Time for Testimonies: Celebrating What God is Doing

Joshua Fellowship Logo

We all know what a crazy year this has been. Outpost’s summer program, Strive, was no exception. For the first time ever, a hybrid model of live and online teachings and times for worship was offered. Staff and leaders were not sure how the men would interact once they came to the in-person weekend Confront (some who had only been there virtually all summer). Yet, I (Jonathan M.) was amazed to see the camaraderie and how much God moved. His peace was there—not a peace of submission but a peace of victory—as you’ll read in these brief testimonies below.

“This summer course and this weekend Confront were two of the most challenging but rewarding events. I believe this program is one I will remember and cherish for the rest of my days. In Strive, I learned what true masculinity is, and I had opportunities to live that out in the curriculum and in daily living. The ministry and leadership at Joshua Fellowship, in particular the Strive program, has really helped and encouraged me. My biggest takeaway from this program is the fellowship and bond I’ve created with my brothers.”

“Through Strive, it has been amazing to see how I have grown from being in Joshua Fellowship and doing Strive last summer. I have seen how God has planted in me true strength and authority to walk as a man of God. I have also seen how He has been bringing true freedom from shame so that I may truly live as a good gift to God and to the Body of Christ. I am thankful for how God continues to use Joshua Fellowship to help me encounter Him and truly grow into the healing He has laid out before me.”

“Strive has helped me see that my body, soul, and spirit are far more connected that I ever imagined. I’ve gained a sense of belonging to the world of men, which I’ve long felt disconnected from. I’ve begun to see what it means to truly be a man of God, expressing both His masculine and feminine attributes. I’ve been equipped to better fight passivity. Most importantly, I’ve continued to realize my life is not about me.”

“Strive has impacted me greatly. I have never been pushed or challenged like this before. Through it was painful and difficult, the effect and impact was far and away worth it. I honestly feel a change inside. It’s unusual, I did not anticipate such a deep, real, and powerful internal shift. My mind, heart, soul, and spirit feel a sense of real change. The activities were such a huge part of my transformation. I know there is still much to work on and experience; however, the tools and impartations that I have received gives me great hope, strength, and courage. I don’t know how to fully explain it, but I feel a genuine change inside. I know that some of the wounds of my heart have been healed and ministered to. I feel peace and hope for what can happen.”

“I made real progress in confronting perfectionism, which has been an on/off struggle for me and members of my family for-freaking-ever. I also now know I can get [stuff] done. It’s also been a good start to weeding out lies that have crept back in.”

“Strive has been the one most challenging things I’ve ever willingly done. I used to think that masculinity was just being physically strong and just doing [things]. These many weeks of learning true masculinity, [I see how] passivity is a big destroyer of men today. Finding your true self is a challenge to that passivity.”

“This weekend was really challenging in a lot of ways for me. Friday tested me physically in a way I didn’t expect. As we were going through the exercises, I don’t think I understood the point of them at first. It wasn’t until afterwards that the camaraderie really struck me. The physical exertion helped break down my feelings of self-sufficiency and pride, opening me up to growth and truth the rest of the weekend. Saturday helped me confront unspoken anger and pain that I had pent up for years and buried so deep, I forgot I had buried it. Overall, I learned that I was not created to be weak and passive, bound by fear. God has created me to step forward in His strength as a fearless man of God. My chains are gone, I’ve been set free / My God, My Savior ransomed me. 10/10–Would recommend.”

Reflecting the Father: the Challenge of Becoming Doers of the Word

Drawing of Little boy watching Father tie his tie in mirror

For New Year’s this year, I went to a formal dinner with friends. Normally I don’t wear ties when dressing up, but this time, I decided I would. I learned how to tie one several years ago and thought I would still remember, but I stood in front of the bathroom mirror for twenty minutes trying. Frustrated, close to running late for the event, and about to nix the tie altogether, I asked my roommate to help me out. He grabbed his own tie and stood next to me in front of the mirror. He tied his tie first as an example. Then he undid his work and began to tie it again–this time slowly so I could follow. Soon, I was out the door in a tie looking just as polished as his. 

