Man on Fire
It was a late Sunday afternoon, when two men walked a lonely road leading to their destination. Lost in gloomy conversation they hardly noticed the stranger walking close by.
“What are you two discussing so intently?” the stranger asked.
Surprised by the question, the men exclaimed, “You must be the only one person in Jerusalem that hasn’t heard what happened!” They went on to explain their sadness over the death of Jesus of Nazareth and their hope He was the long-awaited Messiah.
As they walked along, the stranger lifted their spirits by explaining all the Scriptures foretelling the death and resurrection of the Messiah. The two men’s hearts were stirred. As the day drew on and evening set, they arrived at their destination and invited their new companion to eat with them.
Minutes later the three men were reclining for the evening meal. Then it happened.
When the stranger blessed the bread they recognized it was their risen Savior. At that moment He disappeared.
Looking at each other in astonishment the two men exclaimed, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked on the road and explained the Scriptures?” Unable to contain their excitement, the two men ran back to Jerusalem to tell their friends what they experienced.
This Biblical story is better known as, “The Walk to Emmaus”.1 Have you ever had a heart on fire moment like this? Where conviction for God’s Word felt like a fire inside you and you were unable to keep it to yourself?
As Christian men in today’s world it’s easy to feel like the two Emmaus men did at the beginning of their journey: weary and disillusioned. We live in a time when TV shows portray men as fools getting outwitted by children while supportive women help them function in society.
The Bible commands men out of such a lifestyle. It says: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”2 In many places Scripture emphasizes the need for men to be strong in their faith.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”3
Men, we are not little boys anymore. Nothing is standing between us acting like men except ourselves. The Apostle Paul encouraged the men of his day to act with courage and strength in obedience to the Lord and with confidence in His power. As we are obedient to the Lord after we become believers, He will and does give us power and strength to move through life with courage and confidence so that we can become a “man on fire”.
We have to make a choice. Becoming a man doesn’t just happen. Paul mentions, “When I became a man,” meaning, he made a decision to give up childish ways.4 Have you made that choice? Here are a few ways you can get yourself on track.
God can still use you
The most common struggle with men is failure. Our lives are based on performance. We are measured by our productivity at work, financial success, and many other accomplishments. This is what makes the Christian life so difficult to reconcile. Very often we feel God’s love is dependent on our track record. Past mistakes and continued failure can make us feel there is no reason to continue trying because God must have already given up on us. This way of thinking keeps us from growing in our relationship with God and reaching our full potential.
Not only is God the God of second chances, He is also the God of another chance. This is great news since we often find ourselves needing more chances! Everything changes when our image of a punishing God is exchanged for that of a caring Father. God is incredibly patient. The psalmist exclaimed:
"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”5
The Bible is full of characters that received God’s forgiveness in spite of multiple failures. If you’ve screwed up don’t let it keep you down. Repent and get back to the good work God has laid out for you.
Read your instruction manual
In an ever-changing world we constantly have to learn new things in order to function. We receive guidance and training in many different ways from workshops, to simple Google searches.
As Christian men it is absolutely necessary to take the same approach to our spirituality. We need to read and study the Bible because it is God's instruction manual for leading Christian lives. The Bible is literally
"God-breathed".6 There are so many questions that philosophers have asked that God answers in Scripture: What is the purpose to life? Where did I come from? Is there life after death? How do I get to heaven? Why is the world full of evil? Why do I struggle to do good?
In addition to these big questions, the Bible gives much practical advice in areas such as: What do I look for in a mate? How can I have a successful marriage? How can I be a good friend? How can I be a good parent? What is success and how do I achieve it? How can I change? What really matters in life? How can I live so that I do not look back with regret? How can I handle the unfair circumstances and bad events of life victoriously?
We should read and study the Bible because it is totally reliable and without error. The Bible is unique among so-called "holy" books in that it does not merely give moral teaching and say, "Trust me." Rather, we have the ability to test it by checking the hundreds of detailed prophecies that it makes, by checking the historical accounts it records, and by checking the scientific facts it relates.
