One of my favorite parts of any worship service is having the chance to watch “seasoned saints” sing. There is something about hearing a widow sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” or a man, wearing a crown of silver and gray, proclaim, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” that nourishes my soul.
But it isn’t just their age that enriches these hymns of praise. It’s the testimony of a life well-lived, a tested faith refined by the fires of affliction, that deepens their words. I look on with awe as I wonder how much more they know of God’s love and mercy than I do. Though we are saying the same words, their hearts are singing a fuller refrain.
A godly man wins. This is the final, and most difficult of all the principles that we have been covering over the last several weeks. Here are the 4 principles again.
A godly man Worships God, valuing Him above all else.
A godly man Works hard selflessly serving others for God’s glory.
A godly man Wars against anything that threatens the pursuit of godliness in his heart and in his home.
A godly man Wins.
All of the other principles can be faked. A man can have the “appearance of godliness” (going to church, participating in work days, and talking about the importance of sanctification) while still harboring sin and unbelief in his heart. But you can’t fake winning.
Life isn’t a game that you can cheat. It’s a race, and everyone can see you. Some may be able to fool the world until the very end, but no one enters heaven without crossing the finish line.
Isn’t this a series of posts about qualifying my son and any potential son-in-law(s) for marriage? Am I suggesting that my son wont be ready until he dies? No. Am I saying that my daughters aren’t allowed to get married until heaven? Maybe. (Just kidding, there’s no marriage in heaven.) So, how does this biblical principle for pursuing godliness affect the way I raise my son and how I plan to help my daughters discern suitors? Here are 3 questions that I will use to gauge them.
1.) Does he know that the pursuit of godliness will take a lifetime?
It’s often said that life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Having only run a half marathon, and that without much training or water, I can provide some additional insights to this analogy.
There is no practice for life, you train as you go- While this isn’t something that anyone would encourage for marathon running, it is true of the Christian life. God disciplines His children along the way. The church encourages, edifies, and spurs you on. And the believer grows in knowledge and maturity through prayer, reading the Bible, and working out his own salvation. But we’re not talking about practice. If you are a Christian, you’re in the race now. It’s a marathon. Are you running?
Hydrate or die- In Marine Corps boot camp, every night before bed, recruits stand in front of their racks holding canteens full of water straight out in front of them. The drill instructor yells out, “Hydrate!” To which they respond in unison, “Or die!” Then they drink the canteens as quickly as possible and hold them out again upside down to show that they are indeed empty. This guarantees a certain amount of hydrating is taking place in order to sustain the body during the rigors of training. Similarly, along the route of a marathon, tables are set up with small cups of water for runners to grab-and-go throughout the race. Being untrained, I didn’t grab any water because I didn’t “feel” thirsty. In fact, I didn’t have a drop of water until mile marker 10, at which point, I was more than thirsty. I was dehydrated. With 3.1 miles to go, and the dreaded “runner’s wall” ahead of me, I was in bad shape.
The Christian life requires water. If you only drink from the fountain when you “feel” thirsty, then you will be ill-prepared for trials when (not if) they come. It’s a marathon, are you hydrating?
2.) Does he know that godliness is God’s work?
Perhaps the most encouraging and complicated thing about sanctification is that it’s God’s work.
It’s encouraging to know that God cares more about our sanctification than we do because He has more invested in it than we do. His glory is on the line. Salvation is God’s work, which He secured in the past and will complete in the future, but He hasn’t left us alone in the meantime.
It’s complicated because we don’t understand how it all works. God is perfecting us, but we are also called to purify ourselves. He is holy, and He makes us holy, but we are also told to be holy. It is I who work, yet not I, but it is Christ who lives in me. Someone has defined grace as “God’s divine enablement, whereby He provides for His own in such a way that they cannot and therefore should not take the credit.” Every part of salvation is God’s grace – past, present, and future. He who began a good work will bring it to completion.
3.) Has he been tested?
A number of jobs list “prior experience” as part of the requirements for potential applicants. This often raises the complaint, “How can I gain experience, if no one will give me any?” In the same way, it would be unfair for me to require a young man (my son or otherwise) to have endured great trials prior to getting married. However, it is worth noting whether or not his faith has been tested, and, if it has, how did he respond? This isn’t to say that a man cannot change and grow like John Mark did in Acts, who, after formerly abandoning the missionary journey, was considered useful to Paul again at the end of his ministry. Failure should not, though, be merely excused without further examination.
Is he aware of his own level of spiritual maturity? – Does he have an inflated view of self? Does he have a false humility? Just as important as killing pride is guarding against excessive self-deprecation. A godly man must have a balanced, biblical view of himself, especially with regard to his pursuit of godliness.
Does he honor those who have been tested and found faithful?- How does he view the “seasoned saints” I mentioned at the beginning? Does he despise the elderly, scorning them for their physical infirmities while elevating and praising the “strength” of youth? Or does he see that their shoulders are worn from carrying the burdens of others and honor them as champions who are nearing the finish line? Is he aware of his own mortality, living his life in light of eternity?
The final principle, a godly man wins, is always true. But, since we cannot know the end from the beginning, it’s more about a trajectory than a finished goal. Is the course and condition of his life one that will endure through trials to the end? This changes our perspective on not only our own trials, but also the trials of others, namely our sons.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:6-7
photo credit: Diana Stiles