Iron Sharpens Men
STEPS TO GROWING IN CHRIST
Spiritual growth is to be one of every Christian man's top priority. When we make it a point to grow in the spirit, we also make it a point to grow in every aspect. That's because our spiritual status affects every other area of our life - whether it be physiological, mental, emotional, economical or relational.
The Bible makes it clear how truly important it is that we make it a point to grow in the spirit. Colossians 1:9-10 tells us, "And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
Spiritual growth brings about good work and fruit to all who seek it. As men who are called to pursue the good work we were created in Christ to do (Ephesians 2:10), here are five things we must start doing some more.
Embrace God-given roles. The Word of God is filled with descriptive instructions of how God wants us men to act, think and live. They aren't stereotypes but rather guidelines that help us pursue God's will more and more by first growing in character, faith and knowledge.
Take the lead. There seems to be a strong correlation between leadership and growth. Every time God called someone in the Bible to step up in leadership, they experienced immense spiritual advancements as well. Take David, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Abraham, Peter, Paul and all the other Godly men who grew more as God called them into leadership roles. The same principle applies for us men today.
Seek to step out in faith. Faith is the greatest evidence of spiritual strength. When we live lives of faith, we live lives that honor and please God (Hebrews 11:6) primarily because when we grow in faith, we grow in Spirit. As we approach God more, He dispels all doubts and gives us faith. So as we walk with God, we start walking in faith more and grow more in our spiritual journey.
Consume the Word. The most effective way to grow spiritually is to consume the word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
A couple weeks ago, I met a man with an interesting tattoo written across his bicep, though not in your typical tattoo green. “But if not,” I read aloud. When I asked what his tattoo meant, the man told me the phrase was from the Bible.
This is the story the tattooed man told me:
King Nebuchadnezzar II reigned over Babylon from 605 BC- 562 BC. He conquered Judah and the city of Jerusalem, taking young Jewish men of noble or royal birth as captives. The book of Daniel tells the survival and incredible faith of four Jewish captives: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar decided to build an enormous 90-foot tall golden statue in modern day Iraq. He gathered all the important people in his empire and commanded them to fall down and worship the statue whenever they heard music. Soon, the beautiful melody of horns, harps, and pipes spread throughout the area. In response, people fell on their faces, hands outstretched in worship.
To Nebuchadnezzar’s fury, a report was brought to his attention. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to bend their knee and worship the gold statue. In a rage, the king commanded that the trio appear before him. “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not worship the golden image I have set up? When you hear the sound of music, fall down and worship the image that I have made. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And what god will deliver you out of my hands?”
The three men replied without hesitating, “O King, we don’t need to answer you. Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fire, and he will deliver us from your hand. But if not, we will still not bow down and worship the statue.” Much faith and courage is crammed into those three tiny words, “But if not.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew the Sovereign Lord had the ability to rescue them from the king. They had no doubt in God’s powerful might. But if God decided not to rescue them, they still possessed the courage and the faith to stand in their convictions.
I asked myself, when my prayers are answered with “But if not,” will I still continue to trust in God?
King Nebuchadnezzar grew so angry his face became mottled from rage. He ordered the fire to be stoked to seven times its usual heat. The extreme temperature of the flames killed the soldiers throwing in the faithful trio. The king looked into the fire and, to his utter surprise, saw four men walking around the furnace instead of three. The fourth man, he claimed, looked like the son of the gods.
He called out the three men. Not only did God protect them from a fiery death, but from the smell of smoke as well. King Nebuchadnezzar praised God, blessing the Lord who saved his faithful servants.
After the tattooed man finished his story, I noticed that “But if not” is spelled with eight letters, the same amount of letters in the word “faithful.” The trio’s faithfulness caused a prideful king to praise the Almighty name of the Lord of Hosts.
The modern soldier is well trained and equipped in the art of waging war. By the time he (or, in this day and age, she) is ready to face battle, many long hours will have been spent in basic training. He will have been prepared physically and mentally to deal with the rigors of spiritual combat. The soldier will know how to identify the enemy and his tactics. Every man must renew his mind and be transformed into the man God created him to be!
Paul urged Timothy to do just that: “This charge I commit unto you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I Tim. 1:18-19).
Too many, especially in this age, failed to take these words seriously. Growing tired and lethargic, no longer putting forth the required effort, they allowed their faith to become smashed like a ship pounded by waves. Battle fatigue set in and they became as casualties of war. Never forget that in Christ we are more than conquerors!
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
After we have put on the armor of God, Paul’s final instruction to us is to “[pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph. 6:18). This is the final thing we must do in the battle against all our enemies. We must draw close to God in persevering, fervent prayer, asking for more of His Spirit, His help and His protection—along with the strength, desire and determination needed to fight each and every battle. We need to continually pray for all of God’s people and the ministry. Keep God the main thing in every aspect of life, prupose and family!
Mighty Men of Valor
Every true Christian faces the same three enemies. These mighty foes are in league against us. They are crafty, cunning and lurking about, ready to attack at every opportunity. They seek to confuse and overwhelm us and wear us down. Their ultimate goal is to murder us, to take away eternal life.
These three enemies are SELF, SOCIETY and SATAN. We will have to battle them for the rest of our physical lives. Every ounce of energy and effort must be put forth to gain victory over them.
Fight The Good Fight of Faith
The shield of faith is the faith of Jesus Christ, which we can have within us (Gal. 2:20; Rev. 14:12; Phil. 3:9)—not just our own human, physical faith, which will wax and ebb. Faith is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). And it is this faith—Christ’s faith within us—that enables us to conquer and overcome. We will have full assurance in the promises from God. We will have total belief that what He says He will do, He does.
This faith will see us through the many trials and temptations that Satan throws in our path. This shield of faith provides the cover we need. It is a defensive weapon that grows ever larger and stronger with diligent use, eventually covering our entire body.