I don't mean males. There are plenty of those around.
But real men -- men who take responsibility, do their duty, sacrifice for a cause, and live by their convictions -- are a rarity. Unfortunately, men who do not act like men pass it down to their sons. It is dreadfully contagious.
What does it mean to act like a man?
Too many men think it means that you must have muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Having an accent like his doesn't hurt either.) But does racking up hours in Gold’s Gym or winning Mr. Olympia seven times qualify one automatically for manhood? Or is there more to it?
In the final lines of I Corinthians, Paul urges the church there to "Be on the alert, stay firmly committed to the faith, act like men, be strong" (16:13, my translation). The verb act like men is literally the verb form of the Greek word for man (not humankind, but man). It occurs only once in the New Testament, but is found about twenty-two times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint). Essentially, to act like a man is to muster up one’s courage or to be brave. It assumes that an essential part of manhood is courage or bravery.
Courage is sorely needed because, frankly, life is full of risks, discouragements, and opportunities to fail. In light of the overwhelming possibility that an undertaking might fail, it is easier sometimes not to try. Why try if you will probably fail anyway?
What this world needs is men with the courage to try. And to fail. And then try again. And then fail again. But then try one more time—mustering all their courage for one last whack—and succeed.
Can you think of a man in the Old Testament who was repeatedly admonished to be strong and courageous?
If you guessed Joshua, you are correct (Deut. 3:28; 31:6-7, 23; Josh. 1:6-7, 9, 18).
Joshua had plenty of reasons to need courage. He was the successor to Moses, an unrivalled leader and prophet of God. He was tasked with bringing more than two million people into an inheritance that had been promised to them over four hundred years previously. The nation had already failed to enter their promised land forty years earlier and had instead wandered in the wilderness until a whole generation had been killed off. Now Moses was dead, and Joshua was the man chosen to make all this happen for the nation of Israel.
How could he possibly muster the inner courage to embrace his daunting task? How can you, when faced with your own daunting tasks?
For Joshua the key was a simple truth, phrased as a question: "Have I not commanded you (Josh. 1:9)?" Because God had commanded him to do the task, he could muster up the courage to do it.
This is also the key for you to act like a man every day. You must determine what God has commanded you to do. If God has commanded it, then God will be with you (Josh. 1:9), and you can be ensured of ultimate success. In other words, an important key to acting like a man is to live on the basis of commands, not feelings.
A platoon of soldiers does not rush into battle because they feel like it. They do so because they have been commanded to do so. Their assumption is that the command has been thought out carefully, the options have been weighed, the risks counted, and the ultimate necessity of the mission decided upon. Armed with this command, the soldiers press forward bolstered with courage.
Similarly, a man acts like a man when he gets a hold of what God has commanded him to do. He will not always feel like doing it. That’s beside the point. A man lives by commands, not by feelings. Too many men are drifting aimlessly down the river of life either because they don't know what God has commanded them to do or because what they know to do goes against what they feel like doing.
It may be easy for us to look at such men and point a finger at them.
Instead, ask yourself: Will I act like a man today? Will I summon the courage to obey today what I have been commanded to do today?
Go ahead, act like a man today!
Then do it again tomorrow. And the day after.
Before you know it, you will act like a man every day.