This one-on-one, how-to-tie-a-tie tutorial has helped me put in context this passage from James 1:22-25: 

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

This passage is a one-on-one, how-to-look-more-like-God instruction manual. Inside is a warning, a command, a challenge, but also hope of a promise.

The Warning: 

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. . . For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”  

When we listen to the Word, we acknowledge the Father is speaking to us. Yet sometimes by choice or by becoming distracted, we stay stuck only listening. Taking no forward action, we are really taking a step back from becoming more Christ-like. We forget our fallen condition, and we move on with our life. We look into God’s Word that is confronting us and only think, that’s nice, that’s interesting, I will really think about that later. If we don’t return to this, it’s an action, not of obedience, but of pride. And if that is our mindset, we are only deceiving ourselves that we look like God. When we look like Him, we are representing Him to the world; but when we only think we look like Him, we are simply representing ourselves to the world. God receives no glory from us reflecting ourselves. 

The Command:

“Do what it says”

God’s Word does not compel us into action by obligation or threat of punishment. He is commanding us to take ahold of the abundant life He has given us through Jesus’ work on the cross. He always has our best interest in mind. If God’s Word is perfect, why don’t we simply do what it says? He is trustworthy. His Word is trustworthy. So why do we willingly put on blinders to what God shows us? It’s because this process hurts, and we want to avoid pain. Seeing the distance between our sinfulness and His holiness can be painful. If we chose to change, doing something about this distance is grueling, yet this is the command. We do not labor alone; the Holy Spirit is our helper. He is the only way to make any lasting change. 

The Challenge:

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts. . . “

We are blessed as we stay in His Word, suffering through the process of looking into His Word and surrendering everything that does not look like Him. By His help we can cut away the things that God never intended us to carry around. This can be surrendering our fleshly desires; weeping at how many false things we have added to our own image; feeling the pain of parting with our old self in the mirror. This is also the joy of seeing again the face of the One who died for us. 

Earlier in James, we read, “Count it all joy my brothers when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).”  Facing trials hurts, but each time you partner with the Holy Spirit to become more like Him, you grow in steadfastness and the ability to chisel bigger chunks off next time. This is perseverance. This is accepting the challenge and finding joy in the process.

Wanting to look like Jesus isn’t all boot-camp-during-a-rainstorm-on-an-empty-stomach. Yes, it’s hard work, but this Word–this “law”– that is shaping us isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts that weighs us down, making life miserable. James calls this the “law of liberty.” It frees us from the burdens we carry instead of adds to them; it gets us back to the basics. His yoke–His law–is easy and His burden is light. 

The Promise:

“Blessed in your doing.”

As we partner with God to reflect Him, He promises we will be blessed–not when we finish (though that will be its own blessing)–but as we labor toward holiness. Our efforts are rewarded. The process might be slow, but if we keep at it, we will see change. We will be different. We will look more like Him. As we dive into living out His Word, our words and our actions will more closely mirror His. Jesus told his disciples that He did only what He saw His Father do and said only what His Father said. So will we.

Those around us will also take note of our reflection. As Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:15 “Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” Acting upon God’s Word isn’t just for the goal of being like him one day. When we begin to act, even our progress–those tiny steps we’ll take–are something God will use to showcase Himself to our communities. 

At the end of the day, tying a Winsor is easy, and cleaning yourself up to look nice on the outside is a breeze. But allowing God to clean your life up is incredibly difficult. We all have areas in our lives that God has spoken into and said, “Let Me help you be set free.” We’ve told Him, “Thanks, but not right now.” We trust Him, but we don’t want to feel the pain of surrender. Yet He commands us to pursue life still. He knows best. So He challenges us to persevere and be honest with Him, ourselves, and those around us. He sees at the end there is blessing and reward–its His to give. He’ll stand back, take a good look at us, and say with a proud, fatherly grin, “looking good.”