If my years as an elementary teacher have taught me anything, it is this: Boys don’t dream of becoming benchwarmers. They don’t dream of shuffling papers or sitting on sidelines. They dream of slaying dragons, rescuing princesses, hitting grand slams, and killing bad guys. Boys are hardwired for the pursuit of glory. And they should be.
But as boys grow up into young men, they often find themselves in work clothes instead of battle attire — on the bench rather than on the field. It’s crushing. But what’s worse is that even with this disappointing reality in full view, the dream itself refuses to die. Men watch war movies and envision themselves in the trenches; they attend football games and cannot help but wonder, What if that were me?
How does a man cope with a dream that won’t die?
The answer is often simple: just trade one dream for another. Glory on the battlefield is substituted for applause at the office, money in the bank, or even women in the bedroom. Men who go this route often pursue these new dreams with fervent zeal; having missed one dream, they resolve to never let it happen again.
Thus, friends, family, church, and any other person or responsibility that diverts attention from the dream will be cast to the side. Consider the father whose kids miss him because he frequently stays late at work, the son whose parents are lonely because he no longer has time to call, or the pastor whose extra hours of sermon prep mean his wife is eating dinner alone again. These are the Mr. Incredibles of the world, those who are dead set on reaching for the stars and blind to the God-glorifying mission right before their eyes.
Yet for many more men, the discouragement of dream-chasing is far too much to bear, and they would rather just concede and watch the dream drift out to sea. Slain by the sword of second-string roles and backseat boredom, they take their place on the couch alongside Homer Simpson, Archie Bunker, and a multitude of other emasculated dropouts. Meanwhile, Satan laughs as he picks up their swords and adds them to his trophy case of broken men.
The main strategy Satan uses to produce selfish dreamers and deadbeat dropouts is to convince the army of men that the battle before them is far too mundane. The day-to-day responsibilities lack the violence of Mordor and the nerves of the ninth inning. There are no cheering fans nearby when temptation hits a man at work or when anger is aroused in the home. There are no visible walls being breached or fellow soldiers being cut down as pride or fear takes hold of the heart of a man. It can seem to be a lonely battle, an insignificant battle, a battle filled with humdrum tasks and checklists instead of orcs and flame-throwing dragons.
And yet, this perspective is nothing but complete and utter deception — glory fraud. And our sinful hearts are to blame. Satan has spoken the threefold lie that the fight for glory is imagined, unattainable, or located far beyond our ordinary responsibilities and relationships. Thus, the very real battles going on all around us seem to be nothing more than the events of a routine, run-of-the-mill, everyday life.
Our everyday battles are certainly not filled with orcs, dragons, or armed bad guys — if these were our only adversaries, then perhaps we could stand to lighten up a bit. But as it is, we have a far greater foe in the devil himself. This is why the apostle Paul tells us — everyday, ordinary people — to gear up with God’s strength. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
When we realize that this is our battle, we’re sobered to the fact that our dreams of glory were never too large, but too small — not too far away, but right before our eyes. We got caught up in winning trophies on fields or defending land in battles, and failed to recognize that we were already written into a much greater battle for an unimaginably greater prize — hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” spoken by the Creator of the universe (Matthew 25:21). These words are our glory, and they will ring out for all of eternity.
No castle or kingdom, trophy or treasure could ever compare to this.
Growing in Faithfulness
No man will ever stumble upon faithfulness, and no faithful man would ever tell you his road was easy. Nevertheless, the journey must begin somewhere. To begin today, prayerfully consider how you will grow in faithfulness toward the following three relationships in your life.
1. Your Lord
Be faithful in communing daily with God. Schedule it in your calendar as a daily recurrence, and plan all other events and activities around it. Once you have scheduled the time, consider how you will fill it with Bible reading, prayer, meditation on God’s word, and other habits of grace. Seek to make this time Spirit-filled and God-centered, recalling that God is good to those who seek him (Lamentations 3:25), and that grace is available for when we fail (Romans 3:24). Throughout it all, keep your eyes peeled for Jesus, the perfectly faithful man and the sacrifice for all our faithlessness.
2. Your Loved Ones
Be faithful in knowing, and be known by, your loved ones. Give them your full attention when you are with them: ears open, eyes fixed, and phone in the pocket. And when you are away, pray for them diligently and honor them in your words, thoughts, and deeds. Though you have many errands to run, projects to complete, and other tasks to accomplish, take time to show them Jesus’s love, counting them more significant than yourself (Philippians 2:3). God has blessed you with loved ones, so be faithful.
3. Your Lost Ones
Be faithful in seeking the lost both near and far. For those who are near, consider sharing your testimony with a neighbor, bringing a co-worker to Bible study, or providing a meal for a family in need. For those who are far, pray about supporting a missionary, funding a Bible translation, or simply choosing one unreached people group and committing to pray for them for an entire month. God may call you to save millions, or he may call you to save just one. Either way, your call is the same: just be faithful.
Enter into Joy
When you were young, you dreamt of glory — oh, how you dreamt of it! Unhindered by practical realism and the heartache of failure, you allowed your mind to run wild in imagining the largest trophies, the greatest crowds, and the most magnificent accomplishments.
Brother, let your mind run wild again. But this time, dream of the greatest glory of all: the glory of hearing God say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.” Great is the glory that awaits the faithful.