But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion - Ecclesiastes 9:4 ESV
I’m not a big fan of watching television (aside from sports). There are times that I will tune in to a show because I’ve heard family or friends mention it.
One such show was “The Walking Dead”. My oldest son had mentioned it, so I decided to watch it. It focuses on a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies and the uninfected people trying to survive.
After watching a few episodes (I’m going back to sports and reading books), I was amazed at the parallels between the show and the condition of men in our society.
The zombies were humans infected by viruses, bacteria or other phenomena that reduce their mental capacity. This caused them to behave in a very primitive and destructive fashion.
There are many of us men that are “walking dead.” We have given up hope that we will never be all that God has designed us to be. They have long decided that life has passed them by.
I have seen this zombie like condition of men in the workplace, at home, and in the church. The sad thing is that this condition is being passed down to the next generation. We are literally and figuratively infecting our children and spouses.
What has caused us to degenerate into a state that we are merely existing in a human body? What can be done to change it?
As the leader of our families, it is incumbent upon us to find the antidote to this malady. Where do we find the answer?
Look at the scripture quoted above. In it, Solomon talks about the hope that the living has. In essence, as long as you are living, you still have the opportunity to live with purpose. You have the chance to live a life that’s relevant. You can still have a positive impact on the next generation.
Solomon goes on to state the advantage of living by comparing the existence of a living dog to that of a dead lion. To the Hebrews, the life of a dog was contemptible in contrast to that of a lion.
In Solomon’s eyes, it is better to be living as a dog and have the ability to still make a contribution to society than to be a dead lion.
My brothers, think about this. You have within you to make contributions (no matter how large or small) as long as you are living. There is still hope!
Start small. A small living spark can produce a flame. The mighty Mississippi river started as a small brook. Small contributions lead to big things.
A life lived with hope is far better that one lived with uncertainty. Let’s resolve to snap out of the zombie like state that has infected a large number of us.
Tap into the hope that is available to all of us that believe in the power of Jesus Christ. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to someone that you respect or contact me through the website or email.
Please let me know the impact of this message and comment below.
I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened - Luke 11:8-10 ESV
On the morning of January 10th, something happened that I didn’t think I would see again in my lifetime: the Clemson Tigers won the college football national championship!!
I was there in 1981 when they won their first championship. I shared that championship with my now deceased father. I was able to share this one with my sons.
As proud as I was of being able to share that moment with my sons, I was happier about sharing the story of the kid that made the game winning catch.
Hunter Renfrow, the receiver that made the greatest catch in Clemson football history, wasn’t supposed to be there. Hunter doesn’t look the part of a football player. He looks more like a student majoring in computer science (no offense to any computer science majors) than a football player.
He wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. He received a number of offers from smaller schools, but wanted to play at Clemson. He walked on, paying his own way and taking a chance that his play would be rewarded with a scholarship.
Hunter’s persistence paid off when Coach Dabo Swinney awarded him the final scholarship in 2015. He worked his way into the starting lineup and made significant contributions to the team’s success. His efforts culminated in his game winning catch.
Like so many of us men, we may not look the part of someone successful. The one thing that can’t be measured is commitment and heart. Hunter decided to walk on at Clemson because that was part of his destiny and purpose. He was not going to be denied in the pursuit of his goal.
My brothers, if we adopt the same outlook as Hunter Renfrow displayed in the pursuit of a goal, we would be unstoppable. Just imagine how much better this world would be if we men possessed an attitude of persistence. Can you imagine the lives that would be impacted in a positive way?
Today’s scripture details the things that you must do in accomplishing goals. It speaks of doing 3 things: ask, seek and knock.
Ask- Seek God’s counsel in regard to His will in your life. Then act in accordance with the counsel that has been received.
Seek – Use the talents that God has equipped you with to find the opportunities that align with your abilities and skill set.
Knock – This may be the most important action of the 3. When you have identified your goal and know that your abilities are aligned with accomplishing it, persist in knocking at the door until you reach your goal.
