God’s awesome plan for guys, from boyhood to the senior years.
These final words of a king to his crown prince help us see that all guys are in the same boat even when the details of our lives look so different.
When the time drew near for [King] David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel’” (1 Kings 2:2-4).
The Bible records the life of David from the time he was a boy, then a soldier, a king and finally an old man. David’s entire life shows the voyage that every male has to navigate in life. David knew this, and he oriented his son for the path that lay before him—the dangers and the opportunities—because he’s already been down the same path. In God’s design, our masculine lives pass through six phases, each one with its own set of dangers and opportunities.
God wants to orient you as a good Father orients his son to succeed in life. God made boys the way we are because men have a specific role to play in His world. During creation, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Both males and females are made in God’s image, but guys are not girls and girls are not guys. In God’s wisdom, males and females have equal value, but different purposes in God’s world and a different path of maturity. The passage of a boy’s life, from birth to death, passes through six phases, one after the other. The purpose of this booklet is to help orient you, the same way David did to Solomon, so you can fulfil God’s good purposes for your life step by step along the way.
Phase 1: Beloved Son (0 – 12 years)
This is your formative phase. In your early years you learn who you can trust, and your family gives you an identity. Your role during these years is primarily to obey the authority figures in your life—in your family, your school and your community. It is God’s design for boys to have a father who will accept them, love them and teach them what is right and wrong. The Apostle Paul explains what a father is supposed to do for his children: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
But God’s good design often doesn’t happen in this fallen world. You may or may not have a father like the one described above, or maybe you’ve never even met your father. The good news is that God is your Father and he wants you to know him. Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The Bible tells us that our disobedience to God makes us a slave to sin and puts us under the devil’s power (2 Peter 2:19; 1 John 5:19). But His Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth, born as a baby boy. And when he was a man he willingly died on a cross to buy us back from our slavery and to pay our debt of sin. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, defeating Satan, sin and death forever. When you trust Jesus to save your soul, God forgives you; He cleans your heart and He adopts you as his own beloved son! God glorified Jesus in heaven forever and God promises that those who follow Jesus will share in the same glory forever! Until then, God made sure to give you fatherly advice written down in the Bible, in Proverbs chapters 1-9, where Solomon shares with his sons what his father David taught him as a boy.
Phase 2: Explorer (13 – 20 years)
These are the transitioning years from boyhood to manhood. You gain more and more independence as your mind and body develop and as you show maturity and faithfulness in the responsibilities that others give you. It is a time of great discovery, as you explore your expanding world and understand how things work and how relationships work. You test your strength and discover the talents which God has placed within you. Take to heart Solomon’s instruction to teen boys: “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). Enjoy your freedom. Explore and experiment but respect the limits God has set for you. Those limits are there because He loves you and knows that outside of those limits you will harm others and be harmed yourself. Don’t be foolish. Every temptation is a false promise.
When you’re exploring and experimenting, you will fail at times. Take each failure and each success as a learning opportunity. God is guiding you through good and difficult experiences in order to form your faith and your character. The character you form during these years will affect the rest of your life, either for good or for bad. Real strength is strength of character. King Solomon wrote: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). And again: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). You can own stuff and have a developed body that the world applauds, but if you don’t have strength of character, all the rest is worthless.
Finally, adolescent boys tend to identify more with their friends, so choose your friends wisely. Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2Timothy 2:22). You need others to help you walk with God.
Phase 3: Tender Warrior (21 – about 35 years)
A good soldier (or a fireman, or police officer) doesn’t live to please himself. He has a code of honour and an outward focus that guides his ambition and courage. At this phase, a young man is ready to commit himself (his time, abilities, and money) to serve other people and to contribute to a cause greater than himself. This is the key indicator that a boy has truly become a man—when he willingly puts other people’s needs ahead of his own. The education and training you pursue after secondary school enable you to support yourself as well as to make a greater contribution to your family, your church and your community. Reflect on this expression: A boy takes; a man gives. Your strength and talents are God’s gifts to you, so that you can provide for those in need and protect the vulnerable. This is the honourable charge that God confides in men. When you follow Jesus, you walk in the path of serving others.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:24-27).
During this phase of young manhood, you should seek out mentors, who are older, experienced and respectable men, who can help you to further develop your talents, to grow in your leadership skills and to learn how to combine courage and gentleness, ambition and servanthood, conviction and humility. Jesus Christ is the perfect combination of all those virtues! Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29).
Special Phase: Lover
While a warrior courageously protects his loved ones and those in need, and he takes initiative to fulfil God’s purposes in his life, a tender warrior also comforts, cherishes and encourages. King David was a valiant solider in Israel, but he also wrote poetry, composed songs, and played a harp. In the Psalms, he expressed his prayers and praises to God who created all things beautiful. A man who lacks these “softer” qualities is a disaster. God gave men strength to build up, not to destroy. A tender warrior is a complete man, who loves gently and courageously.
In God’s plan, He made women in His image, in part to display His beauty. An honourable man recognizes God’s image in women and shows them value and respect, just like Jesus did. The Apostle Peter wrote, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7).
