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Is grace really enough when it comes to contentment and joy?
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by Jonathan Daugherty
I realize that the title of this article might cause readers, especially men, to scratch their heads and wonder, Where is this headed? But I assure you I'm not trying to be "cute" or overly dramatic. Instead, I'm trying to invite men to embrace the glory of their God-given beauty, expressed through masculinity.
I was at a ministry leaders summit recently and a particular discussion emerged around the topic of differences between men and women, more specifically how women crave affirmation of their beauty. One man in attendance (who shall remain nameless) jumped in with a fair degree of passion to challenge the claim that this desire for affirming one's beauty was exclusive to women. He argued that all humanity, women and men, desire to be affirmed for their "beauty."
From there, everyone was quite lively, yet never incorrigible. I even jumped in to semi-defend the individuals pointing out the male-female differences. I was then directly confronted on my assertions regarding acknowledging, and embracing, my own beauty. After a few more minutes, the conversation shifted, but I was left wrestling with a truth wrapped in language I didn't like.
Beauty is not a term I readily associate with masculinity. It's a girl word. But it isn't an exclusive girl word, and that is what I was wrestling with; that beauty could be manly. Could God have made men beautiful, too? If so, how? And why?
As I have spent the past few days mulling over this idea that men possess beauty, I came across some Bible passages that resonated with this idea. Here are just a few:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
(Psalm 139: 13-14, 17-18)
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
God is a Father who loves His kids and sees beauty in us from the day we were conceived; even before that day! Yet, too often, this beauty is not allowed to be celebrated in men, except in various perverted ways that strip him of his manhood (i.e. homosexual celebration of 'beauty'). But God does no such thing. He looks a man square in his eyes and declares, "You are precious to me, a beautiful son to Me. I find delight in you!"
I think where we tend to get hung up on this idea of men being beautiful is that we try to package God's affection for men in the same vehicle as His affection for women. In other words, men think God must use the same exact methods for speaking affectionately to them as He does to their wife or daughter or mother or, heaven forbid, mother-in-law. Thankfully, God is more personal than that.
My most tender moments of affirmation from God are not moments in which He tries to "draw out my female side." (By the way, I don't have a female side; I'm a man.) Instead, God affirms the beauty He placed in me as a man. He affirms my masculinity. Here is just one example of how God might affirm me:
Of course, God could say similar stuff to women, but I think He would do so in a way that highlights femininity. You see, we (men and women) are made in the image of God, so He is the only being with a male and female "side." He possesses fully all that comprises masculinity and femininity. We don't. We are male and female. Only together can we most fully reflect the image of our Maker.
Man, don't be fooled into thinking you must become less masculine to be more beautiful. You are a beautiful man, made by God to be the best man you can be. May you learn to embrace your masculine beauty, and shine brightly as a son of the King.
“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God.
(Ezekiel 16:8-14, emphasis mine)
by Jonathan Daugherty
Do you ever wonder if the changes you hope for in your life will ever come? Many in recovery struggle with the imperfectness of the journey, frustrated that lasting change seems to be so fleeting. Some even bail out altogether, unwilling to continue on a path they conclude isn't leading them to a better place.
I believe that God is able and willing to transform every addict's life from one of self-centered idolatry to that of joyful service. His timeline, however, for this change rarely coincides with ours. We seem to always want what we want faster than God is willing to give it to us. Sadly, some then determine this to mean that God doesn't care much for them, but they are wrong. He actually cares so much that He is willing to withhold what we aren't yet ready to receive. He is aiming at lasting freedom, while we are simply wanting immediate relief from our pain and consequences.
I have been on this recovery road since 1999. Some days I feel like I have traveled a million miles from where I was at that point in my life. Other days, though, I feel as though I have barely moved an inch. On the good days I can vividly see the changes that God, by His grace, has placed in me. But on the bad days I wonder in agony if anything has changed at all. Thankfully, God is more faithful to my transformation than I am! You see, change is a gift, not an achievement.
If you are struggling with the slow, tedious, and often frustrating process of change in recovery, then I want to encourage you with 4 key insights to experiencing lasting change. These are the elements that lead a person to true freedom in recovery, not simply better "management" of behaviors.
1. God promises to transform you, and He keeps all His promises.
Philippians 1:6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
1 John 3:2 - Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
Everything about recovery changes (no pun intended) when we realize that it is God who causes transformation, not us. We have a long history of demonstrating that our power, our wisdom only produced a compulsive life of addiction. Why do we then assume that it will be by that same power and wisdom that we become a selfless servant of God? We are either changed by God, or we aren't changed.
The good news about this is that God has promised to see this process through to completion. And God never breaks a promise. Take a deep breath. The God who loves you and gave you the free gift of eternal life is the same God who will bring you into His presence in heaven totally transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
2. By definition, change is a process.
Every addict enters recovery in hopes of changing; desiring to become someone they currently aren't. I find it fascinating that we addicts want change, but get frustrated when we haven't "arrived" where we want to be. Change, by its very definition, is a process.
change (cheynj) - to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc. of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.
Change cannot occur apart from a process, something that involves time and stages. Although I am many years down the road in my own recovery, I am still in the process of change. I may not be in the first stages of that change, but I am certainly not finished with the process. Or rather, God is not finished with the process of change in me -- or you.
3. You become who you focus on.
God's work in us is to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus. We cooperate with His plan when we choose to focus on Jesus. The more we focus on Him, the more we become like Him. If you and I are not becoming more like Jesus, you can be assured we are not focusing on Him.
Have you noticed when you're driving your car and you glance out the window to look at something, you will unconsciously steer the car in the direction you are looking? This illustrates the principle of focus. We naturally drift toward whatever (or whomever) we focus on. This is why it is so important that we engage the discipline of daily focusing on Jesus.
When we focus on Jesus, we see the life God has called us to: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). Such a life is a far departure from addiction, but it only comes by way of Jesus and the power of His Spirit in us. Focus on Him!
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)
4. Grace will carry you over the finish line.
It is God's kindness (grace) that completes the change process in our lives. Too many in recovery buy the lie that if they just work hard enough at resisting temptation and controlling urges they will transform into good, godly people. This isn't true. They will only change into clean, self-righteous people, the very people Jesus openly chastised (i.e. Pharisees).
When we understand that we are saved, sealed, and sanctified by the grace of God, we can finally rest in the work God is doing in our lives, instead of just "trying harder." We begin to live out of the identity God gives us (beloved sons and daughters of the King), rather than one we try to create or one others create for us.
There is a day coming when the change in you and me will be complete, a day when we see our Savior, Jesus, face-to-face. In that moment, the journey will make sense. For now, may we learn to better trust Him with this process we are in. He knows what He is doing, and by His grace we will make it over the finish line.
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. 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)
First 7 Days