Late one evening when my little sister was about two years old, she swallowed a penny and began to choke. With the penny partially lodged in her windpipe, she was able to breathe but there was risk of it coming lose any second and completely blocking her airway. So my parents decided to rush her to the hospital as quickly as possible. My dad stormed into my bedroom and told me to get dressed so we could go to the hospital. I threw on some pants, a shirt, and my shoes and ran into the living room just as everyone else was about to rush out the front door. But then I looked down and realized I had forgotten to put on my belt, and I wasn’t about to go anywhere without my belt.
Only eight years old at the time, I was apparently more concerned about leaving home without my belt than even my sister’s medical emergency. I told my dad to hang on, that I had to go back and put on my belt. He told me no, that we had to leave right away to get my sister to the hospital. I pleaded again, “Please dad, I need to put my belt on first.” Frustrated with me and concerned for my sister, my dad barked back at me “Forget your belt, I’ll hold up your d*%$ pants!” And with that, he grabbed me by the back of my jeans and literally tossed me out the front door like one of the many bales of hay he had stacked back on the farm.
I don’t know why, but to this day I still have to wear a belt with anything other than sweat pants or a swim suit (and only because those don’t come with belt loops, or else I probably would). On the rare days I ever forget my belt, I feel off kilter the whole day. Maybe that’s why I’ve always understood God’s command to Job to “Gird up your loins like a man”, which today would loosely translate to “Put a belt on!” When I read his command to Job, as God warns him “I will question you, and you shall answer me”, I think, “Yeah, Job, you better have your belt on for this!”
The idea behind girding up your loins is to prepare for an impending challenge. To gird up your loins referred to pulling up your robe between your legs and tucking it in under your belt so you could run or fight. Job 38:3 can be translated as “Prepare yourself like a man” (NKJV), “Brace yourself like a man" (NIV), “Dress for action like a man” (ESV), or in the King James, “Gird up now thy loins like a man.” Christian comic Mark Stine paraphrases it as, “Put a cup on!”
In a more general sense in the Bible, “girding your loins” means to be prepared for whatever challenge lies ahead, and not just physically. In 1 Peter 1:13, we’re also instructed to “gird up the loins of your mind.” As men of God, we need to be prepared for whatever physical, mental, or spiritual challenges we may face.
Prepare for Your Calling. I laid out the how, when, and why of being prepared in life. I’d like to expand on that suggestion now by listing some specific things we should prepare for; in other words, the ‘what’ to be prepared for.
Disclaimer: I am failing at many of these suggestions myself, so this is a list for me as much as anyone else.
Spiritual / Theological
Are you prepared to give an intellectual defense of why you believe in God, why you believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to salvation, and how you know the Bible is true and trustworthy?
Do you have at least a basic understanding of other religions and beliefs so that you can debate intelligently with others you encounter, who may even be trying to convert you? Have you studied other belief systems so that you have something to discuss with the next Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness who knocks on your front door?
Are you taking care of yourself physically so that your body will last as long as God needs you to take care of your family? Are you doing what is required to help ensure that you won’t be an unnecessary burden on others with your physical needs? Are you physically prepared for a foreign missions trip, or the next church work day, or an emergency in your home or on the road?
Are you spiritually and emotionally prepared to deal with loss in life, with changes in circumstances that may challenge you, with situations which may test your faith? How are you stretching your faith now in the happy times to prepare for times of trial? Do you deal with your emotions in a healthy and productive way, so that you have emotional reserves to handle the unexpected?
Are you following sound Biblical principles to prepare for tough financial times (perhaps even worse than what we’re seeing today)? Would you be prepared to handle a financial collapse in our economy, loss of your job, or major unexpected expenses? If not, what can you do today to be better prepared?
What are you doing to continue to grow in every important area of your life? Don’t think that God is going to leave you alone to rest on your current abilities. He most likely has even greater challenges ahead for you in the future. What can you do today as a man to prepare to be a better husband, father, church leader, employee, evangelist, citizen, and disciple? What are your goals in these areas and what are you doing to reach them?
This is far from a complete list, but rather just a few suggestions of the type of responsibilities we should be preparing ourselves for. The problem with lists is that they often lead to guilt and frustration, as just another reminder of what we haven’t done. I pray that this won’t be the case here. God understands that we all have limited time and energy and that much of life is about prioritization and balance. But please use this as another reminder to be prepared for whatever may be ahead in your future. Don’t waste your time being complacent with where you are today. Gird your loins for what God may need you to do next.