The Measure of a Man

Philippians 3:7-8  


How do you measure a man?  Height, weight, age?  The size of his salary, the prestige of his job, the number of his possessions?  The value of his portfolio, the cost of his car, the beauty of his wife?  His golf score, his manicured lawn, his expensive suits.  Every one of these has been used as a measure of comparison. 


Why measure at all?  Silly question – it is the nature of the beast.  We measure ourselves and either pat ourselves on the back for how much we’ve accomplished, or we focus on all our shortcomings and launch into a mid-life crisis.  We measure each other and secretly envy what the other guy has, or applaud ourselves for having more. 


And yet, at the end of the day, if these are the measures of success, we find ourselves unsatisfied and hungering for more.  How do you choose a standard of measurement that really means something?  A gauge that is a reliable guide for where you’re headed and what you’ve accomplished?


It’s not a modern problem.  There was a time when a man was measured by how large his flocks and herds were, the size of his barns, how many children he had fathered, whether he was one of the city elders who sat at the city gate and settled domestic disputes.


Different standards, same results.  And it was into that setting that Jesus interjected the words, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).


And of course, Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are a pretty powerful indictment of a life spent pursuing things that aren’t most important – “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:31-33). 


Paul had spent a lifetime succeeding and accomplishing things – he had a pedigree and credentials that were exemplary.  By his own admission, he had surpassed all of his peers – he was on the fast track to success.  But then, there was the Damascus road, and suddenly all of the things he had staked his life on were meaningless.  And as he took stock of his life, he wrote, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8).


Listen to what Paul said, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”


The measure of success – the thing most worth pursuing – “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  He would give up everything just to know Jesus personally and intimately.  And what is the measure of a man through God’s eyes?  The depth of your relationship with Jesus. 


In some ways it’s easier to chart a course up the corporate ladder. The path to financial wealth is more predictable. Maneuvering your status in the eyes of your peers is a more popular pursuit. But let me absolutely guarantee you that no pursuit in your life will give you a greater sense of direction and accomplishment than to pour yourself into a relationship with Jesus Christ.


You can’t do that in a once-a-week pit stop at church where you get a quick spiritual fill-up so you can jump back onto the fast lane where you get back to chasing your real goals Monday morning.  Jesus demands more – Jesus demands it all.

He said to the crowds that were following him: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27, 33).


What is he saying?  No pursuit, no relationship, no possession, no goal can be more important than your relationship with me.  If I am not the central focus and the highest priority in your life, you cannot have a relationship with me.


I can just imagine if Jesus had a public relations consultant – “Sounds kind of harsh, Jesus – not very seeker sensitive.  If you want to win followers – if you want to attract people to your cause, you need to work with them – don’t demand so much, don’t make them have to choose between you and everything else – people will be bailing out on you left and right.”  And he might be correct.  People did bail on Jesus – in fact, it got to the point that Jesus looked at his apostles and asked, “Do you want to leave too?”  And Peter answered for all of them, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”


It’s tough making that kind of decision.  I don’t want to make it sound like this is an emotional “get on the gospel train with Jesus” appeal.  When Jesus was setting down the demands for discipleship, he said it is like a man who wants to build a tower – he first has to sit down and count the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it. It is a thoughtful, prayerful decision.


You may be at that stage of counting the cost – not deciding how much you’re going to devote to Jesus (he already said it’s got to be all of it), but are you willing to give all of it, and what does “all of it” mean in your life? 


For some of you, it may involve rescheduling your days and weeks so that you have time to devote to the relationship.  For others, it may mean letting Jesus do a complete overhaul so that he can inhabit your life.  There may be activities that are inappropriate, friendships that are contrary, habits that are incompatible. If Jesus did a walk-through in your spiritual house, where would he call for renovation and where would he demand a complete demolition and rebuild?


The depth of your relationship with Jesus is going to mirror the time you spend in the Word. 


I guess anytime we talk about spiritual growth and maturity, we always come back to Bible reading and prayer.  And after a while, you think, “Is that all you can say?”  And the truth is, no, it’s not all I can say, but if you don’t have that firmly implanted in your life, anything else will be like spreading icing on an unbaked cake. 


And when I encourage you to spend time reading God’s word, it’s not so you can strengthen your doctrinal stance on some issue, or dutifully check off a box on a reading schedule.  It is so you can humbly sit at the feet of God himself and listen to his words, and let those words sink deep, and mold and challenge and change you into the man God wants you to be.  When you do that day after day, God has your ear, and that is the first step to taking hold of your heart.


And the depth of the relationship is really a reflection on the depth of the conversation you have with God in prayer.  Do you spend time in his presence on your knees – heart open to God, expressing and interceding and thanking?  I don’t think there is anything I struggle with more than being consistent and faithful in prayer.  But I know that it is the one thing that is at the heart of an intimate relationship with God.


And guys, if there is one thing your family needs from you it is that you be the spiritual leader of your family.  Your family needs you to be the point man, leading the way – they need to see you in the word and on your knees.  They need an example – a model to pattern their lives after.  They need you to be the one who sets the priorities around your relationship with God – in church, worshiping the Lord, involved in ministry, excited about what the Lord is doing in your life. 


Picture in your mind what your family would look like if you were that kind of man.  How would your wife feel?  What would your kids think?  How would your lives be different?  It’s a pretty awesome thought, isn’t it?  To be the one who leads your family to the Lord.  Try measuring that.  How much is that worth?


Dads, your kids need you.  Husbands, your wives are praying for you.  Make this the day you decide to measure up.


Let me leave you with David’s words in Psalm 1:

                           Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

                          or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

                           and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

                                                Psalm 1:1-3


Be that kind of man – the kind of man who makes a difference in the life of his family for all eternity.