Today's thought comes to you via James MacDonald, from his book, "Act Like Men -- 40 Days to Biblical Manhood." A close friend who receives these "Thoughts for the Week" sent it to me thinking it would be helpful for others. After reading it I also thought it could be beneficial -- to both men and women -- though it seems to be directed exclusively toward men.
I once spoke at a conference where a married man shared that his wife was jealous because he had a close "Jonathan/David" type friendship with another man in his church. (For those who may not know what that is, see I Samuel chapters 18-20). She even asked him to end the relationship. Why? "Because although I've told her, she can't understand that men need deep friendships with other men." Over the years I have come to see the truth of his statement.
And I'm not talking of friendships that cause a man to ignore his wife and children, or skip out on his husbandly/fatherly obligations and responsibilities to them. That would be wrong. No. I'm speaking of the need for male to male friendships, and spiritual accountability, and camaraderie, and having each other's back, and encouraging each other to do the right and honorable thing. The type of male to male relationships that would actually enhance the marriage and prevent the enormous amount to marital/family casualties we see happening all around us in our society today.
One of the biggest problems today (for both men AND women) is a lack of time (or priority?) in establishing good, solid, healthy, godly, soul-nurturing, and life-sustaining friendships with those of the same gender. As I have mentioned many times, the need for paid counselors would plummet (I'm convinced) if we just had good friends with whom we could transparently pour out the contents of our soul knowing they have our back and truly have our best interests in mind.But this is not about hearing from me! Sorry! I now defer to Mr. MacDonald who prefaces today's selection with these words: "Plain and simple, men need community with other men. Loving, you-before-me, dedicated relationship. If you have never had it, or don't really get it yet, or if you had that community and lost it, you know the cavity it leaves in your soul until you discover it again." Enjoy.
Knock off the Lies
"As I talk to men all around the world, I discover that they are not much different than we are (here in the States). They need the same solutions, battle the same things, and believe the same lies. Earlier in this book we looked at the satanic strategy of using lies to disguise, divide, and destroy. Let's focus on that middle word of Satan's plan to defeat you. The word is "divide" and his strategy is to get a wedge between you and men who can support God's work in your life through loving mutual community.As always, he does this through lies. See if you recognize any of these common lies men believe that lead them to reject community and live in isolation [from each other]:
1. Nobody understand the struggles I am dealing with.
2. I can't trust anyone. Total honesty will be used against me.
3. If someone tries to get close to me, they just want something.
4. People like me, but they don't really know me. I can't risk total self-disclosure.
5. I've seen Christians kick a guy when he's down. No thanks.
6. Christian men are weak, crying and confessing. Oh please!
7. If I really face my secrets, the dam will burst and I will lose it.
8. What if I make myself known and the other guys don't reciprocate?
I hear these lies so frequently from the mouths of men that I know they are being implanted there by the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12:9). The way to defeat a lie of the enemy is: name the lie and insert the truth. Jesus did this in Matthew 4 when Satan came to tempt Him after His forty-day fast in the wilderness. Satan urged Him to make stones into bread and Jesus said: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Matthew 4:4). This happened two more times, and each time Jesus defeated the lie of the enemy by quoting Scripture. Can we afford to do less?
What do you believe about loving friendship with other men that keep your areas of defeat isolated and unchanged? Take the first lie above: 'Nobody understands the struggles I am dealing with.' That is clearly untrue because I Corinthians 10:13 says, 'No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond you ability, but with the temptation he will provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.' In every instance we need to name the lie and replace it in our thinking with the truth of God's Word. That's what it means to, 'resist the devil and he will flee from you' (James 4:7).
For almost fifteen years I met with a group of men every Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. Each man would report on what he had gleaned from God's Word personally that week and then we would pray for each other. We laughed, we instructed, we carried each other's burdens, and afterward we went out for breakfast. Looking back I regret ever breaking that pattern. I have found it here and there in other ways, but never as good as that until recently.
The reason I withdrew from formal, regular, scheduled community was that I failed to experience the two things my doctoral thesis revealed men absolutely must experience to remain in community. First, men need confidentiality. They have to believe that what they disclose will never be shared with anyone -- not a spouse, not a cousin in a far country, no one.
Second, men need to experience mutuality. Men need to know that if they bring you in on whatever battles they have kept secret, you won't 'leave them hanging,' or pridefully conceal the truth about your own struggles. They need you to quickly match their personal disclosure. 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us' (I John 1:8)."
I trust his words would prompt you, if you struggle alone and isolated (as a man) to get involved in a community of godly, transparent and trustworthy men where you can discover the blessed truth of what true Christian community is meant to be and facilitate. If you are a woman, the same is true for you -- seek out the support of other godly women. And if you are a wife (or husband), it would be to your advantage (as well as that of your spouse) to encourage them to get involved with a group -- men with men, and women with women -- where they/you can apply the truth of God's Word to the soul in the context of confidentiality, transparency, accountability and a mutual commitment to grow into the fullness of maturity in Christ.
And if you see that need, do not delay or put it off! Rugged individualism and isolated independence are NOT what the Bible advocates. They are actually part of the problem.
With Prayers That You Will Determine to Make That Step, Pastor Jeff