The glory of men is their strength. God made men to be strong in order to provide, protect, build, discover, explore, and lead in taking dominion of this world. But never forget that it is a bleeding, sacrificial strength to be spent gladly on the altar of our King, trusting Him to raise us up.
The Glory of Men
“The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Prov. 20:29). And just in case somebody wants to object that strength is clearly only the glory of young men, say under the age of 30, I would simply point out that 40 is the new 30, and gray hair is the result of all that strength being spent. But the same thing is clear in Paul’s charge to the Corinthian church: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). When we say that something is your glory, we mean it makes you shine. We mean that it highlights what you are for, what you were made for. Men were created to shine through the use of their physical, emotional, and spiritual strength.
This glory is evidenced in the creation of the first man. And the New Testament repeatedly points back to this fact: that man was made first (1 Cor. 11:8, 1 Tim. 2:13). And why was man made first? Man was made first in order to be cut first, in order to bleed first, in order to lay his life down first. And so he did, and God put him into a deep sleep, cut him open, broke out one of his ribs, and closed the wound back up. And from that bloody rib, God formed the first woman and brought her to the man (Gen. 2:22). Before sin entered the world, before there was any curse, any death, God showed Adam that the way to glory was through obedient suffering and sacrifice. There was no glory-bride apart from Adam’s pierced side. And many centuries later, when Jesus came as the new Adam, He was crucified for His bride, and the Christian Church was formed from His bloody side: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30).
So, putting these things together, we insist that the glory of man is his strength, but it is particularly the glory of using his strength sacrificially. It is not his glory merely to look strong, to feel strong, but to actually work, to labor, to bleed, to suffer, to struggle, to fight, to endure many hardships in obedience to his Lord.
One modern evangelical heresy is to deny the goodness of male strength. This heresy says that men must effectively castrate themselves. They must destroy their strength, deny their strength, and directly embrace weakness. While this primarily attracts beta males who can’t stand the thought of actually working or fighting or breaking a sweat (or someone not liking them), there’s also a surface level plausibility to the claims, since some Bible verses do speak of how God uses weakness.
The incarnation certainly was a comparative weakness for God to become a mere human being, and Paul says that he came and preached in weakness and God uses the weak things of this world to confound the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). But we are Christians and this means that we must interpret all of Scripture together and not camp out on our favorite verses. The same Paul who says that God confounds the mighty things of this world with His weakness is the one who urged the Corinthians to act like men and be strong. In fact, he does it in the very same letter. So which is it, Paul?
And of course, the answer is yes and both. But we must be mature in our thinking, not childish, not simplistic. The glory of men is their strength, and they are to use all of the strength they have been given to do good, to stand firm in the faith, and to bleed and die in obedience to the King for the good of their people. But when men have done all that they can, exerting all of their strength gloriously, it is still a plain fact that it is not strong enough to eradicate sin and death from this world, nor is it enough on its own to complete the Great Commission and Dominion Mandate. The strength of man is still comparatively weak. It is comparatively weak to God on the one hand and to evil on the other.
But there are at least two kinds of human strength and two kinds of human weakness. There is human strength that is submitted to God and His purposes (think of Samson, David, Jesus), and there is human strength that is autonomous and rebellious (think of Babel, Absalom, Herod). Likewise, that human strength which is submitted to God and His purposes knows that it is hardly anything compared to God’s power and certainly not strong enough to overcome all evil. It is weak in that it needs God’s blessing, God’s power. And meanwhile, that human strength that is full of hubris and pride is actually very brittle and weak both because it lacks God’s blessing and because it is full of folly and blindness.
So godly men embrace the glory of strength, pressing their bodies, minds, and hearts to their limits in obedience to the King, looking to Him for His blessing, understanding full well that their strength alone cannot accomplish what must be accomplished. A wife must be well-loved, children must be well-cared for, taught, and disciplined, a household must be provided for and protected, neighbors must be served, schools must be established, churches must be planted and maintained, cities must be built and guarded, nations must be loved and sustained, and the whole world must be baptized and discipled. And in and through it all, God must be worshiped and obeyed, the beauty of His world must be adored and celebrated in songs and stories and poetry, creation must be explored and the treasures of the King must be discovered, new glories must be invented, and joy and laughter and feasting must fill it all.
But who is sufficient for these things? Christ is. Christ in us is the hope of glory. Christ in us is the certainty that despite all our glorious strength, we are certainly all like little boys standing on our tiptoes trying to peer over a a great windowsill into the glory of God. But God is pleased to call that boyish straining, “strength,” and by His grace it is our glory.
But the particular glory is not merely in the strength itself. The particular glory is in the strength spent, in the strength given away, in the strength poured out, bleeding, sacrificed for the King, for the good of others gladly. The plan is to go down fighting. The plan is to go down bleeding. The plan is to be cut first, to bleed first, to limp first, and to leave it all on the field. Of course all Christians are called to this sacrificial love, but men are called to lead in it, to set the example.
The reason why we balk at this, the reason why we are tempted to stop short of actual sacrifice is because we are afraid of what will happen after that. What happens when you go down? What happens when it’s all spent? What happens when you’re rejected, when you’re fired, when you face the darkness? We’re afraid of losing. And so men frequently despair. We frequently stay in the gym where it seems safe, or in the garage where it feels safe, or out hunting where it feels relatively safe, or in the office where it seems safe, but that is not what our strength is for and that is not where our glory shines. Our glory shines in obedient sacrifice. We are called to listen to our King, to obey His orders, and spend our strength sacrificially for Him, laying our lives down for our families, for our neighbors, for our communities, for our nations. But we can be assured that it really is glory, not in that tragic-Greek sense, of merely dying well (although there is that), but even more gloriously, in the promise of resurrection.
Adam was made first in order to bleed first, in order to die first, but when He obeyed and submitted to that sacrifice it was not only glorious in that moment, but the greatest glory was in the bride he was presented with on the other side. Likewise, the glory of Christ is not merely the glory of the Cross, though that certainly is a great glory, but never forget that the cross is empty and so is the tomb forever. Christ died and Christ rose again, and He did so for the joy that was set before Him, for the glory of His Bride presented to Him without spot or wrinkle, His crown.
There is no glory apart from sacrifice. That is what your strength is for. That is what you were made for. You were made for the glory of sacrifice, and when that sacrifice is obedient to the King, you can be sure that you are following your King into the very same grave He once went down into, and He is there waiting for you, to lead you out into a glory that will never fade.
This is what our land needs, what our churches need, what our families need. We need men who do not count their lives dear themselves, men willing to spend the strength gladly for the good of their people, for the glory of the King.