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Boys to Men

Major Ian Thomas is a brother who has wandered the globe preaching and teaching the great truths of God’s Word ever since leaving the British armed services. Several years ago, the Major was teaching in a ministry that I was working with. Since he was staying near our home, he joined us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He is a delightful man who insists on making his point using a finger shot off to half a stub in the war. He speaks in rhythm and rhyme and is spellbinding with his ability to articulate God’s desire for Believers to depend upon Him absolutely.

Over lunch one day I asked the Major what was on tap for the evening session. My heart sank as he announced he was going to do his slide show. I was certain that disappointment awaited me.

I was wrong. The show was a history of the Torchbearer’s ministry the Major had founded. He is never without a young man who travels with him as his secretary and assistant. The slide show depicted graphically what happens when a young man spends time with an influential, older man.

There were troubled young men, hitchhikers he had picked up, church kids, lost kids, English kids, German kids, American kids. If he said it once, he said it ten times during the hour-long slide show: "If you take a boy, and wait long enough, he will become a man." I agree with the Major, but his statement shortchanges his role in the lives of these boys. Left to himself, a boy will grow up to look like a man, but he won’t know anything about manhood. That takes the involvement of an older man. Men initiate boys into the realm of manhood demonstrating what masculinity is and how men function.


Regardless of whether your dad ever passed on a sense of masculinity to you, your Heavenly Father has blessed you as a man. He is proud to call you His friend and His son. Emanating from Him comes identity, belonging, reason, purpose, worth, and respect. Jesus Christ is your older brother. This would seem to be a pretty good sign the identity crisis is over. Your Father has blessed you as a man, and Christ, the ultimate man, wants to exemplify manhood through you.

Think for a moment about how Christ conducted Himself as a man. He was tender with the woman at the well, frank with Nicodemus, assertive with the money changers and Pharisees, forgiving to Peter who failed him, broken hearted at Lazarus’ death, and longing for the companionship of His friends the night of His trial and crucifixion. Was He secure to be Himself? Sure He was!

Who are you? How do you behave? Do you have it within you to exhibit that level of security? Yes, you do! When your Father blessed you and instructed your older brother to run the course of life with you, He made ample provision for you to behave like the man He recognizes you to be, a strong, secure man who understands how to depend on Him. This is your identity and He is your source for living.


My dad has done a great job of being a dad, but while it is great to belong to the family of Bill Gillham, that is not enough to carry me through the challenges I face as a man.

As one of my dad’s friend once said, "You are your father’s son." He spoke the truth, but he didn’t capitalize the "F" on father. I am my Father’s son. My Heavenly Father says I am a member of His family and a citizen of heaven (Ephesians 2:19). I walk in my older brother’s triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). This means I am part of the family’s victory parade and celebration. I am seated at my Father’s right hand, the place of honor (Ephesians 1:20 and 2:6). And I belong there; I didn’t get that seat by default. My Father put me there. I am a joint heir with my older brother (Romans 8:17), and so are you. You belong. Period. It is time for you to understand and accept His perspective of you.


You may be familiar with Norman Maclean’s book, A River Runs Through It. As an avid fly fisherman and lover of good literature, I enjoyed both the novella and the movie. The story centers around two brothers and their father, a Presbyterian minister.

The author tells how he and his brother used to have to study The Westminster Shorter Catechism for an hour on Sunday afternoons before they could accompany their father for a walk in the hills prior to the evening service. Their dad would only ask them the first question in the catechism, "What is the chief end of man?" And they would answer from the catechism in unison so one could carry on if the other forgot, "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." That answer always seemed to satisfy their father and set the three of them free to go to the hills together.

"Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." When God asks us to glorify Him, He is asking us to enjoy Him as well. As we enjoy Him, we glorify Him. When a man enjoys God he demonstrates the vitality God had in mind when He initiated our relationship. It says He is fun to be with, His redemption worked and man can have fellowship with Him, we are acceptable to Him, and He longs to be with us. By the way a man conducts himself with his Heavenly Father he exemplifies God’s grace and sufficiency to his family, his friends, his colleagues, and to all the spiritual beings looking on to see what we have to say about God by the way we live our lives.

Our years on this planet are relevant to eternity. When I choose to walk dependently, relying upon the sufficiency of my Father to make me strong, I make a declaration filled with eternal meaning: How I live my life matters. As a man, I know I am a benchmark, an eternal statement, a reflection of whether or not God should be relied upon, an indicator of whether He is everything He claims to be. Meaning in life is fundamentally about a relationship of love, enjoyment, and glory with God Himself.


Fundamentally, what a man is doing in life is not nearly so important as how he is living his life. A strong man trusts his Father and relies upon Him. This dependent attitude positions a man to hear from and respond in obedience to God. First and foremost God is interested in whether a man depends upon Him. God gets no glory from a man who produces moral, ethical, religious behavior in his own strength. Such a production is a testimony to that man’s individual resolve and usually produces pride in personal strength—a temporal commodity. That man is deceived. A strong man understands the lesson he learned growing up: Strength comes through depending upon Father. If men live independently, they declare God unworthy. By trying to be strong themselves, men discredit God and lend credence to Satan’s rebellious charge. Is it any wonder your life’s course is a battleground and you are a warrior? Is it surprising to you why your feet must be anchored firmly in the rock of Jesus Christ if you are to stand secure? This clarifies why your Heavenly Father instructs you to put on your armor (Ephesians 6:10-11). Prepare yourself. The enemy is charging the throne of God, and he plans to come over your turf to get there. Your life does have purpose.

On The Team

Whether the reality has sunk in or not, you and I are on God’s team. Our Father has handed us the ball, blessed us, instructed our older brother to run the course with us, and taught us to depend upon Him as our strength and our source. The stands are filled with heroes of the faith cheering and encouraging us (Hebrews 12).

Remember what Father said when He blessed us: I have always shared the road to victory with you. Let’s enjoy Him, reflect Him in our lives, and accept the identity, meaning, and purpose of what it means to be men.

Preston Gillham

About the Author

As a co-founder, Preston Gillham led Lifetime for 30 years. Preston is a writer, speaker, and leadership guide. He has authored numerous articles and several books including No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower. He blogs on “Life and Leadership”. More about Preston, his writings, speaking, and his consulting practice can be located at PrestonGillham.com.