FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Manhood Requires Courage and a Compass

with Robert Lewis | November 13, 2015
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Dr. Robert Lewis has seen firsthand the terrible cost of masculine passivity. That's why he's championed authentic manhood for decades. Discover the core callings men must address as they quest for authentic manhood.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dr. Robert Lewis has seen firsthand the terrible cost of masculine passivity. That's why he's championed authentic manhood for decades. Discover the core callings men must address as they quest for authentic manhood.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dr. Robert Lewis has seen firsthand the terrible cost of masculine passivity. That’s why he’s championed authentic manhood for decades. Discover the core callings men must address as they quest for authentic manhood.

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Manhood Requires Courage and a Compass

With Robert Lewis
November 13, 2015
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Bob: Someone has suggested that men determine their value on the basis of the four B’s—how they’re doing in the billfold, on the ball field, in the boardroom, and in the bedroom. Dr. Robert Lewis says none of that kind of measurement is found anywhere in Scripture.

Robert: Nothing is said about how much money you make to be a man. Nothing is said about how attractive or buff you are in being a man, or your athletic abilities, or your star power, how much stuff you have, or what kind of degrees and positions you hold. Never once in Scripture are those things associated with true manhood.


Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Dr. Robert Lewis today about: “What does define authentic biblical masculinity?”


Stay with us.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Our listeners are going to get a chance to hear from a guy who really is one of the pioneers of ministry to men in our lifetime. Don’t you think?

Dennis: I know too many men—thousands of them around the United States—that have been impacted through Robert Lewis and his teaching about manhood. When you told me that you’d gotten Robert to contribute to the Stepping Up® video series for men, I thought: “Yes! Yes!”

Bob: We just ratcheted it up a little bit; didn’t we?


Dennis: We’ve got a five-star general on the—fresh from the battlefield—who knows the needs of men. You’re going to have the privilege of hearing a great message from that messenger. Robert’s a good friend. He was my pastor for more than two decades.

I just have to say to men today: “You need to listen to older men like Robert. He is blue-chip. His life is based on the Bible. He’s a follower of Jesus Christ.”

If there’s ever been a time for men today to take a step back and go: “How do we make a difference here? How do we roll up our sleeves with the number of issues that are out of control in our culture?”—I have to say:

One of the key ways you’ve got to do this, guys, is—you have to start a small group of guys—maybe a big group of guys. We’ve had as many as 500 men go through the Stepping Up video series, watching the videos—


—then breaking down into groups of 5, 7, 8 guys—and getting honest and getting real with one another, and talking about what’s knocking the daylights out of them, and where they need help and hope.

That’s what this series does—it sets it up—it tees it up like a golf shot / it puts it right on the tee. Here’s how you can make a difference in another man’s or another young man’s life.

Bob: You mentioned that Robert is a part of the series. Of course, you’re in the series as well. We’ve got guys like Crawford Loritts and Matt Chandler. We’ve got James MacDonald, whom you’ve already mentioned. We put together a team of guys who could address the subjects men are facing and do it honestly; but also, they understand what the Bible has to say about what God has called us to, as men.

We’re going to get a chance to hear Robert address that today. This is a message that he presented to a group of men as we were launching the Stepping Up series, back a few years ago. It’s classic Robert Lewis talking about what it means to be a man.


[Recorded Message]

Robert: I’d like you to look at 1 Corinthians 13:11. I want to talk to you about what it means to be a man. Paul makes this statement in 1Corinthians 13:11—he says, “When I was a child”—now I’m going to gender-ize it—“When I was a boy, I used to speak like a boy, think like a boy, reason like a boy; but when I became a man”—can you feel the energy in that?—“when I became a man, I did away with boyhood.”

You know, there’s a critical place in every man’s life—I don’t know where you mark it in yours, where the boy in you dies. All Paul is saying here is, “I had that moment, and I became a man.” Now he doesn’t tell us what becoming a man actually entails—that is what we’re going to talk about in this session.


You know, what is clear is—For better / for worse, as men go—in that understanding—so goes everything else: “As men go, so goes the life and the trajectory of marriage today. As men go, so goes the family and the future and the health of the kids who launch from those families.” How often do you run into men, who are still wounded in life and trying to figure it out, because of the family they grew up with? Usually, the headwaters of that wounded-ness go to whom?—Dad.

