We Are in This Together
I gave my life to Jesus at the age of 18. I quickly realized I needed a mentor to help guide me in my new faith. I had lots of questions and needed an example of how to live out the faith in Jesus I had embraced.
My girlfriend, who is now my wife, and I decided to go to the church she attended as a young girl. It was there where I was warmly received by a man many years my senior. He had gray hair and a lot of faithful years of walking with Jesus. I was immediately drawn to him. His name is Dick Harrison and I give great thanks to God that Dick was prepared and ready to sacrifice his time and energy on a young man who needed a mentor. Dick never played sandlot football or racquetball with me and he wasn’t interested in playing Intellivision (first generation video game in the late 1970’s), but he would spend time chatting with me about living for Jesus. He willingly listened to my struggles and opened the Scriptures to talk about what a godly man looked like.
Several years later I saw Dick at an event. He had aged a lot and looked more frail but his faith was stronger than ever. As I embraced him, I whispered in his ear just how much he meant to me. I then introduced my friends to him as his spiritual grandchildren and great grandchildren. We sat for a while and I shared with him all that God was doing through my life and how his example to me inspired me years later to pour into young men so they too would walk with Jesus for a lifetime. Dick enjoyed hearing the spiritual stories of the men who were with me. You could see the grateful spirit in his eyes that his efforts of pouring into me were not in vain and in fact was reaping more workers for the harvest.
For many believers, this story of Dick Harrison is not repeated in their lives. In some men, mid-life crisis draws them to focus and invest in what excites their flesh instead of what excites the Spirit of God in them. In my experience, I have found that many young men long to spend time with mature mentors so they can learn what it means to be a godly man.
What do younger men want and need from older men? Here are few thoughts that I have about pouring into younger men in order to help them become godly and to impact their sphere of influence for Jesus.
1. Friendship and Love
Every man needs to know he matters. Every man needs a sense of significance. The culture of parenthood is rapidly shifting in western culture. Many younger men have not had fathers who are deeply engaged, especially spiritually. Younger men often crave friendship from an older man who will spend time with them through their struggles and victories. When an older man chooses to lay down his interests to spend time with a younger man, both feel a sense of significance which helps them to mature further. These times can be deeply spiritual or just plain fun. They can include deep conversations on relationships and temptations or they can take in a ball game together. Friendship, acceptance and love are things every man, young or old, needs.
2. Honesty and Vulnerability
It is common for men to get together and tell exaggerated stories of being a hero or brag of their latest toy purchase. When older men become honest and vulnerable with younger men it gives a sense of permission to admit fears and failures. I often share with younger men how difficult the first years of marriage were or how I had to reel in my heart from lusting for cars, women and more of everything. When I shared my sins and became vulnerable a sense that everything would be okay seems to swell over both of us. Life is hard and we need to walk together but not in the fantasy of being the hero. Rather, we need to admit we are fellow strugglers who need each other. Success in walking with Jesus is faithfulness, not in seeing souls saved or something else to be counted.
3. Stories and Ears
Everyone likes to hear a good story and to tell their own. When we tell our stories to younger men, it gives us a connection that we may not have had before. Hearing stories of wrestling with God through situations in our life, hearing how we deal with not feeling like our faith makes sense, or sharing the blessings of persevering through challenges resulting in greater faith encourages the hearer. Taking the time to hear the heart of a younger man shouts to him that his story matters. We don’t have to have the answers — we know that most often we don’t have any answers, but we have spent a few more years getting to ‘know’ the Father (1 John 2:13-14) and that makes all the difference.
4. Wisdom and Prayer
Younger men often hunger for a deeper understanding of how to be a spiritual leader. I hear many young men asking how to hear from God for themselves. Sharing stories of hearing from God through the Scriptures, in our hearts and through a community of close friends is stimulating. Engaging the mystery of pursuing God in prayer so wisdom emerges is powerful to a younger soul. Living in a way that shows younger men that being godly is really what manliness was meant to be can start a chain reaction to their friends that is unstoppable.
Recently I told a young man in his 30’s how I prayed for seventeen years about an issue in my life. This touched his heart deeply. Thinking about praying for something that long took his breath away. He came to realize that a sustainable relationship with Jesus, requires perseverance and endurance through a community of close friends.
5. Support and Encouragement
If we are honest, every man gets scared at some points in his heart. When men hit a season of chaos, they often choose to numb the pain with something that seems to offer relief. As we walk with younger men, we can gently point them towards Jesus in the midst of the chaos as any godly father figure would do. Offering seasons and even years of support and encouragement supplies a sense of security for a young man, especially if he has felt abandoned by other father figures or leaders in his life. Encouraging a young men to get back up after a disappointment is vital. Sharing that they can dust off the dirt of life through a relationship with Christ is an astonishing gift we can give to younger men. Hebrews 3:12-13 instructs us to encourage others to get off sinful paths that lead to a turning away from God and instead encouraging them as often as possible (everyday) so they are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. In a world that tears us down in many ways, we need voices of more seasoned men to speak the truth of perseverance in their lives.
So if you are man over 40, choose to spend time with a younger man and begin a relationship with them. You both will be blessed and our world will become a better place because of your investment. This type of investment will pay much higher dividends than any stock, 401k or hobby (1 Corinthians 3:11-17).
In my next post, I’ll dive into Titus 2:2 and 2 Timothy 2:2 for deeper spiritual implications of pouring our lives into younger men.
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