4 Steps Toward Starving Your Pride {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

 

I have a question for you: Are you prideful? Not the kind of pride that expresses itself through yelling yourself hoarse during the basketball game, or the kind that makes you proud of your sibling after they’ve just accomplished something meaningful. Not even the kind of pride that gives you that satisfied feeling after a long day of productive work. I’m talking about the kind of pride that makes you resent someone for butting in on your conversation with a friend, or the pride that looks down on the guy who doesn’t do something the same way you do. The pride that gives you the feeling you deserve something for accomplishing a task, or taking pride that you hang out with a certain group of people, and “that kid over there” doesn’t because they’re not too cool. That’s the pride I’m talking about, and the pride that will knock you right off that high horse.

I’m going to make a statement which is bold, but true: If you’re a living and breathing human, you’re going to struggle with pride. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but you will in the future. Especially if you’re a guy. For some reason, men have a massive issue with pride. Let me illustrate in simple terms. You know those Tom turkeys you see strutting around in the field, blown up like a balloon with their tail feathers in the air and prancing around like they own the world? They’re the bird equivalent of what guys tend to do – strut around, lording it over the other guys with what they know, wanting to look like they’re that much better than the ones around them. Pride is a major issue in life – we want people to like us (or at least think we’re cool), and often we believe the best way to draw their attention is to blab about what we know. Supposedly.

Since we know we will struggle with pride at some point, here are four actions we can take to discourage pride in our lives:

  1.  Pray. Pray against pride. Pray that God will keep you humble through your successes and failures (face it – even when we fail we can tend toward pride. It’s just a messed up thing we tend to do as sinners). God wants us to bring our requests to him, not for His benefit, but for ours. In prayer, we become more aware of our weaknesses and His strength, and the fact that we alone are powerless to overcome that weakness. But when we petition Christ, seeking His grace and His strength, it is then that our failures can be overcome through Christ.
  2. Serve. Want to combat pride? Serve! Get out and help at food banks, deliver items to families in need, volunteer at the homeless shelter and the pregnancy care center – just SERVE! Pride only likes doing things that make me look good. When you serve, you’re putting the focus on others and contributing to their success. And while you serve, you’re giving time and resources, which can further starve pride. One note of caution: Check your motives. You can serve for your own benefit, just to grow people’s admiration of your “good character” and not to inhibit the growth of pride. Don’t serve so that people will see you – serve so that others will see Christ through your actions, and be pointed to him.
  3. Focus on others. This is similar to number two, but this point applies to all of life. Look around you – there are plenty of things that need to be done: take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, fold the clothes, help the little old lady across the street… the list goes on and on. This is not only an action step, but it’s really a mindset you must take. Observe how you can be of assistance to others, and then go do it! You may not feel like taking initiative,  but as you begin doing it, your feelings will follow (“act your way into feeling” as my pastor says).
  4. Do it for God’s glory. What do I mean? Well, don’t do anything for your own personal gain. Phillipians 2:3 above challenges us not to do anything from “rivalry” or “conceit.” Before you do something, ask yourself “is this for the good of someone else (or God), or am I doing this so that others think more highly of me?” That question should help you draw out your motives, and bring to light why you do what you do. 

 Pride is something that I struggle with, and will continue to struggle with. You will too. The four steps above are not the key to conquering pride, but they will help in starving out pride in your life and replacing it with a mindset of “other centeredness”, which leads to humility – counting others more important than yourself.

Questions:

  • Why do you do what you do? What are your motives for your actions?
  • What are some other ways you nourish humility and starve pride in your life?
  • Find three things to do this week that demonstrate “other centeredness”, and then do them.

From Prison to Prince {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

Truly great men seem few and far between these days. Men are either effeminate, or they seem to be animalistic. This is why it is so refreshing to come across a man who stood up for truth, purity, honesty, and sacrifice. Recently I’ve been studying the life of Joseph from the Bible. What God has shown me is amazing. Joseph went through trial after trial – hatred from his brothers, slavery, false accusation, and imprisonment – and yet continually trusted God. And the Lord worked through him in every situation.

 

You very likely know the story of Joseph. If you don’t though, here’s the story at whirlwind speed. Joseph was his father’s favorite son, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and who was purchased by one of Pharaoh’s military leaders. However, when Joseph was accused of trying to sleep with his master’s wife, he was thrown into prison, and kept there for some time. When the head baker and head wine taster for Pharaoh were thrown into prison with Joseph, they both had dreams which he interpreted correctly (or rather the Lord did it through him). Joseph, though, was forgotten  until one day when the King had a dream and none of his wise men were able to interpret it. The wine taster remembered Joseph,  Joseph was sent for, and he interpreted the dream.  He explained  that there were going to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so pleased, he placed the former prisoner in charge of the entire kingdom!

