man. The difficulties we face are the very things that are growing us in courage and character.
Lessons for Flying Higher:
A dictionary definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” So courage doesn’t mean that we are not afraid, rather it means that we are learning to face our fears. Often it doesn’t seem manly to admit our fears, even to ourselves. It helps a lot to be able to talk about what we fear with someone that we can trust. Often the things that we struggle with are the very things that others have faced when they were at the same place in life. Finding someone who “feels safe” to us when we share our deeper feelings and fears is an important step in understanding what it means to know myself on the journey to manhood.
One of the hardest days of David’s life occurred when he returned from a battle in I Samuel 30. As he and his army got closer to Ziklag, their city, they could see smoke on the horizon. In their absence, another army had conquered the defenseless town, burned it to the ground and taken all the women and children as captives. As bad as that was things were about to get worse for David. His men were so overcome with grief at the loss of their families that they blamed David and began to talk about stoning him to death. Now that is real loyalty and friendship!
Verse 6 says that David in the midst of his distress “strengthened himself (took courage) in the Lord his God.” Often when things seem their worst, God is about to do his best, if only we will learn to look to him for the courage that we need. David and some of his men followed the enemy army and found them in a drunken celebration for all their victories. David’s army easily defeated them and recaptured all that had been taken from them and much more.
What David couldn’t know was at the same time Saul, the king of Israel, was being defeated in battle and God was setting David up to be the new king. God was going to give David Jerusalem as his city to live and reign in so it didn’t matter that the old city was burned down. What appeared to be a major defeat was the open door to a much better future. Often when we feel discouraged or overwhelmed God is at work to do new things and shape us into the men that we need to be to face the challenges of the future.
Dad, was there a time as a teen or more recently that you really felt discouraged in the midst of facing some difficult situation? What was the challenge you were facing? What did it feel like? In looking back, what was God doing to grow you into the challenge of being more of a man?
Son, what is something that you are facing now that feels like it is beyond you? It may be a difficult relationship or an academic or athletic challenge. What is an area that you feel you need the courage to walk into and do what is right even if others are opposing you?
Repeatedly in Scripture when the issue of fear is addressed, God’s constant reminder is that He is with us. As you read the verses below, let God’s Spirit remind you that He walks with us in the hard things of life. He is at work to increase our faith, to strengthen us, and to make us into the kind of spiritual men that can handle the challenges of life with spiritual courage.
Joshua 1:9– “… Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
II Corinthians 12:9– “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” (The Message)
Pray for one another in the challenges of life that you are both facing. Take courage and be a man!