Like the gentleman in verse 8 that knocked on the door of his neighbor until he answered and provided him what he needed, so should you persist in your efforts as well. Like Hunter Renfrow in the national championship game, your efforts will be richly rewarded.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?" - Genesis 3:8-9 ESV
Growing up, one of my favorite games was hide and go seek. I would play anywhere and anytime. My cousins would play in the house when they came over. Our games were so spirited that our parents would send us outside. We would then continue our game there.
Our ability to conceal ourselves during a game of hide and go seek was a great asset to have to when we were children, but not as adult men.
Men, where are we? Why are we absent from our children’s and spouses’ lives? I know there are a good number of you reading this that are active participants in the lives of your families. If you are in that number, I applaud you.
A good number of us are not present in our family’s lives. We are playing an excellent game of hide and seek.
Look at the numbers:
An estimated 24.7 million children (33%) live absent their biological father.
With the increasing number of premarital births and a continuing high divorce rate, the proportion of children living with just one parent rose from 9.1% in 1960 to 20.7% in 2012. Currently, 55.1% of all black children, 31.1% of all Hispanic children, and 20.7% of all white children are living in single-parent homes. (1)
There are millions more fathers that are physically present, but are emotionally absent. They are just going through the motions, drifting through life.
If the game of hide and seek that we are playing as men could be classified as a disease, it would be treated as an epidemic.
I can speak from personal experience of the effect that being absent has on a child. I went through a divorce and lost contact with my daughter. I wasn’t there for important events in her life. Thank God, I was able to reconnect with her and am now a part of her life (I can do even more).
Gentlemen, that the key. If you are not present in someone’s life, it doesn’t have to be a permanent situation. You have the power to change it. Your families NEED YOU! They need the guidance that a man can provide. They need to see you living out the example of what’s it like to be a godly man.
More importantly, our families need to see what life is like when you are living with passion and purpose and doing the things that God created you to do. This is what I call “generational living.” You are provided an example to be passed down to the next generation.
Look at the today’s scripture. All of us know the backdrop of why Adam and Eve were hiding from God. The more important thing is when God came into the garden, He didn’t ask where Eve was. He specifically called for the man.
The reason being is twofold. One, He created us men to lead our families and asking where Adam was (of course God knew) is His way of reminding him of his responsibility as a leader. Secondly, this was God’s way of letting Adam know that He was seeking after him.
Despite Adam’s transgressions, God was still seeking him! Men, in that same way, we have an opportunity to return and make things right in our lives when we’ve gone astray.
My question for you is when God calls for us, how will we respond? Will you stop hiding and honestly answer Him? Will you realize that a change is required and take advantage of the opportunity? My prayer for all of you is that the answer is yes.
(1) Source: U.S. Census Bureau. “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present”. U.S. Census Bureau July 1, 2012
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” - Romans 4:18 ESV
My wife and I love to watch movies together. Just yesterday, we were watching one of our all-time favorites, The Shawshank Redemption. We loved it so much that we chose to watch it over the Rose Bowl (which was one of the more exciting games in recent memory).
The thing that we like about The Shawshank Redemption is the number of life lessons that are a part of the story. Even though we know the movie by heart, we still enjoy watching it.
One of our favorite scenes is when Andy (one of the main characters) is sitting slumped against the prison walls and Red, his friend, comes up and sits down beside him. They sit in silence for a period of time before Andy states what’s on his mind. The reason for Andy’s despair would be cause for depression for the majority of us.
You see, Andy had been falsely accused of murder and the one person that could prove his innocence had been gunned down by the crooked warden. He had spent 20 years in jail for a crime that he didn’t commit and his one opportunity to prove his innocence had been snatched from him.
Despite this, Andy still had hope. He refused to be shackled by what happened in the past and let it determine his future. He was going to maintain the mindset to break free of the things that handcuffed him (both literally and figuratively) and express that to Red.
The interesting thing was Red’s response. He told Andy that having hope was a dangerous thing and not to torture himself with possessing the hope that someday he would be free.
Let’s stop for a minute and reflect on the Andy’s mindset. How many of us would be able to maintain hope in the face of overwhelming circumstances? How many of us would still strive to achieve our goals despite the “advice” given by friends like Red (even though they have good intentions)?
Some of you reading this are dealing with situations that on the surface, are as dire as what was facing Andy. The question that I have, is how will you respond? Will you accept the handcuffs or continue to search for ways to break free?
