What a difference it makes when a Christian man realizes that he does not have to be a fighter pilot, a movie star, or a pro athlete to have a life of significance and value. The world would have us believe that we really are nobodies unless we do something that gains worldly approval and generates worldly excitement. Sadly, I have known many Christian men who felt like losers because they were never war heroes, sports stars, or corporate titans. Against this way of thinking (really, this idolatry), I submit the case of Lawrence Dow, servant of Christ.
I first met Lawrence Dow on the night of my conversion to faith in Christ. He was a deacon at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and that day he was greeting at the door before the evening service. I remember how his joyful demeanor made me feel accepted and welcome. During the years that followed, I got to know Lawrence pretty well, and his picture now sits on a bookshelf across from my desk. He reminds me of what one humble man can do to reveal the glory and grace of God to the world.
To tell about Lawrence, I only have to describe his funeral, following his death after a long struggle with cancer. Well before the service was scheduled to begin, our church sanctuary was jam-packed and there were parking problems throughout that downtown Philadelphia neighborhood. People must have wondered whether the president was in town or whether someone important – you know, a politician or a CEO – had died and was being buried. No, it was just Lawrence, a lively, elderly African American man, who never had a good formal education, worked as a doorman at a downtown hotel, and lived with his family in what other people call a ghetto.
Lawrence’s funeral service was not only packed, it was long. Person after person came to bear testimony of how Lawrence had been used by God in their lives. Some had come to faith in Christ through Lawrence and were then mentored by him in their early Christian growth. In fact, three different ministers spoke about how Lawrence had led them to Christ and encouraged them in their service to their Lord. Lawrence’s children and grandchildren spoke of his legacy of faith and love in their lives. The whole service was simply overwhelming.
Afterward, I was sitting in the office of one of my fellow ministers at the church. We were both dazed by what we had just seen, even though we both knew Lawrence well. The funeral had been a glorious experience and we were awestruck. After several minutes of silence, my friend said to me, “It just goes to show what God can do in the life of any man who yields himself unreservedly to Jesus.” That is exactly what Lawrence’s life of humble, godly service shows, and his story should encourage us to find our significance in revealing God’s glory and grace through what we do as Christian men.
So what did Lawrence Dow do, and what should we do as bearers of God’s image in this world? One answer is that Lawrence was utterly devoted to the work of the gospel. He looked on the world and on people through a biblical lens. He did not see rich or poor, black or white, high or low. He saw sinners who need to be saved. He saw people broken by guilt who needed to hear about forgiveness. He saw people weakened in the bondage of sin who needed strength from the Lord. He devoted himself to the ministry of these things: salvation through faith in Jesus, forgiveness through the message of Christ’s gospel, spiritual strength through prayer and God’s Word. Lawrence had time for spiritual matters, and these were the things that interested him. He focused on the ministry of Christian truth and love to the people God brought into his life.
So what does this mean for the average Christian guy? It means that you need to get into the game – not a sports game on television, but the true and real contest for souls that is going on all around you. It means you should devote yourself to strengthening your own faith and drawing near to God so you can be used to strengthen others. It means you should be involved in your church by using whatever gifts the Lord has given you. It means you should be ready and open to be a spiritual blessing to people whom God will bring into your life. It means that when you meet someone who is down, you should encourage him or her with truth from God’s Word. It means that when you find someone who is confused, you should come alongside to point out the way he should go. It means you should start noticing not just where people stand in the pecking order, but what is going on with them as individuals, and then minister gospel truth and Christ-like love to them as those in need of grace.
The foregoing is excerpted from pages 46-48 of the paperback edition of Dr. Phillip’s book, The Masculine Mandate (Ligonier Ministries, 2010). It has been published previously by Ligionier Ministries under the title “Living a Life of Stunning Significance” here.