I tell pastors, all the time: “We’re living in a world where we have these incredible mounting financial deficits, but that’s not the biggest threat to our national security. The biggest threat are the ever-growing manhood deficits that we’re accumulating every day in America today, as men go after wrong priorities / abandon their marriages—miss it—not because they necessarily want to but miss it with their kids—dumb themselves down and play their lives away.”


That’s the biggest threat to America!

At the core of real manhood is two words: Accept responsibility. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a moment where that got right in your face. I remember my moment—I was a senior in college—actually a fifth-year senior in college—college was fun and fairly carefree. I was having a good time. Even though it was coming to an end, I really wasn’t giving much thought about where it was going until I got a phone call from my mom one night.

The first thing I noticed is her voice was a little bit sober. Here’s what she said to me—she said: “Robert, your dad and I have been thinking. We want you to know, after graduation, you’re on your own. [Laughter] Don’t think about coming back home. Realize that, at the day of graduation, we will no longer, ever, financially support you. It’s time to grow up and be a man.”


Now, let me tell you—after I had that conversation, as sobering as it was, I went, “Okay; I want to be a man.” But here was the next big hurdle—I didn’t know what a man was. I wish—I wish that I would have known, then, what I’m about to tell you today—what the Bible says a man is.

Now, we’re going to do some summaries in the time we have about what a man is. Here’s what the Bible says—the Bible says that a man and real manhood revolves around just two things—I want to make it as simple as possible. Here are the two things—it revolves around accepting the biblical responsibilities of manhood—and secondly, courageously living these responsibilities out / not just knowing them—courageously living them out.


Now, you might be saying: “Well, I’ve read my Bible. Are there manhood responsibilities spelled out in Scripture?” And the answer is: “Yes there really are—in fact, in the very first two chapters of Genesis.” Let me just sum them up for you:

First, he was given a will to obey. In Genesis, God gave Adam specific commands to follow. He was not on his own—he was a man under authority.

Secondly, he was given a woman to love because the Word of God had been given to him to love her, protect her, and share the Scriptures with her.

Thirdly, he was given a work to do. At least, it started with the garden. It probably would have gotten bigger than that, but that was his first assignment. He had work that he was gifted for.

Finally, he had a world to better. He was told to rule and subdue the whole earth.


So right there, in the opening pages of the Scripture, here’s God commissioning this first man—that we are like—into the world and telling him, “This is how you can be a real man, at the core, by obeying and accepting these four responsibilities.”

If I’m going to embrace these, I’ve got to embrace these with passion. They become four points on the compass every day when I get up. Here’s my compass [holds up Bible], and do you know what my compass tells me for today?

My compass tells me today that I need to know God’s Word and live it—that’s true north.

East is—I’ve got a woman that I need to love and lead. Now, if I’m a single guy, it’s in my dating life—it doesn’t start just with marriage. When I’m engaging a woman, and dating her, and pursuing her, I’m the pre-Adam protector. I want to set standards in our relationship.

I’ve got work to do. I don’t know where it’s going to be for you—we all have different gifts—but when I walk into the office, I need to work hard, and honorably, and create a name for myself.


That’s what I told my son—the Proverbs say “He who works hard will stand before kings. [Proverbs 22:29]”

I’ve got a community to better. There are things beyond my workplace and home that need my gifting because I’m commissioned to change the world.

So that’s manhood defined. But how do you take on manhood? Well, it starts, as I said, with accepting responsibilities—biblical responsibilities.

Second, it’s when you courageously live these responsibilities out—here’s where the rubber meets the road. I had to use the word, “courageously,” because as I’ve looked at men that I’ve admired—one thing always surfaces out of their life—and that’s the word, “courage.” Real men are courageous because, at times, seeking to live out these responsibilities will be more than just a little difficult—they will be excruciating.


There will be moments in your life where you’ll come to the point, where you’ll just go, “You know, it’s just not worth it,” and you’ll quit—maybe for a while until what you settled down into no longer feels good anymore—and you pull yourself back up with God’s help. At other times, these responsibilities that you’re being asked to do—they will scare you to death. In fact, if we could do a small group and really started talking about what you need to do with your wife or kids, I mean, some of those things are going to be like a blast of cold air because you’re going to realize, “I don’t know if I’m capable of doing that.” Yet, God is calling you to do that to be a real man.