There are times in my life that I have been close to giving up hope. I want to throw in the towel and adopt the mindset of Red. I want to feel that my situation is hopeless and there is no way out. I shouldn’t torture myself by possessing hope.
When I reached this point, I visit the scriptures and look at the examples of faith and hope exhibited by the people mentioned in the 11th chapter of Hebrews and I am encouraged.
By no means am I saying that possessing hope in overwhelming situations is as simple as picking up the Bible. I am saying that doing this is one part of the process. The other part is knowing that you have the ability to overcoming the dire circumstances based upon the things you’ve overcome in the past.
A spoiler alert for the few people that haven’t seen this awesome movie follows.
Andy was able to escape and provided inspiration for Red when he was paroled shortly thereafter. The look of sheer joy on the both of their faces when they were reunited reminds us of the feelings we experience when we maintain hope and are able to overcome negative situations.
There are 2 things that I want each of you to do. The first is look back in your past and remember the times that you were able to scale that impossible mountain in your life.
The second is to study the many examples cited in scripture of those that overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles by having faith and hope in our Father.
Doing these 2 things will have a profound effect on how you view potential negative situations in the future. You will be infused with a new energy and perspective as you tackle the challenges of life.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing - James 1:22-25 ESV
My sons have now experienced the rite of passage that comes with going to the barbershop. They now enjoy going to get their hair cut at the shop that a friend of mine recommended (thanks Jay!). The actions of my youngest son Connor in regard to the barbershop experience has really surprised me.
Since Connor is naturally shy, I initially had to tell the barber how to cut his hair. He went from having me tell the barber how his hair should be cut to him providing the instructions himself. My amazement at his transformation doesn’t stop there. It’s after the haircut that Connor did something that I was able to learn from.
After his hair has been cut, Connor will come home and look at himself in the mirror. He will look at his haircut from every angle and comb it until he is satisfied with the result. He will repeat this ritual every morning until it’s time for his next haircut.
Connor looks into the mirror and works on his hair until it looks perfect. He will not leave that mirror until his job is done. Men, I think that all of us can learn a lesson from Connor and his daily hair ritual. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and examine who we are and what God has called us to do. We are not to abandon the pursuit of our purpose until it has come to fruition.
Like scripture warns us, we are not to walk away from the mirror and forget what we look like. In essence, we are not to forget our mission or purpose. All too often, we are hearers of the word and not doers. Even though God has spoken to us on a number of occasions, we shrink from the task He has assigned us. Let us lean into the assignment that God has given us and be encouraged.
My youngest has provided a blueprint that we can all learn from in regard to knowing and following through on our Master’s will. Connor progressed from not communicating to his barber to telling him how he wanted his hair cut. You can have the same progression as well when it comes to being a doer.
Embrace your assignment (in Connor’s case it was making sure his hair looked good) and stay in front of the mirror until it’s done. Persevere and use the talents and skill sets that our Father has provided for use to reflect His glory. Become a doer, not just a hearer.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh - Matthew 2:11 ESV
Christmas growing up was an awesome time in our household. I can remember my sister and I waking up at 4 am (I know my parents probably disliked the fact that we got up so early and as a result, forced them to have the gifts ready sooner than they liked) and running down the stairs to see what gifts we had. We were so excited, that we could not wait for our parents to get up. The thrill of running down the steps to see our gifts was an indescribable experience that I have never forgotten.
Now as I've gotten older, I am able to personally experience what my parents felt during those Christmas mornings. My 2 sons, especially when they were younger, got up early to see what gifts they had waiting under the tree. Like my parents before me, we were fortunate enough to have something for them under the tree to enjoy.
The ironic thing is that I derive a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the looks of joy on their faces as they open their gifts. I am happier because I have given to them as opposed to receiving presents.
Now imagine what the scene would be like if they ran down the steps to open their gifts and nothing was under the tree? How do you think they would feel? Can you imagine their level of disappointment? Is this something you would want to experience as a parent? I would think not!
Unfortunately, we do something equivalent to this when we withhold from others the gifts that our Heavenly Father provided for us. Every time we take our talent and hide it under a bushel, we have deprived someone of the opportunity to feel unbridled joy and satisfaction as a result of seeing your gifts on display.
