Journal entry 071411: What it takes

The questions in the hearts of men are universal and consistent: Do I have what it takes? Can I pull this off? Will I be found out?

Guys will take on epic adventures to answer the question and prove they have what it takes to survive and prosper. But more often we stand against the wall and wait for the moment to pass, hoping to avoid doing something that will leave us looking foolish. We’d rather miss an adventure (or opportunity, or ministry, or relationship) than risk being found out.

Part of the problem is our cultural definition of what it means to be a real man. I found nearly 50 versions of the “50 Things A Real Man Should Be Able To Do” list, and they included things like:

Throw a punch

Chop down a tree

Jump-start a car

Change a flat tire

Build a campfire

Clean a paint brush

Point toward north

Avoid boredom

Tie a bowline knot

Change a diaper

Calculate square footage

… and on and on (a real man should know when to stop making lists!)

So I thought about that when reading a Bible account of a group of men who probably could have performed all 50 things on all 50 lists, and maybe even taught the classes. Reading from 1 Chronicles 5:24, it says: “These were the heads of their families: Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah and Jahdiel. They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families.”

These are prime qualities for an excellent resume - brave warriors, well-known and influential men of importance, leaders, responsible decision-makers. Yet the Bible goes on to say these manly men failed at the most important thing.

Verse 25 says: “But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.”

Because of their unfaithfulness God allowed an enemy nation (Assyria) to swoop in and defeat these men and carry them off as captives, spoils of war. Their families, friends, and neighbors all suffered because these men failed to be faithful to God. Even courage, fame, and influence weren’t enough. They were like the foolish man who built his house on the sand: they were swept away. In the final accounting, they did not have what it takes. They couldn’t pull off their single most important task.

So what should a real man (or woman) be able to do? What should be at the top of the list?

The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, gave this insight to King Ahaz when he asked for advice: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:9) It is our faith that gives us strength, gives us depth, and density. A person who professes no faith has little to stand on when the troubles come.

I once heard Erwin McManus challenge an arena full of Promise Keepers by saying: “The shape of your character is the shape of your future.” Not skill, but character. Not influence, but faith.

I thought of another story from 2 Chronicles 20:12, when King Jehoshaphat ended a long prayer for guidance with this phrase, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

He was a king who understood the limits of his own wisdom, courage, influence, and power, and knew to stand to firm in his faith.

And so, my prayer, “Lord - I am asking you again to speak to my heart about teaching and writing and books and engineering and oil & gas and cash flow and publishing and marketing and being Uncle Berry and loving Cyndi and taking guys into the mountains and all that. I don’t know what to do, but help me keep my eyes on You.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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