We should read and study the Bible because God does not change and because mankind's nature does not change; it is as relevant for us as it was when it was written. As you read the pages of Biblical history you will find that "there is nothing new under the sun”.7 The world and its technology may have changed, but man’s sinful desires remain the same. While mankind, as a whole, continues to seek love and satisfaction in all of the wrong places, God—our good and gracious Creator—tells us what will bring us lasting joy8 through the counsel found in Scripture.
Remember what it’s all for
Hebrews 11 is sometimes referred to as the, “hall of faith”. It describes the faith of many Godly men in spite of facing difficult circumstances. How were men such as Moses and Abraham able to keep leading Godly lives? In one word: Hope. They remembered their struggles were temporary and looked forward to the heavenly reward that was eternal.
In every struggle you face, take the same perspective. Throughout our lives there will be times where God will take us to the mountaintop where we feel invincible. Yet, most of our lives are spent in the valley in the day-to-day living where struggles can wear us down. Don’t give up! Remember where your hope resides. Keep your eyes on the prize and share it with others!
Scripture tells us: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
Control your thoughts
As a former athlete I learned very quickly that all the hours of practice and conditioning would not make you successful unless you could control your mind. On the playing field I saw hardworking teammates fall apart because of their lack of mental discipline.
This is the same for every man fighting the spiritual battle. If we don’t control our thoughts we will not control our actions. Scripture tells us the battle begins in the mind. We have to be constantly on guard with this:
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death…”9 “…take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”10
Don’t be curious
This is not to say never be curious only to be careful about what you’re curious about. Many men justify their curiosity by saying, “I can look; I just can’t touch.” Yet, how often are we led to sin because of this attitude?
Every time we turn on a computer, change the channel, or are tempted in public to look at women in a lustful way, we have to overcome this curiosity. Being tempted is not a sin, giving into temptation is. The next time you find yourself tempted by curiosity remember these words from Scripture:
“Do not turn your freedom (in Christ) into an opportunity to gratify your flesh.”11
No matter how successful and influential a man is, he cannot do the work of God without prayer. Men who represent God in their families and leadership roles must pray often.
Prayer is the way we communicate with God our thanks, wants, and needs. God will not force His will upon us. When we pray we are inviting God to guide us. “If anyone desires wisdom” the book of James states, “Let him ask God who will freely give it.”12
The late Christian John Bunyan said, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God and a scourge for Satan.
Being a Christian man in the world today requires constant conditioning. The Apostle Paul describes the Christian life like running a race. It requires discipline and training.
“You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one runner gets the prize. So run like that. Run to win! All who compete in the games use strict training. They do this so that they can win a prize—one that doesn’t last. But our prize is one that will last forever. So I run like someone who has a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something, not just the air. It is my own body I fight to make it do what I want. I do this so that I won’t miss getting the prize myself after telling others about it.” 13
Saint Paul is describing the intensity of being a man of God. In this lifetime there is no finish line. It will take all your strength in body, spirit, soul and mind each and every day to lead as God has called you. In your moments of weakness, remember that you’re not alone. Scripture assures us, our temptations or trials are common to everyman.
This is true of even the first man Adam.
He was called to care and protect the Garden of Eden yet he gave in to temptation. At the end of our lives and the end of the world men will be separated into two groups:
The “men on fire” (Luke 24:32) and the “men destined for the lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8).
Therefore live in such a way that you can be confident your dying words will be the same as the Apostle Paul’s:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for Christ’s return.”14
1 Luke 24:13 -35
2 Corinthians 16:13
3 Corinthians 13:11
4 An excerpt from: Mobley, M. (2013, May 15). Men: Act Like Men | Before The Cross. Retrieved March 7, 2015, from http://www.beforethecross.com/biblical-teachings/men-act-like-men/
5 Psalm 86:15
6 2 Timothy 3:16
7 Ecclesiastes 1:9
8 Why should we read the Bible / study the Bible? (n.d.). Retrieved March 2, 2015, from http://www.gotquestions.org/why-read-Bible.html
9 James 1:14-15
10 2 Corinthians 10:5
11 Galatians 5:13
12 James 1:5
13 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
14 2 Corinthians 4:7-8