Like the wise men that brought the best that they had when coming to worship Christ, we should always bring the best of us when we are with those in our sphere of influence. They deserve to see the best that we have to offer. We should give them the best that we have on a consistent basis.
I don't imagine that you wouldn't keep gifts from your children at Christmastime. Let us keep that same mindset when we are tempted to not utilize the gifts that God provided to impact those around us. Resolve to give those in our sphere of influence the very best that we have to offer. Do not withhold our gifts and talents. In doing so, you will learn the value of giving and the wonderful feeling that comes from sharing.
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw - Proverbs 24:32 NIV
Growing up, I loved to play ping pong. Those who know me from back home are aware that I am a pretty good player (I honed my skills at the local college that I attended and that was one of the reasons I was on academic probation).
I was playing ping pong with my son down in the basement the other day. I was experimenting with shots that I haven’t tried in quite some time. After volleying for a period of time, we decided to play a “real” game.
My son is really good! I had to dig deep and reach into my bag of tricks to beat him. His hand eye coordination is better than mine, so I had to rely on angles and ball placement in order to win. If I hadn’t drawn on that reservoir of experience that I had built up over the years, he would have beaten me.
An amazing thing happened in the subsequent games that we played (he is so competitive that he wasn’t going out like that). Trey starting replicating some of the same shots that I was doing! He had observed what I was doing and was utilizing some of the same strategies that I employed earlier to beat him. He began implementing angles and shot placement.
After we finished, (I still beat him by the way in the other games that we played, just sayin’) I asked what made him change the way he played. He looked at me and said that he watched me and saw my success. So he decided to do the things that he observed me doing while we were playing. He felt that in order to be successful in beating me, he needed to adopt some of the things that I was doing.
The question that I would like to ask is this: how many of you have the chance to model successful behavior to those who look up to you? More importantly, how many of you in that position will embrace the opportunity? As I was able to see when playing a game of ping pong with my son, there are people watching you that can benefit from your experience.
Men, it is incumbent that we model the right behavior and provide an example for those in our circle of influence to emulate. Oftentimes, we have the benefit of experience and all one needs to do is to observe how we conduct ourselves. It may be something as simple as telling your wife that you love her in front of your kids. The key is to make yourself available and do it on a consistent basis.
We need to be focused on providing the proper standard of excellence for our kids to emulate. If you’re not doing it now or feel that you are incapable, start with something relatively small and graduate to larger things in the future. Each of us have something to contribute in the way of passing on positive life experiences to others. There are people that are missing out on what we have to offer. Let's commit to making an impact on those around us by showing them the benefit that comes from observing us.
But the Lord told Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart.”-1 Samuel 16:7 GW
Recently, we were attending a swim meet for my 2 sons Trey and Connor. My wife and I have a great time trying to predict who will win some of the other heats that my sons are not a part of (I always want to pick one of my sons). In evaluating my pick, a majority of the time I will use the “eye” test in making my predictions of the winner.
In one particular heat, I noticed a young man in lane 3. He was doing all the right things as far as warming up and stretching. The primary thing that I noticed was his build. He had the broad shoulders and the six pack to match. I leaned over to Abbey and said “there is your winner of this heat. Just look at him, he is bigger and stronger looking than everyone else.”
The horn sounded and they were off. My prohibitive favorite fell behind in the first 25 meters. I looked at Abbey and said that my guy will be ok. He can make up the ground once he decides to kick it into another gear. With his build, he obviously had the strength and stamina to come back. At 75 meters, I came to the realization that not only wasn’t he going to win, he was going to lose to the guy that would have been my last choice as a favorite.
After that race was over (my guy didn’t finish in the top 4 by the way), I sat back and thought of how I fallen prey to looking at the outward appearance of the person as opposed to looking within. The young man that won that race on that particular day had more heart that the one that passed the eye test. He wanted to win more than the competition. That was the one thing that was unseen to the human eye.
I know that there are a number of you reading this that have been guilty just like me when I predicted my winner for that race. We looked at the appearance of an individual (it could be you) and made a prediction on whether or not they would be able to accomplish their goals. Why do we look at ourselves on a surface level and use that as a baseline in determining our chances for success?
