Not Perfectly, But Increasingly So

Life never seems to arrive. As soon as I get to a spot where I think things will finally settle down or my soul will be satisfied, some monkey wrench gets thrown into the mix and life either comes to a grinding halt, or I’ve got to make a pit stop for repairs. There’s always one more thing to do, see, or finish. Some days are filled with more to do than there is time. There are guys I know who live on three or four hours of sleep. Whether it’s a slew of college deadlines or a work schedule that demands far more than a 40 hour week (more like 60-70 hours), they go into a season of intense stress. Stress often leads to making stupid choices; choices that end up being a sin-detour as well.  

That’s when I’ll get a call or a text. I can’t do this anymore. I’m so frustrated with myself. When will I even learn to keep God in the center of my life? Can we talk? 

Oh, how I resonate with those cries for help! Why? Because I’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, so to speak. Life used to be all about me, my accomplishments, my pedigree, my status. My efforts were my standard for measuring success. Like Paul explains in Philippians 3, he had reason to boast in his flesh. His list was longer and more prestigious than anyone else’s. And yet, he finally got to a point where it all was nothing more than a pile of rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. 

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… 

Philippians 3:7-8 ESV

Instead of life going from one thing to another, always looking for that next noteworthy accomplishment, Paul realized his best and the most surpassing goal was to know Christ.

Manhood is an Imperfect Journey

Your life started at conception. You were born a boy, but inside that bundle of Bubba-ness was the makings of a man. As a boy grows up, he soon discovers that life doesn’t always go his way. I’m sure you had your share of two-year-old tantrums. I did! That innate strong will of yours was being challenged by the ever-expanding world around you. Fast-forward to your teenage years and the self-focus was still there, this time with a push for greater independence, greater testing of the waters of life. Not that independence is a bad thing. So long as it is also a pursuit of a living relationship with Christ, independence becomes a path towards manhood maturity. A young man who follows Mentoring Warriors just turned 18. Not even two years ago, he was a shorter, muscle-less guy. Nothing wrong with that, but in about 730 days, he not only grew about 8 inches, and bulked up, he also grew massively in his character. This boy has become a man virtually overnight!

Paul knew that when his focus shifted from life about Paul to Christ living His life through Paul, everything changed. Every step of his manhood journey now took on an entirely different purpose. 

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Philippians 3:9 ESV

Paul’s life was now directed by faith in Christ, not faith in himself. Why? 

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10-11 ESV

Worth It All

Even if Paul faced death for his faith in Christ, it was worth it all. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ was now something to desire instead of something to avoid. Paul’s end-game was in view. His vision for his life was far more than what he accomplished today or tomorrow. Paul had an eternal view that gave perspective for every trial and testing he faced. Side-tracks and detours were no longer seen as an interruption to his plans, rather they were divinely appointed so that the glory of God could be seen in Paul’s life. 

That meant Paul could be content with where he was in life, i.e. not arriving, but being a man in the journey of supernatural transformation. 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Philippians 3:12 ESV

Not Perfectly, But Increasingly So

If you are around me for any amount of time, you will hear me talk about the manhood journey towards Christ as an imperfect journey.  Meaning, as much as you pursue Christ, you will not live for Him perfectly; today, tomorrow or next year. Our humanness and the process of supernatural transformation is a journey through trials and testings that God uses to wean us off our self-focused life and increasingly focused on Him. Paul knew that. Even with all of his zeal for Christ, there was still much God needed to do in his life. That was not a point of discouragement, nor a reason to give up, Instead, it was a call to press on. Why? Paul knew that his ultimate identity as a man was being IN CHRIST.  Christ is his life, and Christ wants to be your life as well.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 

Philippians 3:13 ESV

Paul put aside this idea that he could finally arrive in life and essentially coast the rest of the way. Every new morning, crawling off his bed-mat, every night, when he was weary from a day of ministry and work, with more to do than he started with, he didn’t get frustrated or felt like quitting. Instead, he was motivated by Christ Himself to press on. To see how the next turn, the next day, the next person he encountered would be used by God to make him more of a Christ-like man than he was the day before. 

Forgetting What Lies Behind

But, you don’t know about my past. How can God use me when I’ve essentially derailed my own life. I’m damaged goods and nothing can repair that.  I’ve had countless nights lying in bed, staring at the ceiling with a massive pit in my stomach over the stupid things I’ve done. Regrets haunted me. They held me back. Kept my faith small and puny, timid and fearful. It’s when I finally realized that those very things, those sins, and weights that so easily entangled me were all paid for on the cross by Jesus Christ, I could forget them. The weight started to fall off and I for the first time in a long time felt the freedom to run the race for Christ.  

Forgetting what lies behind doesn’t mean you ignore your past. It doesn’t mean you put your head in the sand as if those things never happened. Rather, you learn from them. You let God use those years that the locusts have eaten in your life and make much of them. In 2 Corinthians Paul reminds us 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV

All those past failures, those unexpected pains, even your sins, God can use to shape you into a man after His heart.  The key is repentance. Essential to you forgetting your past is to repent of your past. Then, God can use your pains to not only comfort you but uses your sufferings to come alongside others with His very comfort.

Lose the Frustration

Paul knew with Christ as his ultimate identity, he could lose the frustration of being a work in process and not truly arriving. 

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Philippians 3:14-16 ESV.

I’m not all God wants me to be, yet. But, I’m more like Christ today than I was this time last year. I press on, not perfectly, but increasingly so. Not as an excuse to sin, but to see the glory of God and His work in me as part of His greater plan for my life, and to invest in the next generation for Christ. 

Transformation Before My Very Eyes!

A young man I have mentored for the past seven years has gone from a self-focused, insecure, lust-driven and tormented soul, to a man of the Word who has seen God do a transforming work from the inside-out. The lure of lust has dissipated to the point his love for Christ has increasingly been his go-to when life pours out its pressure on him. Has it been a perfect journey? No. There are the occasional times he relapses, but to be honest, they are few and farther between. That is NO EXCUSE to sin, rather a reminder even in our pursuit of God, we need to extend grace to one another. Yet, he is far more a man of God in the making than some men twice his age. The excitement of seeing first hand the changes God does in the lives of men who are yielded to Him is worth every moment of investing in their lives!

Think This Way

Not everyone reading this will agree. Some of you are convinced your life won’t amount to much; that your days are doomed to one grind after another; never getting ahead. Never winning the battles over sin. Paul has graciously outlined for us in Philippians 3 how to press on to a greater call, a greater identity than simply living for yourself. One sign you are maturing in Christ is you will live, not perfectly, but increasingly so.

3 Tips on Seeing Life God’s Way

  1. Make a list of all your accomplishments and successes. Then, list all you have gained in the cross of Christ.  You know you are maturing as a man when the scales are tipped in favor of the cross.
  2. Look at every setback, every pain, every frustration as a way God wants you to lean on Him for an eternal perspective.
  3. Realize God doesn’t waste a single moment of your life. In repentance, your call is to be teachable in the journey.  No man truly matures without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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