When Horace Greeley popularized the phrase, “Go west, young man, go west” in the mid-1800s, I am sure he was not visualizing a young boy leaving the eastern European country of Ukraine to travel westward across Europe, the Atlantic Ocean and clear across the American continent to California. Our grandson James did just that in 2012. Since that time he has come to love his new country, and in particular, all things western—YEE-HAW!
James celebrated his 19th birthday the other day—his fifth in the United States. Actually it was only his fifth birthday celebration ever. I can still remember his first birthday here as part of our family. He could not believe the decorations, the cake, the presents were all for him and beamed from ear to ear all day long! It is no wonder, then, that he was as excited as a little kid about this one. The Sanchez family does birthdays up big in their household, so James chose a western theme this year and looked forward to the surprises his mom and dad and siblings would have for him on his special day.
Of course they did not disappoint! The Old West decorations were cool, the western-themed cake his mom baked and decorated turned out great, and James got to dress up in his western gear. His special request was to go to a couple western stores in a neighboring town to look for a belt buckle and western-style belt. And since he already has a western guitar, his folks got him the next best thing—a Russian mandolin!
James was telling me about his birthday later that night. After hearing all the details, I went on to ask about his job search. He mentioned that there was a possibility that he would be hired by a fencing company. “Oh, riding fence, eh, cowboy?” I responded.
In his best John Wayne imitation, James drawled, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!” Sort of… if you could just imagine John Wayne with a heavy Ukrainian accent…
I got tickled over that! It is one of my husband Bob’s favorite phrases, especially since it comes from his favorite movie hero, John Wayne. The grandkids have all picked up on that and love to mimic Boppa imitating the Duke. They even got him a mug with that saying paying tribute to his cowboy hero. You’ll hear it quoted often in our family, “A man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do!”
I got to thinking about that phrase. It sounds very, well—manly, doesn’t it? Very macho. It sounds like a man who will stand tough. One who will stand on his convictions. One who will courageously fight for what is right. It actually reminds me of some other heroes—not of the Old West, but of the Bible. Heroes of the faith.
The Scriptures are full of men—and women—who stood up for righteousness; who did what they had to do because it was the right thing before God for them to do. Three Old Testament examples come to mind immediately.
Genesis 6 tells us the story of Noah. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (vs. 5-8) Noah alone, of all the people on earth, stood for God and led his family to do likewise. Noah, alone with his sons and their wives, obeyed the Lord’s instructions to build an ark and enter it as God’s plan of salvation. They stood despite the ridicule and reviling that surely must have been flung at them from an unbelieving, tremendously wicked people who saw him building this monstrosity of a ship in a world that had yet to see rain, who heard his warnings, and still refused to repent. (II Peter 2:5)
Hebrews 11 upholds Noah as a hero of the faith, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (v. 7) His actions were a testimony to an unbelieving world of Noah’s obedience and God’s holy righteousness. His actions were a mark, as well, of godly leadership to his family which resulted in their salvation.
David was just a young boy when he took a manly stand for God. The Israeli army ran and hid before the champion of the Philistines, a giant named Goliath. When young David came to bring food to his older brothers who were in the army, he saw this sorry state of affairs and volunteered to fight Goliath himself. I Samuel 17 tells the story. His brothers mocked him and told him to go back to tending his sheep. The king accepted his offer since no one else had volunteered—not even he himself—but doubting David’s abilities, tried to impose his own armor and weapons on the boy. David refused them and took only his shepherd’s staff, his sling and a few stones to fight the giant.
Goliath, when he saw his small opponent, did not merely mock or doubt. He reviled and cursed David, his countrymen and his God. David stood. David stood while the army of Israel hid. David stood while Saul, the king, hid. David stood, but not alone. He knew God stood with him and that the battle was the Lord’s. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.” (I Samuel 17:45-47) David slew Goliath with just his sling and a little stone—and the hand of God. David’s stand was a testimony of his trust in the living God of Israel, and a testimony of God’s great and mighty power, and it led to the salvation of Israel that day.
We find another hero of the faith in Daniel 6. Daniel, a Hebrew captive of the Babylonians had found favor with the pagan king Darius, in fact had become second only to the king in all the land. His life was exemplary and Darius knew it was because of Daniel’s unshakeable belief in and obedience to his God. The king’s favor made him a target of all the other rulers in the kingdom who were jealous of Daniel. They plotted against him, to rid themselves of this upstart who dared to usurp their regard with the king by his righteous living. They tricked the king into signing an unalterable “royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.” (v. 7) Daniel did not allow this new decree to prevent him from praying to the true and living God of Israel, however. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” (v.10) He was faithful before in plain sight of all, knowing full well the penalty was death. His faithfulness to God was a testimony, and what happened next was a testimony of God’s faithfulness to him.
The king was upset that he had been tricked, but even he was bound by the law of the land, and in the end had no choice but to have Daniel thrown into the lions’ den. He spent a sleepless night worrying about Daniel and the first thing the next morning ran to the mouth of the den—only to find Daniel totally and miraculously unharmed and praising God for his deliverance. Daniel’s stand for God was not only a testimony and a godly influence on the land, but also led to the salvation of the king. Darius made a decree, “That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast forever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.” (v.26)
There comes a time when a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do—or a woman, for that matter. When we have to take a stand for the Lord regardless of the popular opinion, the mockery or even the consequences. We must stand for God courageously, boldly and unapologetically. There may come a time when “… We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) May our lives be a testimony of His righteousness, His faithfulness and power as we stand for Him, and may it lead to the salvation of others.
James is young, just embarking on his adult years out there in the wild, wild west of California. I pray that no matter where or how the Lord leads him, he will always do what a man’s gotta do—stand courageously for God.