Men, Be Brave and Bold—not Macho or Milquetoast
In the NFL, an average game lasts about three hours. Take out all the commercials and you have only an hour of game time. Remove all the time between plays and you end up with an eleven minute game. Of course, for individual players, the play time is even shorter. A quarterback, for example, can hold the ball in active play for fewer than 120 seconds. And yet, even though actual play time per game is incredibly small, players prepare for those scant minutes—or seconds—with over 60 hours of training.
Now, if you know me, football facts don’t just roll off my tongue. I’m not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination. About the closest I get to watching football is checking out the Super Bowl commercials—after they’ve aired.
No, I learned the NFL facts above from Marty Machowski’s newest book, Brave and Bold: 31 Devotions to Strengthen Men. Those football stats, Machowski says, can illustrate an important truth: the extensive testing (or, rather, training) of our faith develops the perseverance we need to become mature and complete (see James 1).
I’m not generally a fan of devotionals, but my children and I are currently going through Long Story Short (also by Machowski), and we are immensely enjoying it. So when I heard about the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of his newest work, I jumped at the chance like a linebacker after a ball snap. (I think that analogy works.)
BOYS TO MEN
The first thing to point out is that, while this devotional is geared toward men (it says so in the subtitle, after all), the actions and attitudes proposed in this book (encouragement, truthfulness, confession, and so on) aren’t exclusive to men. They represent the calling of all of God’s children: young and old, men and women. So why the focus on men in particular?
Because men need instruction and training in how to apply core Christian responsibilities with God-honoring masculinity. As Machowski says in his book’s introduction, “Men are not born; boys are. Manhood requires education, development, and application.” (2) He also points out the following:
Manhood is not about strength or stature; biblical manhood is about character. . . . Think of King David, too small of stature to be presented to Samuel for consideration for king. His gifts? He wrote poetry and played music. But…his trust in the Lord led to his defeat of Goliath with nothing more than a sling and a stone. (1)
And as the book concludes, “The church needs men. While we should beware of simply affirming every cultural expression of manhood as biblical, we should nevertheless seek to champion men.” (113)
This devotional is an attempt to do just that. “Think of it,” Machowski says, “as manhood basic training…[or] your pocket biblical manhood boot camp.” (3, 4)
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
Each devotion begins with a Bible verse and a story of some kind (often from the realm of the author’s experiences in the armed forces), which are both tied together to illustrate a particular theme. This format is to be expected. However, a highlight of this devotional—and what makes it stand out from the rest—is its focus on practical application. Rather than leaving readers with thinking, “Okay, that was a nice perspective,” each chapter has two rubber-meets-the-road sections.
First is Get Started. This section includes a Scripture passage to meditate on. Because readers are lazy (including myself), the book prints the passage itself for easy reference. (You don’t even have to go find a Bible to look up the passage.) Also included are additional thoughts, action steps, or questions to ponder—all related to the chapter’s topic.
Second is Take the Challenge. This is where Machowski recommends action steps to apply the chapter’s material. Sometimes the challenge is simply to pray about a particular issue or to follow directions in memorizing a short passage of Scripture. At other times, the challenge is to seek accountability for a specific issue or to implement a new practice into your routine. In any case, these challenges help put feet to the principles explored earlier in each chapter.
You can, as the devotional itself says, read through the 31 chapters in 31 days (and pick just a few areas to focus on), or you can read one chapter a week and give yourself more time for application of each challenge. Whatever method you choose, the meditations, questions, and action points move the book from the realm of “merely theoretical” to “immediately practical.”
As is true with any book, certain points, principles, or practices stood out to me. Below are a few nuggets of wisdom I ended up underlining.
Examine your heart. What lies do you believe that lead to fear or unbelief and empower sloth? The greatest tasks all begin with working at the problem for ten minutes. Trust the Lord to work through you. The moment you trust God and give ten minutes of work toward your problems you have reversed course and have gone from wasting time to work. (35)
On welcoming adversity:
Make a list of the ways your trials discourage you and give you cause to give up. Then do the opposite. If you’ve stopped praying, schedule time to pray. If you’ve given up on a relationship, press in again with love. If you’re immobilized with grief, addiction, sickness, or pain, get up and do the opposite of what your flesh is telling you. Welcome the adversity and fight. (80)
On confessing your failures:
If you commit adultery, it may be logical to say, “I can’t confess because the truth will destroy my marriage.” But the truth is that the hurt and destruction [have] already been done. Confession is the first step to restoring the damage.
A sin that remains hidden never goes away. It may hunker down for a while, but it’ll usually rise up and find new expression. . . . One of the most significant deterrents to falling into grave sin is holding a strong ethic of confession. (92-93)
On rare occasions, Machowski defines manhood without what I would consider sufficient Biblical support, either because he assumes the reader agrees with him (which I do), or because he chooses a proof text that seems to be taken out of its proper context. Such moments, however, are few and far between.
Overall, as someone who rarely reads devotionals, I can confidently state that Brave and Bold, especially with its unique application sections, promises to be a means of grace for real and lasting growth in manhood—not in the macho or milquetoast extremes of our culture, but in the Christ-like character we all desperately need.
You can purchase your own copy of Brave and Bold through New Growth Press.
Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash