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God doesn't want your ability— He wants your availability.
Think for a moment about the difference between wants and needs. When you want something (you know that feeling), you have an urge to go after it. If you're like most guys, you won't stop until you get it. But needs are very different from wants. You can ignore the things you need for years, for decades, even for a lifetime and scarcely notice what you've been missing.
For example, you need a healthy diet, but you may not want it. You need about eight hours of sleep every night, but you may not get it. You need to focus on your family and your future, but left to your own resources, you may be tempted to focus instead on beer, bad habits, babes, and barbecue.
Life would be much easier if your wants and needs were always the same, but it doesn't work that way. All too often, the things you want you don't need and the things you need you simply don't want.
You'll go through periods when your wants take center stage and your needs are relegated to the nosebleed seats. During these times, your wants can take control of your life, leaving little time and energy for your real needs. So if you haven't been feeling a very big need for God lately, it's possible that your long list of wants may be crowding out your need for God. But the good news is this: the minute you face up to your need for the Father, he responds. God is not hiding or on vacation, so you can always find the Creator if you make up your mind to look for him.
Chapter One is the longest chapter in the book for a very good reason. If you don't develop a strong relationship with God, the rest of your life will be more difficult. A relationship with God doesn't guarantee riches and success, but it does guarantee a balanced and fulfilled life. God is wherever you happen to be. He's with you every moment, and he wants to be a full partner in every aspect of your life. That's why the ManCode begins at the very same place your life should begin: with God.
Throughout this book we describe your relationship with God as One-to-one. The first o, as you might imagine, refers to your Father, while the second o refers to you. This construction is intended to remind you that God is God and you're not (even though the world would have you believe it's the other way around). If you're totally committed to a One-to-one relationship with your Creator—if you're wise enough to make God the first page in your life's playbook—you're already destined to be a winner. After all, God has a far better perspective than you. So if you're willing to let the Creator call his plays from the press box (while you refrain from the temptation to call audibles from the line of scrimmage), you'll be victorious.
But if you stubbornly insist on calling your own plays on every snap, you're destined for a losing season. In other words, if you attempt to carve out parts of your life that are separate from God—if you're trying to have a relationship with the Father on Sunday morning while ignoring him the rest of the week—you're setting yourself up for defeat. So remember that God is talking directly to you when he says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8–9, NKJV).
The ManCode 1
Bruce Larson, in Believe and Belong, tells how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ: "For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully-proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. "Now that's one way to live," I would point out to my companion, "trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now come across the street with me."
At this point, Larson would take his companions to Saint Patrick's Cathedral on the other side of Fifth Avenue. He would show them another statue, this time of the young boy Jesus. There Jesus is also holding the world, but instead of on his shoulders, it's in his hand. This time there's no burden, no strain; it's effortless. Larson's point is that we get to decide: "We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, 'I give up, Lord; here's my life. I give you my world, the whole world.'"
When Society Wants to Be Number 1
You live in a society that encourages you to relegate God to a few hours on Sunday morning or to ignore him altogether. You're part of a culture that encourages you to treat God's laws as mere recommendations, to be accepted or rejected based on your particular circumstances or particular desires. You live in a society that tempts you to think of yourself first, yourself second, yourself third, and God last. That's why it's no surprise that society is so thoroughly confused: society looks to itself for guidance, not to the Creator.
To further complicate matters, you inhabit a world in which a near-infinite number of distractions threaten to gobble up your moments, your days, and your life. Every day you face temptations that are more numerous, more dangerous than ever. You're bombarded with messages that claim you can find (or more accurately "buy") happiness with a woman or at the car lot or in a luxury suite or at the local watering hole. All you've got to do, the world says, is to bet all your chips on the worldly stuff. If you happen to acquire enough man-sized toys, you're set for life. Meanwhile, the world writes God out of the picture.
The great irony, of course, is that humanity already possesses everything it needs to acquire genuine peace and abundance. We've already been given clear directions for life here on earth and for life eternal. It's all spelled out in the Bible. But since most guys hate to ask for directions (even when those directions come straight from God), we sometimes refuse to use God's manual. So it's no wonder our lives get messed up. We just can't seem to make ourselves follow the right instructions. The Bible teaches us, "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:6, NKJV), but sometimes, in spite of ourselves, we choose the wrong path.
The world's messages are often subtle, encouraging you to do what feels good as long as nobody gets hurt, all the while encouraging you to distance yourself from your Maker. But if you distance yourself from the Creator, somebody always gets hurt, and that somebody is always you. It doesn't necessarily stop there: other people are injured too. Whenever you detach yourself from God, you'll inevitably—if unintentionally—inflict collateral damage on family members, friends, and even strangers. Yes, ignoring God is dangerous, but this message isn't getting through to large segments of our society.
Society tells you that it's okay to go to church on Sunday—for appearance's sake—but you're not really a man unless you defocus on God and refocus on self and stuff throughout the rest of the week. Too often, we choose to live two lives—one before the "watching world" and another behind closed doors. There, our personal addictions—drinking, computers, fantasy—eat at us, robbing us of our relationships and ultimately defeating us. Only through a personal relationship with Jesus can we find our purpose and the peace that we desire in life. When you establish a One-to-one relationship with God, you learn to live in the world but not worship it. Yet it's tougher than ever to put God first, because the world seems to cry, "Worship me with your time, your money, your energy, and your thoughts!" To resist these temptations, you need a One-to-one focus, a focus that requires genuine obedience, not lip service.
Society has written God out of our public schools and public places, but you must never write him out of your heart. Are you willing to place God first in your life? Are you willing to welcome God's Son into your heart? Unless you can honestly answer these questions with a resounding "yes," then your relationship with God isn't what it could be or should be. Thankfully, God is always available, and he's waiting to hear from you now. In fact, he's calling to you right now, just like he called out to Adam: "Where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9, KJV). The answer to his calling, of course, is entirely up to you.
