What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 4)

(Hey there! Sorry i’s been a minute, had some internet issues. But here we go!…Again, picking up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, and 3 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man. Women, start making a checklist 🙂 )

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife,…

…temperate…

Temperate. What exactly does that mean? Well a dictionary would define it as exercising moderation or self-restraint.  But the term really takes shape when you look at more detailed definitions: with restraint, without extravagance, in a sparing manner, without overindulgence.  Umm…is it just me or do these terms go against everything our culture conditions in us? We live in a country that encourages us, from day one, to have more, more, more! It goes back to our discussion about the “American Dream”. Our society is structured around obtaining excess. Excessive money, excessive gadgets, excessive entertainment, excessive stimulation, excessive praise, excessive drink, excessive food. We glorify overindulgence. The more people have, the more they flaunt. It defines our social status. And we, as a culture, feed off of this materialism. *Sigh* It’s really twisted because it’s what we have always seen and known, which makes it even harder to break from the cycle. But, for the sake of specific example, I want to talk about food. How, you might ask, does what you eat have anything to do with how well you can lead? Well bare with me for a second, let out your annoyed groan, and hear me out.

Take a look out our nation. We are fat. Really fat–it’s no secret. A portion of that equation is due to the TYPES of foods that are produced and consumed, but an even larger portion of that is due to the AMOUNT we consume. We are flooded with advertisements, commercials, excessive fast food spots, restaurants on every corner, vending machines down every hall, jam-packed grocery stores. Wow, we have so much access to so much food.  We are a food culture.  Now think about the flip-side of things. We are encouraged to eat, eat, eat. Then we take a look around and all we see are advertisement and magazine covers with sculpted men and photo-shopped women. You’re not good enough if you’re not thin enough, or jacked enough, or lean enough. Wait a second, what? We are surrounded by this temptation to indulge and eat, but then we are flooded with this pressure to be thin and cut up. Huh? We are pulled from one extreme to the next and all we are ever left with is a feeling of discontent. Where does that conflict lead us? Into sin. How? Because all of  sudden we become fixated on the number on the scale and the hours in the gym. We become obsessed with calories and we become utterly consumed by guilt, envy, and self-obsession.

I’m no high and mighty preacher here. I was caught up in this sticky web of  this sin once, too. If you recall from the  “My Story” portion of the blog, my high school years were defined by an eating disorder. They were defined by self-obsession, self-centered focus, fatigue, and fixation. My body became my idol, rather than God. Are we not living in a culture that fosters that same distraction? If we are focused on ourselves, constantly, how can we lead effectively and glorify God in our friendships, our relationships, our jobs? If we are focused on our appearance and our confidence is defined by our personal feelings of self-worth, how can we be convicted that our worth is limitless through Christ? In snagging ourselves in this web, overindulging in so much temptation, and operating in such excess, we are not focused on God, we are focused on getting our fix.

While leading a missions trip to the Ninth Ward last year, I had the opportunity to sit down with the group of girls who had come to New Orleans with the missions team to serve. We chatted about a handful of topics, but the conversation quickly and overwhelming turned to the topic of self-esteem and self-worth. As I was listening to the girls talk and complain and nit-pick about their bodies and their appearance, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of utter shame. Not a block down the street, there were homes that STILL, years after Katrina, were stained with water lines and wasting away in their own rubble.  There were kids who were running around homeless, without guidance or discipline, vandalizing and stealing so that they could simply eat a single meal that day.  There was a stench that loomed through the air and a thick hum of insects and rodents that blanketed people’s yards and homes. There was a COMMUNITY that needed GOD more than any neighborhood I have ever seen, yet we, the missionaries who were there to serve and disciple and spread His love, were distracted by OURSELVES. The only topic the conversation kept pulling back towards was the topic of our own self-obsessions and feelings of inadequacy.

I sat up and interrupted the girls speaking to spill out a message that God laid so heavily on my heart that I thought I might burst:  Every single time we look in the mirror and complain about what we see, what we don’t have, and what we desire, we are standing at the foot of the cross, staring up at Jesus Christ–blood pouring from his beaten and battered body, tears flowing down his scarred cheeks–and we’re staring Him in the eyes and telling Him that what He did isn’t good enough for us. In fact, we’ve got more important things to worry about. We are staring this King in the eyes and telling Him that what he has provided for us isn’t quite sufficient enough. And His sacrifices aren’t totally worth our constant and humbled praise. That WE are more important.

What? That makes me want to fall on my face in shame. I’ve done it. I do it all the time.  We get SO caught up in living lives of indulgence and excess, that we distract ourselves from the simple, pure, beautiful point of it all. HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US.  HIS SACRIFICE WAS ENOUGH.

Don’t you see? I am using the specific example of food, but this can be applied to countless components of our lives and our culture. In NOT practicing temperate behavior, we kick-start a snowball effect and we become utterly consumed in everything BUT God’s love and unyielding grace.  Our consumptions and our over indulgences become our focus, albeit consciously or subconsciously. They create a ripple effect and the shock waves impact so many components of our lives. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LEAD EFFECTIVELY IF WE ARE FOCUSED ON OURSELVES RATHER THAN BEING FOCUSED ON GOD. Men, you are called to live temperate lives for this very reason. You are called to live moderately and with restraint and without overindulgence so that you can lead others, your wife, your family, to Christ. If you live a life of excess and indulgence, it’s like putting on a blindfold and trying to lead your family along the edge of the Grand Canyon. It’s so incredibly difficult, if not entirely impossible.

Jesus Christ lived a temperate life. There was nothing indulgent about His walk, there was nothing excessive. He wore humble clothes, He ate simple, pure food, and He defined His worth by the guidance and love of God.  He never allowed great distraction in His life. By living temperately, He lived abundantly. We are called to live that way, as well. We have the power to live temperate lives–even in the midst of this bizarre society–because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Men, in order to lead, you are called to live temperate lives. Do you have unshakable faith that His grace is sufficient? Would you be willing to run from excess? To fully trust that God will provide for you? Would you be willing to shy away from overindulgence simply to set a model for your family that simplicity is sufficient? Challenge yourself! It’s easy to read through this and “check off” that, “Phew! At least I’m not the worst at this–at least I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m safe there.” But do you? And are you? How can you minimize in your life? How can you live more temperately? What excess is distracting you from God? How can you train yourself to utilize this simple principle to become a better leader?

(to be continued…)

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