I have looked at the tactical virtue of courage* as denoted in the Way of Man in reference to Christian masculinity. The next to be focused on is strength.
The Bible is pretty clear that physical strength and training is of value.
Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
In fact, Paul recommends you discipline your body so your are not disqualified as a witness before others.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV)
If you see a physically weak man, are you inclined to respect him, to heed what he says?
If you are an out-of-shape blob or toothpick, get yourself to the gym and cease your gluttony and sloth. The cardinal vices are called the seven deadly sins for a reason.
Respect the temple to God your body is. Physically train.
But often many stop here; strength is reduced to the merely physical.
‘Do you even lift, bro?‘
This is not enough and too great a focus on strength is disordered. As Jack Donovan notes “strength is the ability and drive to exert one’s will over objects, over nature, over other men, and over oneself.”
Strength denotes will and ability in addition to physical force. This strength of will is that which the Bible focuses on far more and it is the strength of will that it usually refers to as strength. This strength of will is what you should focus on (without neglecting the physical).
The strength of will is your ability to push yourself beyond what you are, to test your own limits, to break yourself and be made anew. This will is well described by Kipling:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
Far more than any physical strength, the mental and spiritual determination to continue on, so that at the end of you life you can say:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, ESV)
This strength starts in wisdom.
A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:5-6, ESV)
It is wisdom which guides your will, which gives your will purpose. Without applying wisdom to discern where to apply your strength, your will, it will be wasted. A strong man without wisdom is more destructive than a weak man.
Without wisdom you will be as the young student who fails to push his ancient master back after struggling mightily; with wisdom you will be as the ancient master who shifts position and brings his young student down effortlessly.
Out of wisdom your will is forged, from wisdom it is guided.
Where does your wisdom come from? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
So, any training of the will begins with fear of the Lord.
For the Christian man, start knowing your place before the Almighty. You must start with humility. To grow strong you must first know your weakness and then work to improve yourself through the grace of Christ.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, ESV)
From the same source as your wisdom comes your strength. “The Lord is my strength and my shield.”
The PUA builds his strength in and of himself. For a man, his strength may be great, his will may be hard, and his frame nigh impenetrable. Yet, he is still a man. He is limited; his will will break, his strength will flag, and his frame is an illusion. When he inevitably tires he has nothing to fall back on.
The man of God builds his strength on the Rock. When his strength fades and he can hold on no longer, his will is renewed through One far greater than he.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31, ESV)
Therefore train your will, practice discipline and accept the trials the Lord allows you to face. Grow stronger through exercises of faith.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV)
The Lord will see your human weakness, He will see the hardships you face, He will see your failures, and in these He will build you with His power, His will, His strength. Use your wisdom to learn where you are weak and confront those weaknesses, for there God will give you His strength to fight. From there He will forge you.
A man of God will grow his strength, mentally, physically, and spiritually. He will seek wisdom which comes from the Lord, he will train physically, and, most importantly, he will forge his will to God’s.
Go train. Become strong.
Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me. (Psalm 144:1-2, ESV)
This series is a set of foundational posts. I will build more practical knowledge on top of them. If you are needing immediate practical advice on self-improvement, check out my Omega’s Guide series. It has some practical advice on most areas in which a man may need improvement.
I also plan a post on practical ways to develop your will.
* There was some concern of semantic confusion caused by labeling non-Christian, in particular the masculine/tactical, virtues virtues and then analyzing in the light of Christianity and the Christian theological and cardinal virtues. There is no other good word in English that connotes the same as virtue. I could use virtus, or possibly virtu, but both of those are types of virtue systems. Given that virtue predates Christianity, I will continue to apply the word to the masculine virtues. If I am referring to one of the specific seven Christian virtues I will use the capitalized Virtue.