How’s that for a title! The Apostle Paul in giving instructions to his disciple Timothy, tells him, “Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Likewise, Peter tells the dispersed church to “be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” And again, Paul tells the Corinthians, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…”
One of my greatest concerns these days as a pastor is the isolation that creeps up on guys as life goes on. We get busy with our careers, family, keeping what we own maintained, and think that if we are being responsible in all these departments we are doing well. We go to church some, read our Bibles some, pray some, give some, and think that by doing these basics it will hold our spiritual life afloat. But here is what I have found: men who are not connected to other men in some type of ongoing conversation about their burdens, their marriage, their spiritual life, their emotional life will end up becoming isolated, discouraged, and lose sight of God at work in their life.
This does not happen suddenly. It happens over time. It happens because you are doing the necessary and responsible things of being a wage-earner, a family man, a husband, a father, a coach of your kid’s team. Notice, all these are good activities. But these activities can often become a shield to prevent us from being honest about ourselves. Busy is the easy excuse when asked, “How are you doing?”
I have also heard the excuses from guys that they have been in a small group in the past, have done Bible studies, have gone through a spiritual healing course and somehow think that just because they did these once upon a time that they have somehow moved on beyond needing to have someone speak into their life.
Connection to another guy or a small group of guys is vital to keeping one’s spiritual life alive – be vigilant, your adversary is seeking to devour you. Lions kill their prey by cutting off the weakest one and isolating it. You cannot stand against your adversary the devil on your own! No one can. No guy’s faith will hold if he gets cut off from other believing men.
Your wife is not called to be that person who nurtures your spiritual life. Our wives love us, and their instinct is to support us, and even nurture us. A good marriage will have this. But we cannot lean upon our wives for the kind of spiritual support we need to stay alive in our faith. We need the fellowship of other men.
Introverts and extroverts are both vulnerable to isolation. The introvert thinks I am comfortable being alone. The extrovert thinks because I have been around other people that is the sign that I have meaningfully engaged someone. Both are excuses that do not hold up. Faith is a life and death issue. Faith is a spiritual battle. Faith is not held onto by accepting the path of least resistance.
Please know, I am not talking about some type of “in your face” confrontation of a man to a man, and calling that discipleship or fellowship. Relationships that become valued come from trust. Relationships that yield fruit take time. Once these pieces become developed it is then possible for a friend to ask another friend how he is doing even if they haven’t seen each other for a while.
So here is the question: what guy in your life knows how you are doing? What guy or guys would you name who would be aware of how you are doing? Who is sharing their life with you in such a way that you are receiving from them and they are receiving from you?
Everyone gets discouraged along the course of life. We are not meant to fight the fight alone. In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings one of the main themes is the fellowship of a group of disparate travelers on a mission. The mission is serious, dangerous, too much for any one character to do on his own. The group becomes the Fellowship of the Ring. Tolkien does a brilliant job of conveying this sense that life in all its challenges is not to be accomplished alone.
Guys, take heed!