Protection against Burnout
When times get tough, during those difficult days when you spend all day working and all night worrying, it's easy to burn out physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But even during the toughest times, you're never alone; your Father is always with you, and you can always turn to him.
The ManCode begins at the very same place your life should begin: with God. If you're totally committed to a One-to-one relationship with your Creator—if you're bound and determined to make God a full-fledged partner in every aspect of your life—you're destined to receive his blessings. But if you try to carve out portions of your life that are apart from God, if you don't connect to Him through respect and obedience, you're setting yourself up for lots of stress and frequent episodes of burnout.
Want an easy-to-use, highly reliable, readily available antidote to stress? It's called prayer, and it means staying in constant, One-on-one contact with your Creator. It means starting each morning with God, talking to him throughout the day, and relying on him at night when you're too worried to sleep.
The stronger your prayer life, the better protection you'll have against the inevitable burdens of twenty-first-century life. So instead of trying to do everything on your own, form the habit of asking God for help. Begin your prayers early in the morning and continue them throughout the day. Remember this: God does indeed answer your prayers in his own way and in his own time. But he's not likely to answer those prayers until you've prayed them.
Daniel Went One-to-one with God
The Bible is full of stories about men who had a One-to-one relationship with God. Daniel was such a man.
Throughout his life, Daniel had sought to align his path with God's plans, so it's not surprising that by the time he was an older man he had worked his way to the top of his profession in the court of King Darius. The king was impressed with Daniel's leadership qualities, so he appointed him to a position of authority in the kingdom. But other men in the palace were jealous, so they plotted to bring Daniel down. Daniel's faith was sorely tested when a couple of his rivals tricked the king into ordering everybody in his kingdom (including Daniel) to worship Darius for thirty days. Daniel, being committed to God, refused, and Darius was forced to toss his trusted adviser into the lions' den.
Think for a moment what it must be like to endure an all-night sleepover with a pack of hungry lions. I'm sure Daniel prayed harder than he'd ever prayed in his life, and I'll bet he was more than a little scared. Yet despite the obvious dangers, Daniel had faith because he had already spent a lifetime of getting One-to-one with God. Daniel already knew the power of prayer, so when he was lowered into that pit of ferocious cats, he depended solely on God. It worked!
The next morning, Darius was astounded when Daniel was found alive and well. Soon the king made known his admiration to all:
Then King Darius wrote to those of every people, nation, and language who live in all the earth: "May your prosperity abound. I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel:
For He is the living God,
and He endures forever;
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
and His dominion has no end.
He rescues and delivers;
He performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth,
for He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions."
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Unlike Daniel, you'll never have to face a den of hungry lions in order to continue practicing your faith, but on some days it may seem like it. The world doesn't take kindly to devoted men who are unwilling to compromise their beliefs.
What forces are asking you to worship the world instead of God? Are certain friends encouraging you to compromise your beliefs? Does your career make worldly demands that would be displeasing to the Creator? Are financial pressures tempting you to violate your values by violating God's laws? If so, you are certainly not alone. Every day you, like all believers, will experience pressures to compromise your faith. Don't give in! Stay One-on-one with God, and he will always stay true to you.
Compromise will rob you of the strength you need to cope with adversity; compromise will deprive you of the abundance that God wants you to experience. Compromise will weaken or even destroy your spiritual foundation. So instead of compromising, be like Daniel: stay true to the living God. When you do, he will strengthen and direct you.
Sometimes, You May Find Yourself Wrestling with God
The man said, "Let me go; it's daybreak."
Jacob said, "I'm not letting you go 'til you bless me."
The man said, "What's your name?"
He answered, "Jacob."
The man said, "But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it's Israel (God-Wrestler); you've wrestled with God and you've come through."
(GENESIS 32:26–28, MSG)
In Genesis 32 we are told about Jacob's encounter with God. It was quite simply a wrestling match for the ages. Despite exhaustion and weariness, Jacob simply wouldn't let go. Even when God dislocated Jacob's hip, the determined man refused to quit. Even after wrestling all night and after daybreak, Jacob persevered until God finally agreed to bless him. God changed Jacob's name to Israel, which means "he struggles with God." Thus, Jacob formed a spiritual contract as a result of his struggle with—and against—the Creator.
Jacob wrestled with God, and so will you at times. Sometimes you'll struggle to earn God's blessings, and just like Jacob you'll soon discover that the struggle isn't easy. Jacob battled with God before he experienced God's blessing. Perhaps you, too, will grapple long and hard (by trying to do it your way, not God's way) before you finally decide to let God's rules become your rules. The good news is this: when you decide, once and for all, to let God run things, you'll receive the big-time rewards that your Father has in store for you, the kind of rewards that really matter: eternal rewards.
It's worth noting that we human beings find it terribly difficult to view things from an eternal perspective. We want the kind of earthly rewards (fancy cars, big houses, and so forth) that seem, at least to us, to be important. But God sees things differently. He wants us to focus on the important things: the spiritual rewards that last a lifetime. That's what he meant when he said, "Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19–21).
So you, like Jacob, should enter into a spiritual contract with your Creator, a rock-steady partnership that binds you to him today, tomorrow, and for a lifetime. As you hammer out the details of that partnership, you'll find that to receive God's blessings you must be obedient to his will. To be obedient to his will, you must try, as best you can, to figure out what he wants you to do with your life. You must follow wherever God leads, even if he leads you through some tough times.
Excerpted from The Man Code by Dennis Swanberg Ron Smith. Copyright © 2013 Dennis Swanberg and Ron Smith. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
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