 

Joseph worked hard storing up grain until the famine hit. When it did, he was ready. And then, lo and behold, his brothers appeared looking for food (the famine wasn’t just in Egypt)! They didn’t recognize him, and, after putting them through several tests, he finally reveals to them who he really is – their brother!

 

There are endless lessons we could learn from the life of Joseph. However, here are five that we can apply to our everyday lives.

 

1. Give your best wherever you are!

Joseph not only worked hard as a slave (and then as Pharaoh’s second in command), he put everything he had into every job. He held nothing back. God blessed him, and he was given commanding positions of authority in every area of his life.

2. Real men show humility.

Joseph did not take the credit for anything. He gave it to God. Genesis tells us multiple times that “whatever he [Joseph] did, the Lord made it succeed” (Gen. 39:23). Joseph acknowledged to Pharaoh that interpreting the dream was not his own work, but God’s.

3. Sometimes in life we need to wait.

After Joseph interpreted the head baker and wine taster’s dreams, they were released and promptly forgot about him (although the head baker was hanged, so he didn’t have much opportunity to talk about Joseph). Joseph stayed in prison for two more years after that! That’s a long time! Often times in life God wants us to wait on something. It may be to teach us patience or to show us something about ourselves. Whatever the reason, use the “waiting time” to grow closer to God and serve him.

4. Circumstances in our lives may not be what they appear.

Joseph’s circumstances in life seem pretty horrible at the beginning of the story. Joseph realized though that God uses each and every thing that happens to us for His glory and for our good! Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

5. Be bold rather than bitter.

We may not always feel like life is “fair”. We can either choose to be bitter or we can pursue life with boldness. Joseph didn’t allow what could have made him extremely bitter (his brothers’ selling him, being forgotten by the wine taster and baker, for example) to affect him. He pursued God and life with a passion, not allowing his circumstances to drag him down.

 

Questions:

  • What are some ways you’re standing up for truth, purity, honesty, or any other character quality?
  • Joseph faced many trials, yet didn’t allow them to drag him down. Are you allowing your trials to rule over you, or have you determined to keep pursuing God and living life passionately?

 

Don’t Get Lost in Love

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

February is largely known for one thing: Valentine’s Day. Yes, there are other holidays. However, ask most people what is special about February and they’ll reply with “Valentine’s.” Candy hearts, red roses, balloons, heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, and Nat King Cole singing “L-O-V-E”. Love. In my opinion, it’s the best word that sums up February.

I don’t know how you feel about Valentine’s Day. If you’re in your 20s, single, and want that “special someone” in your life (as Great-Aunt Rita would say), you are very likely just trying to avoid that feeling of loneliness which so easily can creep into your life. If you’re between the ages of 1-19, your eyes might be rolling while you attempt to dodge the love-struck sibling or friend at the Valentine’s Day party.

Whatever your view of Valentine’s is, what I’m going to say next is important for each and every one of us: Don’t get lost in love for each other. “WHAT?!” Some of you are saying. “You’re crazy! That’s what Valentine’s is for! To show those we love that we care about them!” And you’re exactly right. But while we go about showing our love for our friends and family, February is the best month to remember someone who demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice of love: Jesus Christ. Roughly 2,000 years ago, he came to the earth as a baby. For 33 years he lived a life just like you and me (besides the miracles he did and the perfect life he lived). And then – he died. On a cross. An excruciating death. But he didn’t die for something he had done. He died because he was showing his love for you and me.

John 15:13 tells us that “greater love hath no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (ESV). Jesus showed how much he loved us by laying down his life for imperfect people who do stupid, imperfect, things. He died and rose again so that we might have eternal life with him. His was the ultimate sacrifice of love.

So while we go about celebrating Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to stop and remember what Christ did for you and me in his death on the cross. When we show love to others, we’re simply mirroring his great love for us.

Scarlet Fetters {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

This may be one of the most important posts for young men to take notice of, because through it there can be an unprecedented amount of victory in your Christian walk.

Likely like many of you, I was forced to read a book for a literature class called The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Wait! Don’t stop reading! I can already sense the yawns of boredom, worried about the direction a post is going to go that starts out with a boring, dusty old book. But keep reading because it contains a very important point.