In fact, when I was thinking over my journey to manhood, you know, the best analogy I think I could give you guys to what it’s like to be a real man is the analogy of mountain climbing.


You know, mountain climbing is one of those sports that really feel masculine—you know, it’s rugged, it’s dangerous, and it is risky. It’s got a great reward; but boy, there’s just something—I don’t even like heights. When I see those guys up there, I go, “That looks like a real man up there on that hill.”

Well, I want you to know that, because I’ve admired them—I don’t know what got into me; but somewhere about 55 years old, I said: “You know, I want to do that. Before I die, I just want to climb one mountain.” I had a friend who was a mountaineer. I called him up and I said, “Would you take me up a mountain?” He said, “What kind of mountain?” I went: “A real mountain. You know—one that has those rocky crags, and goes up, and there’s snow on it, and those kinds of things. And it looks like no one can get to the top.” He said, “You really want to do that?” [Laughter] I said, “Yes, I would.” He said, “Okay, come on.”

So I went out to Jackson Hole. He kind of trained, a little bit, my son and me—


—I took my 15-year-old son. We went to climb one of the 12,000-foot Teton peaks in Jackson Hole, which I quickly learned was way beyond my pay grade. [Laughter] I’m telling you—it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never belayed up with somebody together. I’d never done open-air rock jumping. I’d never climbed sheer-faced walls with picks and repelled down the sides of cliffs. I’d never done any of that, and I learned it all in one trip.

Some of it was, you know, one of those things where I was questioning, “Why did I do this?” [Laughter] Some if it—when I actually did it / like repelling off a 200-foot cliff—when I got to the bottom, it was thrilling! But like in a manhood journey, there were some points that went over the top. Here’s one—we got close to the summit. As we got close to the summit, you could no longer go on the spine of this little ridge; but you had to go out on the ledge of the ridge.


Now, I want you to know this ledge was about seven yards long. It had only a few little places indented to hold onto, as you stepped out on it, and only a few little places you could hold onto with your feet. Then there was a 3,000-foot vertical drop. Now, this is a guy that doesn’t like heights!

Okay; now, to give you the sense of 3,000 feet, put three Empire State buildings on top of one another—then you get to the top of that. Then you climb out on a tiny little ledge and walk across. That’s what it was like. My guide told me, later, that that’s where many people that he takes up on the mountain stop. My son looked at me, and we agreed to go; but I remember, when my son—going first—belayed together because our guide—he was having us, on the other side, saying, “Come on”; but when my son went to step out that first time, he looked back at me. He made a spot-on comment that I was feeling—he said, “Dad, this is madness!” [Laughter]


And you know, guys, mountain climbing, at points—it is madness because of what it asks you to do. But that’s a great analogy to the climb towards manhood because, at points, along your way—I mean, I’m 62. I’ve some of these moments—at points, along the way—manhood is madness. But here’s what I want you to know: “There’s good news on the other side of that. There’s always good news on the other side of stepping out in courage.” What’s on the other side of courage is reward.

You know, after my son and I actually went out on that ledge and got to the other side, we had the thrill, just a few hours later, of standing together on a small peak, holding each other, seeing other snow-capped peaks around us, being able to see hundreds of miles—the vista was unbelievable—but the satisfaction of having conquered a 12,000-foot mountain—what a thrill!


But let me tell you—it doesn’t compare to the thrills you and I will have when we step out in courage on the ledges of life and God rewards us on the other side. For instance, let’s say you stepped out on a ledge and you started praying with you wife. What you find is an unbelievable responsiveness because, all of a sudden, she starts hearing your heart. Out of hearing your heart over time, as you continue to pray with her, a new intimacy and vulnerability develops; and a world opens up you didn’t even know exists! Glory to God.

Or maybe it’s courageously stepping out and refusing that promotion. Then, out of that, there’s more time with your kids. You are not just their dad / you become their friend. That friendship then begins to build over time; and now, as adults, they’re your best friends.


A whole new life you never dreamed of emerges by continuing to accept the responsibility of obeying God’s will. You eventually become a spiritual leader in your church. Your wife deeply admires you now—but not just because you’re her husband—because, when she looks at other men, you stand out. You feel that admiration, and your companionship is better than it’s ever been.