As the scripture above states, God looks into the heart. Humans look at the outward appearance and make their determination on the "eye" test. Our omniscient Father knows precisely the things to look for. God has predestined all of us for a purpose during our time here on earth. Unfortunately, there are those of us that will not realize that divine purpose. We have looked at ourselves in the mirror and decided because we didn't look a certain way, we are incapable of doing God's work.
My brothers, let's not short circuit our opportunity to use the unique talents that our God has endowed us with. Let us not form conclusions based on the things that we see. Resolve to look deeper and examine the things that are not present to the human eye. Items such as tenacity, resiliency, and the integrity of one's heart are just a few of the items that come to mind. Incorporating this principle will help to ensure the chances of success for you.
I would love to hear from you about a time that you may have made the same mistake by utilizing the "eye test. Please comment below.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed - Mark 1:35 ESV
In my line of work, there are times that you have to take competency tests in order to be licensed. I remember the first time that I sat for one of those tests. I entered the testing room and provided my identification.
I was then seated at my own individual station with a computer that contained the exam. The last thing that I did was put on a set of headphones. The purpose of the headphones was to block out all noise and distractions so that you could focus on the task at hand.
It was amazing how my environment changed when I placed the headphones on. I could no longer hear any outside noise to distract me. I was able to concentrate on reading and answering the questions on the exam.
When we are faced with critical questions (like trying to discern our purpose in life), do we eliminate all distractions so that we can concentrate? Do we go somewhere quiet where we can focus in solitude? Or are we like most people and try to make important decisions or solve dilemmas in the midst of chaos?
The example that Christ practiced is one that I strongly urged for you to adopt. It has worked for me during those times that I have to answer important questions or make decisions. I go somewhere quiet where I can focus on listening to the voice of God guide me down the proper path.
If Christ successfully utilized this method, why don’t we? He knew the importance of getting away to a solitary place and being alone with the Father. It was so important, that our Savior made time for it every day and so should you.
The benefits of doing this are threefold: 1) It allows you to access the direction giving wisdom of God, 2) It helps to minimize those damaging wordly influences, and 3) It renews, soothes and elevates your mind to prepare you for the day ahead.
Adopting and incorporating this discipline on a daily basis is vital in helping you in making an impact on those around you. Every day, make time do get away (preferably in the morning before the world gains possession of our thoughts) and focus on what our Father has to say. You will be amazed at how your world will start to change.
So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief - Hebrews 3:19 NIV
Connor, who is my youngest, is a little short for his age. We were in the kitchen one day and he needed to get a bowl out of the cabinet. He reached for the bowl and was unable to get it. He unsuccessfully tried several times and was ready to give up. My first inclination was to get it for him. I decided that he was going to get it for himself.
"Connor, close your eyes, get on your tiptoes and BELIEVE that you can get the bowl". Those were the words that I spoke to him. He went through the same routine, but this time he closed his eyes, stood up on his tiptoes and reached. He was able to extend his reach to secure the bowl and bring it down. He opened his eyes and looked at me in amazement. "I did it, I did it!" he shouted. I asked him what was different. He looked and me and said that he believed he could do it.
I looked at him with pride and hoped that he learned a lesson from this episode. It also made me think about how many of us have been in a similar situation and didn't believe? We were unsuccessful in our attempts and decided not to try again. We did not believe that we could set out and accomplish our goals. Why? What keeps us from trying again? It's unbelief and it has serious consequences.
The children of Israel learned firsthand about the consequences of unbelief. An entire generation was excluded from entering the Promised Land. The primary reason behind this: it was their unbelief. God provided the children of Israel with the opportunity to enter Canaan immediately upon their coming out of Egypt. Their unbelief, combined with disobedience, kept this from happening. As a result they experienced hardships instead of enjoying the land promised to them.
My brothers, please don't let what happened to the children of Israel happen to you. Believe that you can accomplish whatever it is that God has planned for you. Believe that you can use your talents to make a difference in the world around you. Believe that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Like my son, your success begins with belief. Start adopting that mindset today.
Ken Sadler is a leader of Men's Ministry at a megachurch and has a heart and passion for helping men become the best they can be.