A question in the mail: “As a young man, (I’m 22, living at home, but in my senior year at University) I am in a dilemma. Everywhere – at home, in school, on the job, or on the street – someone else is telling me how to live my life. At the same time I am required to fulfill a lot of responsibility. I don’t seem to have any authority at all.  Tell me please, how do I fit this into God’s plan for maturity in my life? How do I learn to exercise authority without having the experience of being IN authority?”

First, let me tell you how good it is to hear you say that you want to learn how to exercise authority. Paul told Timothy, “It is a good thing to seek to be an authority” (1st Timothy 3:1). Secondly, let me tell you that you are in the very best place to learn about authority –  exercising yourself in the fulfillment of responsibility without having any authority in the situation. Obedience, the fulfillment of responsibility, is the KEY to learning how to exercise authority. You see, anyone who is in authority is ALWAYS under authority himself!  My boss has his boss, and his boss has his boss! This is especially true of a man of God; the Scripture says, “All authority has its source in God.”

Now, let me talk with you as a man– a MALE! The authority of manliness has unique meanings all its own, and so the responsibility of men is uniquely male. Not that women do not have responsibility. They do. But it is just as uniquely fitted to their femininity as your responsibility is fitted to masculinity. As a man, you have or will soon have the responsibility of husbanding a woman. That is the expression of your manliness to your wife. Along with this new relationship, you will be given responsibility that you never had before. And there is no place to get this experience except that you enter into marriage. So, fulfilling the responsibilities which you have before marriage is the basis of preparing yourself to handle the tremendous responsibility of husbanding the partner God gives you as a wife. And I’ll tell you this: in spite of all the excellent books available on the subject of marriage, you won’t get it by reading a book! The real key is to fulfill your masculine responsibilities at home before you “leave father and mother” to try to make it on your own.

Now, I continue to speak to you as a man – as a MALE. As you fulfill your responsibility as a husband you will then, more than likely, take on the responsibility of FATHERHOOD.  Up to this time, you have had no such responsibility, but you have been under such authority. God gave you a father, the voice of authority in your life. For 22 years you have had the golden opportunity to learn much by your mistakes and his, especially from your reactions to his authority. It has produced some good results, as well as some very painful situations. Hopefully, you saw some important principles worked out in this relationship which will be helpful to you when you are assigned the same type of responsibility.  So, now is the time to make the most of this opportunity while you have it this way. Don’t stand against it in an attitude of rebellion. Be teachable! Whether you think the relationship is good or bad, learn from it! That makes it good!

From Jay Fesperman’s “Letters of Exhortation”, Volume 5, No. 1, February 1985.

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