By continuing to accept responsibility for work to do, you have a great reputation and name. People admire you because of your work ethic, your integrity, and your honesty. It’s given you an honorable name in the office. Because of that, you’ve had influence where people have sought you out. Some have even come to Christ because of how you’ve worked.

By continuing to accept responsibility for bettering God’s world, you and other men are now well-known for the charity that you were able to organize to help support foster parents.


And you’re one of the leaders that goes over every year and works in that great mission project in Asia. Do you feel the reward of manhood in that?

But you know how you get there?—with a compass—because real-life manhood requires a compass, and it requires courage. Guys, here’s what I want you to know, as I finish: “Every one of you can have that.” You’re looking at a guy—a son of an alcoholic, leaving a devastating marriage, who made a mess of the first part of his life—I needed to hear that. You can have it if you want it. God’s there with the rope; and He’s asking you: “Come on. Let’s climb.”



Bob: Well we’ve been listening to Dr. Robert Lewis talking to a group of men about being a man.

Dennis: About climbing.

Bob: About stepping up, and engaging, and courage, and a compass. That’s really what guys need; isn’t it?

Dennis: It is, and the compass is this book right here—the Bible. It has not stuttered. God has spoken, and He shows us how to live. Courage is doing your duty in the face of fear, in the midst of obstacles, in the midst of distracting voices that want to call you to lesser duties. Courage says: “No, I am going to take the higher call. I am going to climb the mountain, and I am going to make a difference.” For a lot of our listeners, especially guys—and let me just say a word before I speak to the guys.

Ladies, if you’re married to a husband who needs to be encouraged, as a man, why don’t you  begin to pray God will give you the opportunity to encourage him to maybe form or get together with some other guys and start a Stepping Up group with some guys—


—maybe with your son—and get together with some other dads—some fathers/sons. Make sure your son is in another guy’s group so he’s having other men build into his life. I’m telling you—this is one of the greatest opportunities to make an impact and have a ministry—in a boy, in a young man, or a man’s life—that exists today. So, you ladies listen—you can make a huge difference here.

If you’re a guy, well, you’ve heard me say it: “Why don’t you roll up your sleeves, grab this tool and say: ‘Let’s get together with some other guys. Let’s find what the Bible has to say about me being a man today in a day that is desperate.” Guys, we are desperately in need of men who know where they’re going and, when they fall, they get up. No matter what mistake you’ve made, it’s not too late.


There is no act that is that shameful that has gone beyond the cross of Jesus Christ. He wants to use you, even in your brokenness, to make a difference in other men and women’s lives.

Bob: You know, if the guys who are listening would get one of these kits—the ten-part video series of Stepping Up—and get five other guys and go through it, starting in the new year—if we could get every guy whose listening to do that, I think there’d be a revolution in our country. I really do think, if men would understand God’s assignment to them, as men, I think there’d be a turnaround in our culture.

So, we hope you’ll go to Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” Find out more about the Stepping Up ten-part video series. Use it with the men’s group at church, or get your own group together and go through this material.


Explore what biblical manhood is all about. Again, the website: Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER”; or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, as always, we want you to know how grateful we are for those of you who tune in each day and, especially, for those of you who make the tuning in possible. FamilyLife Today is heard on this local radio station because of friends in your neighborhood and your community who have made it possible for this to happen by supporting the ministry of FamilyLife with a donation. We’re listener-supported. The only way we can be on local stations like this station is when folks, like you, pitch in to help make that happen. So we’re grateful for those of you who are Legacy Partners, giving each month, and for those of you who will, from time to time, support this ministry with a donation.


Today, if you can help with a donation, we’d like to send you, as a thank-you gift, a book written by Barbara Rainey—a collection of seven stories, all about gratitude, designed to be read aloud to your family. Older kids can read it to the younger kids, or the older kids can read the stories themselves. The book is called Growing Together in Gratitude. It’s our gift to you when you support the ministry today. Go to Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I care,”—make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. When you do get in touch with us, mention you’d like the book, Growing Together in Gratitude. We’re happy to send it to you.


We hope you have a great weekend this weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday. If you have kids or grandkids under the age of—I don’t know—six/seven years old, you have probably heard of the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Sally is going to join us on Monday. We’re going to talk about how you share the story of Jesus with kids. I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next week for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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