Two Enemies of Determination

Two Enemies of Determination

I have never met a truly aimless guy. I have met many guys that lack determination. I know because they ask to meet up for coffee. Now, certainly I have met with hundreds of guys that are disciplined, driven, and focused. They are coming with well-thought questions to concrete obstacles in their path. But for the other guys, I am approached more like a genie than a pastor or counselor. They are not coming with questions, but wishes.

When I press some of these guys on what they’ve been doing to make their dreams come true, I get a lot of hemming and hawing. As my good friend John Bryson says on occasion, “Boys complain. Men figure it out. Boys pout. Men endure.” John is passionate about mentoring guys, so he’s not talking about going solo. But he is saying that what separates the men from the boys is their refusal to quit when they face adversity. That’s determination.

In The Dude’s Guide to Manhood, I talk about several things that keep us from becoming determined man, like holding onto our excuses, living in the past, and avoiding our weaknesses. Here are two more subtle ways we short-circuit our growth.

Early Celebration

When I need a good laugh, I get on YouTube and search for ESPN SportsCenter’s “Not Top 10” plays. Having played sports and spent time with athletes, I do feel bad for the guys on occasion. But there’s one guy I have no sympathy for. It’s the flashy wide-receiver that catches the deep ball, but prematurely celebrates,getting tackled short of the end-zone.

It is so easy to mock these guys, until you realize you are one of them. A article warns about early celebrations. Based on recent studies, the author noted how simply announcing our goals makes us less likely to achieve them. We have this strange way of patting ourselves on the back after even the slightest bit of progress. This feeling of reflective achievement actually lowers our drive to reach our goals.

False Rewards

Michael Gurian is a family and marriage therapist, who has written several NY Times bestsellers on childhood development. In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, he was asked to explain why he is so worried about the amount of time boys are spending on video games. He explained that boys are wired to accomplish something. So when they get a high score or advance to the next level, they think they’re getting something done. But virtual reality only provides virtual rewards.

Now don’t assume that you’re in the clear because you’re not a gamer. I’m not even calling for a ban on video games. You can turn any hobby into a means of escape rather that a source of refreshment. This happens when we use these diversions to block out unwanted emotions. We may not have gotten our actual work done. We may not have actually helped around the house or apartment. We may not have actually engaged our spouse and children, or our roommates.

Identity and Purpose

In order to fight against these temptations, we need to have clarity about our identity and purpose. Jesus had certainty in who he was and what he was called to do throughout his earthly life. Even in Gethsemane, as he was struck with immeasurable grief and sorrow, he trusted his Father’s will. Jesus was able to endure this great trial near the end of his ministry because he had cultivated determination early on.

Jesus refused false rewards.

This was Satan’s final temptation in the wilderness. “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:8–9). Jesus had not even begun his public ministry when this offer was made. “Do nothing and I will give you ‘everything.’”

Who doesn’t want those terms? Who doesn’t take the easy road? Someone who has heard the words, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). These are the last words Jesus hears before heading into the wilderness. Jesus endured hunger and humiliation because he already found his true reward in his Father’s approval. Not once in forty days did he speak a word of complaint. He endured this trial by holding fast to his Father’s words.

Jesus refused to be distracted from his mission.

Jesus’s success in ministry began in Capernaum (Mark 1:21–38). During the day, he heals a demon-possessed man in the synagogue. By night, word has spread, people have flocked to the house he is staying in, and Jesus continues to heal the sick and cast out demons.

After accomplishing that much in one day, surely the next morning Jesus would sleep in, and have a leisurely morning surrounded by his adoring entourage. Although, maybe I’m just describing my ideal Monday morning after preaching on Sunday. What about Jesus? “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus wasn’t eagerly awaiting the morning press. He was praying.

He was preparing. As soon as Simon and some others found him, Jesus knew it was time to move on. “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38). Jesus didn’t wait for a party to be thrown in his honor. He knew his purpose. He knew he had more to accomplish.

We have one who is not ashamed to call us his brothers.

In Jesus, we have the model of a determined man. He pressed on in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He resisted comfort and approval, knowing what was at stake in his failure. He endured great suffering and shame because he had a greater joy. As the founder and perfecter of our faith, he saw the day when we would be with him in everlasting celebration. And though the weight of a broken world may cause us to complain and pout like boys, we have one who is not ashamed to call us his brothers (Hebrews 2:11). He is determined to grow us from boys to men.

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Darrin Patrick is pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and author of the new book The Dude’s Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World Full of Counterfeits. Resources from Darrin are available at