Also, in God’s plan, we see that God created Eve to be Adam’s partner. Adam needed a partner with all the virtues that God placed within Eve. A confident man is not afraid of his wife’s strengths. Instead, he is grateful to God for giving him such an excellent wife! We see in God’s creative design that marriage is between one man and one woman. Children are the product of the couple’s love for one another, expressed in their sexual union. Sex was God’s design as a special gift to be enjoyed between a husband and wife. Any other sexual relationship is the devil’s way to pervert God’s plan and to harm the people God loves.
What counsel does God’s Word offer to young men who want to honour God in their relationships with females? Paul wrote to the young man Timothy: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat young men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). This is God’s good plan, for you to act respectfully to everyone and to have girls simply as friends. As a trusting friendship grows, you can decide together to make your relationship more serious but be sure to include parents or other trusted adults in your decision, so they can help you both to avoid temptation. In this way, you will lay a strong foundation for your marriage and family, that is built on mutual trust, love and respect. God wants that for you. Don’t you?
Phase 5: King (around 35 – 70 years)
Work and Leadership lie in the heart of men. Before sin entered the human race, we see that God gave Adam work to accomplish and a leadership role to play in the family and over all creation. God has placed within the heart of men the ambition to make a difference in the world. Power is given by God, but it can be so easily misused. Satan’s model of leadership is to grab for power, use it for your own selfish ambitions and never let go. God’s model, the one who is King of Kings, is to use the power and influence He gives you to advance the Gospel and to serve the needs of the people you are leading. God expressed his plan for human leaders in Isaiah 32: “See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land…No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected…But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands” (vv. 1,2,5,8).
What noble plans has God placed in your heart? All of your experiences in the earlier phases of your life have led up to this period where you can lead—in your home, in your church, in your neighbourhood, in business, in government, in education, in missions, in social action; wherever God has given you a passion and interest, serve God’s purposes there. Our world desperately needs Christ-like leaders!
Phase 6: Sage (65+ years)
There comes a time in every man’s life, if he lives long enough, where his physical strength weakens, and he can no longer do all that he did during his years of active work. However, since true strength is strength of character, that doesn’t mean his usefulness is over—far from it! If he has earned the respect of others, his ability to influence others will never be greater. Hopefully he trained and invested in younger leaders during his own leadership phase and now he releases the position of authority to younger, capable leaders and he becomes their wise advisor. In Paul’s final years he instructed Timothy, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2). We saw how King David advised King Solomon on how to be a great king who serves God’s purposes. When Solomon was crowned king while King David was still alive, David worshiped God. He wasn’t jealous. He took satisfaction that he had led well and had served God’s purposes in his generation. His role became one of counsellor, confidant and encourager. Every leader needs a man like that and such a respected sage is larger than life!
How can men encourage one another in life’s journey?
The Bible is full of good examples to guide us. Consider three men whose lives are recorded in the New Testament: Paul, Barnabas and Timothy. They worked together for the Gospel. Paul was like a father to Timothy, while Paul and Barnabas were like brothers. They were stronger together than apart. You also need older men to guide you, friends to accompany you and younger men in whom you can invest yourself. Every Timothy needs a Paul; every Paul needs a Timothy and every Paul needs a Barnabas. God created us to need others while we look to Him for the strength and wisdom we need.
- What phase are you in right now? What did you learn about this phase that helps you to know what you should be doing during this stage in your life? Who can help you to further develop during this phase?
- Genesis 5:1,3 states, “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God…Adam had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.” Since our fathers possess God’s image, there are parts of their example we must embrace, but since sin has corrupted every human, there are parts of their example we must erase in our own lives. Only when we look at the perfect life of Jesus can we discern what to embrace and what to erase. In your family heritage, what do you need to embrace and what do you need to erase to create a more Christ-like legacy?
- Get into the Bible! Read about the lives of the men in the Bible and how they acted during the different phases of their lives. What did they do well? What did they do wrong? What lessons can you learn from their successes and failures?
Consider: Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, Peter, Paul.
- Who can be a Paul for you? A Timothy? A Barnabas? Pray for God to fill your life with these kinds of guys. Ask potential mentors for some of their time.
Pastor Sean Christensen, M.Div., is a Bible professor and mentor to young leaders in Haiti. He originally wrote this booklet in Haitian Creole (2018). This version has been adapted specifically for boys and men living in the English-speaking Caribbean. Pastor Sean is an American missionary serving with World Team. He supervises missionaries in Trinidad and Suriname and has fellowship with church leaders in Guadeloupe and French Guiana and with the Evangelical Church of the West Indies (ECWI) in the Southeast Caribbean. Sean and his wife, Heather, have three sons and one daughter.
All rights reserved. Published: February 2019, Cité Lumière, Cayes, Haïti.
Acknowledgements: The six-phase division comes from the book “The Way of the Wild Heart” by John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, 2006).
You can make copies of this booklet provided that you do not make any changes and that you do not make any financial profit from it.