by Jonathan Bradford
One of the greatest needs in the modern evangelical church is for godly young men. When God called Joshua to service, four times He emphasised the need for him to be ‘strong and courageous’ (Jos. 1:6,7,9,18). This strength and courage is to be drawn from an utter dependence upon who God has revealed Himself to be and what God has promised He will do.
Paul reinforces this teaching on biblical manhood in his letter to the Corinthian church, commanding them to ‘be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong’ (1 Cor. 16:13). When talking about spiritual strength in young men, John points to two things: God’s Word abides in them and they are walking daily in spiritual victory (1 Jn 2:14). This is no easy thing for young men growing up in the Philippines. Many of them come from families that have embraced false religions and do not understand their love for God or their desire to live in a manner that pleases Him. They are continually bombarded with sexual temptation and work such long hours to provide for their families that it takes a major effort to continue their studies in God’s Word and prepare themselves for future ministry. To make matters worse, they are sometimes hindered by poor leadership.
Being strong and courageous, knowing your Bible well and living a life of victory can leave young men in a lonely place today. Strength is often labelled as arrogance, courage as over-confidence, a deep abiding love for the Word of God as head knowledge and utter submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ as intolerance to others. Sadly, when young men become consumed with a desire to know and serve God, they often meet resistance or a lack of encouragement.
John Wesley said, ‘Give me 100 men who hate nothing but sin and love God with all their hearts and I will shake the world for Christ!’ A. W. Tozer said, ‘The most critical need of the Church at this moment is men, bold men, free men. The church must seek, in prayer and much humility, the coming again of men made of the stuff of which prophets and martyrs are made.’
As a young man, I made a commitment to serve the Lord in the Philippines and, for the last 20 years, it has been my mission to disciple and mentor young men here; to raise them on the Word alone so that they might know God and become men of strength and courage, who will continue to make true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ long after I am gone. During this time, the Lord has raised up some wonderful young men who started as our spiritual children, grew into our co-workers and now plant churches and disciple their own teams of men.
It has been one of my greatest joys to watch them grow into men of God, spiritually strong and courageous in all areas of life. It thrills my heart to hear them teach, imploring people everywhere to repent of their sins and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Mt. 4:17; Ac. 20:21). Gabriel Castelo is one of these men.
The Lord has raised up some wonderful young men who started as our spiritual children, grew into our co-workers and now plant churches and disciple their own teams of men.
‘I grew up in a devout Roman Catholic home. Rites, rituals and rules were central to my upbringing. I heard about God, the Bible, the Ten Commandments and even Jesus Christ dying for sinners, but believed that entering Heaven required being a good person with a flawless record of good works and merits. As I was exposed to the world’s ideologies growing up, my love for the things that God hated grew and became a major source of conflict in my life. I was attached to sexual sin. From the early age of four, I was exposed to pornographic material. By 13, I had already been in a sexually immoral relationship and it continued until after my teenage years. Being a good person with a flawless record of merits did not fit my description. I remembered and feared the judgment of God, but I was also overcome by my desire to sin. Immorality ruled my life until 2016, when I heard the gospel and God opened my eyes to His grace. God exposed my sin and seeing the pain that my immorality had caused the people I loved broke me. In desperation I ran to the Lord Jesus in genuine repentance and faith. He forgave me and saved me from my sins.
‘The initial fire of conversion brought me to a passionate searching of the Scriptures to know my Lord more. I attended Bible studies, listened to online sermons and asked people many questions. One of the Bible studies I attended was taught by Jonathan. After these study sessions and whenever I would see Jonathan, I would stop him to ask questions and these led to long conversations about the Bible.
‘Walking the Christian life for long enough will teach anyone that the initial fire of conversion does not last long. We need to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, spending quality time in the Word, prayer and fellowship. My pride led me to think that these things were already sufficient in my life. But I fell again into my past sin and lost the favour and trust of the people around me. This led me to more questions about the sincerity of my faith, the providence of God and the people in the church. In desperation, I contacted Jonathan. When we met up, my questions were answered with the gospel’s grace.
For the first time in a year of being a Christian, I felt that I was being shepherded. This began a relationship of discipleship over many years that has been edifying. The Scriptures and the power of the gospel have helped me in my struggle with sin. After a period of church discipline and many painful lessons learned, the Lord brought Guia into my life and we had premarital counselling with Jonathan and his wife, Jingle, who remain a part of our lives, faithfully shepherding and discipling us.’
Courageously Stand & Lead
I will never forget the day Gabriel came to me. He always seemed so mature; I had no idea he was a baby Christian who had just come to saving faith through the Bible studies at the church. He was broken and discarded, and my heart went out to him. Men falling into sin is not unusual, but a new believer asking to be disciplined by the church so that he might experience victory over sin is exceedingly rare today. We began a journey together that grew into a friendship and a partnership in the gospel. Gabriel is happily married to a wonderful Christian woman, Guia, he is actively involved in discipling other men and enrolled in online Bible school to prepare himself for full-time service.
In 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Paul tells us that the ‘Man of God’ is known by four things: what he is fleeing from; what he is following after or pursuing; what he is fighting for; and what he is faithful to. Gabriel and many other young men of God like him are beginning to courageously stand up to lead the church in the Philippines.
Pray that the Lord will strengthen them for His service as they seek to be His lights in a dark world. Pray also that the Lord will raise up a new generation of godly men, men who hold God’s Word high (Ps. 138:2), who truly bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and no one else (Phil. 2:9-11).
- that the Lord will provide them with godly wives who will be encouraging partners in ministry
- that they will continue to grow in Christlikeness, in victory over sin and in the courage needed to preach the gospel faithfully to a generation that has largely accepted a counterfeit gospel
- that the Lord will increase their love for righteousness so that they will not fall
- for their future ministries, that they will continue to preach the gospel faithfully and courageously, wherever the Lord leads them.