In the book, there are two characters who sinned together. One is a lady who was married but because she ends up having a child because of her adultery, they pin a red capital letter ‘A’ on her so that everyone knows she is an adulteress.  Nobody knows who the man was. As you read, you discover that the man is the local preacher in the community.

The character that impacted me the most was the preacher who had committed the sin with Hester Prynne. The adulteress had the scarlet ‘A’ emblazoned on her clothes for all the world to see so that the whole community could shun her. The weak, “righteous” preacher on the other hand had hidden his sin and was upheld highly by the entire community as a man of God whose words from the pulpit each week were beautiful and true, impacting them more deeply than any they’d ever heard before. He was the last person they would suspect of such a heinous sin. As you read, you see the result that hiding his sins had on the man. He becomes weaker and weaker, wracked by guilt, but still living his pious, righteous life on the outside. He is tormented by the demons of shame and regret and the reality of his hypocrisy;  it takes a toll on his body, physically he becomes paler and weaker all the time. It’s not as though he’s still living in the sin—he just hid the sin from the people. The book presents him as a trapped man with no escape. As I read, I felt the crushing weight on him, and kept searching in my mind for a way he could get out of this situation. The only solution that came up time and time again was that he had to confess. He was living a lie by hiding his sin and had to confess it, accepting any consequences that came as a result, and move on. Surely whatever would happen would be better than the wretched existence he was living now. The whole character clearly portrays the effect of covering your sin. And I remember when I read it, it stirred in me a deep commitment to be open and broken and transparent.

The Bible says “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

The fact is that it is not easy to confess our sins. It’s embarrassing…it’s awkward! It’s even hard to confess to God sometimes because it means we’re admitting we’re wrong. We want to downplay what we’ve done or pretend that it doesn’t really matter or justify it. But if you feel guilty about something, that’s a sure sign that you should confess it to someone you trust like your parents! (However, it’s important to note that even if you don’t feel guilty, but know it’s wrong before God, you also need to confess it before the Lord and repent. Sometimes people convince themselves that if they’re not convicted, it’s alright, but God has a standard of right and wrong that transcends our feelings.)

This applies specifically to young men because there are a lot of pressures we face at this time of life and there are changes we are going through that can be embarrassing and awkward. When I was at college, a group of Christian guys joined together to form an accountability group and we made a commitment to be completely open with one another, and admit what we were struggling with, and answer any questions that we were asked in the group.

If there’s something you’re struggling with, don’t just try to handle it yourself. As the verse above says, whoever covers his sins will not prosper. We need each other and God has given you your parents and a Christian community in the church to rely on. This truth has greatly impacted me and freed me from so much guilt and bondage and I pray that it will have the same affect on you.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

A New Year {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

2014. A brand new year. Among all the festivities of the past few weeks, I’m sure you took a few minutes to jot down a few New Year’s goals (don’t worry if you didn’t; I’m not judging). Perhaps you reviewed 2013 and all that happened. Or didn’t. Either way, what I’m about to say applies to all of us, goal makers and non-goal makers alike.

As I looked back over my 2013, one thing kept popping up in my face: All the times I failed (it’s not the happiest thought, I know). Failed to be on time, failed to keep my cool, failed to follow through on something, failed to focus on what I needed to be focusing on. Ouch. It hurt. I was feeling a little overwhelmed at trying to do better in 2014, and then I received an email from a friend.

Let me back up here. A few weeks before, someone had begun a “Bible verse email.” Basically this is where someone’s name goes on an email, it’s sent around to 20 people, and those 20 people send a Bible verse to the person named (also known as a “chain letter”). My name eventually ended up on the list and this person was sending me my verse. Except she sent the wrong verse. I did get the right text, but it had the wrong reference with it. She quoted it as coming from I John 1:9 when it was supposed to be referenced as Joshua 1:9. Being one of those people with an insatiable curiosity, I had to look up 1 John 1:9… And that’s where I felt as if I’d received a smack right in the face.

I had been so worried about wondering how not to fail in 2014, that I forgot about what Christ has done. He’s paid for our failures! And, like I John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s time to confess our failure, and to begin again. Learn from your failures of last year, then forget them. Live each day this year intentionally. Realize that choices have consequences, whether good or bad, and only you can choose whether to do the right thing or not. And most importantly, don’t view 2014 as a daunting year, but instead as a fresh start. Acknowledge what Christ has done, confess your failures, and look at 2014 as a clean slate, ready to be written on.

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” – G. K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton’s quote is brilliant picture. What are some fresh ways we can approach 2014?

What are some things you’d like to change this year in your life?

What are some of your goals for this year?

 

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