A couple weekends ago, 100 men from Westside met at Rockridge Canyon retreat centre in Princeton for the weekend. I’ll spare you the cliché men’s retreat commentary about shirtless dodgeball and other “manly” endeavours, not because they weren’t part of the weekend, but because something more was going on. There was indeed some good time spent being active together, but the core of the weekend was God speaking to us both through His Word and through the stories of grace that were shared. The theme was "Readiness in Christ" and here’s what we learned:
To be in Christ is to be ready for anything. The starting point of all that God has for us is the person and work of Jesus. This point was hit home time again because there is no more foundational point that can, or should, be made. The work that God is calling us to is predicated upon the finished work of Jesus on the cross - in him we find our identity, purpose and strength. Though we didn’t unpack John 15:5 during the weekend, every speaker assumed it: Jesus says: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
We saw this most vividly in the stories of the four men who shared their testimonies over the weekend. They were open and candid about sins they had given themselves to, and the sins that had been committed against them, but in both cases the cross of Jesus loomed large. They told of how their pride, shame and brokenness was replaced by repentance, acceptance and healing. They made much of Jesus and it was so strengthening for the rest of us to hear.
In the sessions themselves we looked at the what it means to be ready for mission, good work and heaven. We began Friday night with the necessary reminder from Luke 22:31-34 that sometimes, probably lots of times, we think we are ready when we aren’t. Peter utters the words “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” only to hear from Jesus that Peter would deny him 3 times that very night. The text is meant to be sobering, but it is not without encouragement, for moments earlier Jesus had told Peter that he was praying for him and that after Peter turned back from his denial of Christ, he was to strengthen the other brothers.
The grace, forgiveness and strength of Jesus abounds in the lives of every believer and the men were reminded that this is not just for our sake, but for the sake of those God has put into our lives to encourage and strengthen. This is the mission and the good work that God has created us for (Eph 2:10). We were reminded many times that there is lots of work to do in our city, in our church and in our families. It is the work of evangelism and the work of discipleship. 2 Timothy 2:21 says that we are to be a “vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work”.
But there are some requirements to be a useful vessel. The work of Jesus justifies us immediately and eternally, but that doesn’t make us immediately useful. All men (and women) who come to faith begin as immature believers and the intention is that we grow in godliness and maturity for our sake and for the sake of blessing others. But to be a real blessing we need to be clean hearted, bible minded and humble. We should expect to work hard at growing in godliness, maturity and obedience so that we can be of great use to the master. This also is the good work God has for us.
We ended the weekend in a fitting way, by pondering the inconceivable wonder of heaven. Colossians 3:2 says “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This too is part of our readiness because we as look forward to the joy of heaven we are confronted by the fact that it is truly all about Jesus. Heaven is a real place, a wonderful place and we will experience perfect peace there - but our true reward will be Jesus himself. He makes a way for us to know him now and promises that we will meet him face to face one day. It’s all about him, and this brings clarity to our life and work. The answer to becoming the men we want to be and everyone needs us to be is to pursue Jesus. For in the pursuit of Christ we will become ready for every good work.
A final administrative note that I know some of you were wondering about: Based on the results of a post fishing derby drug test Matt Menzel has been stripped of his first place trophy. The Men’s Retreat Fishing Derby Officials have announced that Rick Braun is now the grand prize winner. Congratulations Rick.
Matt Glezos is on staff at Westside Church, where he oversees family ministries. Matt is married to Dawn and has five wonderful boys.