Many young women are told to simply “date a Christian” with no elaboration on what that looks like or means. But not all Christian men are living out their faith with the dedication necessary to lead a home and family. Any guy can call himself a Christian. Not every man can live it out.
On the other hand, you have the ever-evasive ghost called “the spiritual leader.” He’s the guy we’re all told to look for. He leads Bible studies and men’s groups. He might be a Pastoral Leadership major, or at least have a minor in Theology. He’s calm, collected and reserved, making every Christian girl swoon at the thought of snagging him. He will probably do daily devotions with his girlfriend and call her every night to pray before bedtime.
Many young women believe that a spiritual leader fulfills at least some of these “necessary” qualities. They have high expectations on what this leadership looks like, expectations that may be continually disappointed as they encounter guy after guy who doesn’t meet them. So here’s the truth: not every man who calls himself a Christian is dedicated to the holiness God requires, and among men who are dedicated to the holiness of God, there is no cookie-cutter model of spiritual leadership.
This is why I love Psalm 112. This passage gives biblical guidelines for evaluating the men a young woman might date—guidelines that demand more than a verbal testimony while revealing that every man will “spiritually lead” according to the will and work of God in his individual life. So below, let’s explore some of the qualities to look for in a Psalm 112 man.
1. HE REVERES GOD AND DELIGHTS IN HIS WORD (V. 1).
One of the sad losses in this world that shuns “religion” in favor of “relationship” is the inability to process the concept of reverence. Certainly, the Christian faith should not be narrowed down to a set of rites and traditions—what is often associated with the word “religion.” But we should also be wary of growing into so familiar a “relationship” with God we cease to recognize His holiness. The “fear of the Lord” is a reverence for who He is and the greatness of His character. The Psalm 112 man has a healthy recognition of God’s greatness; a recognition that cultivates humility of heart.
God’s greatness, in contrast to our weakness, and His holiness in contrast to our sin produces an appreciation for His grace. This is the most fundamental element of a strong walk with God. The man who sees himself as “pretty good” will never appreciate all God has done for him, and this lack of gratitude will quickly show in his behavior—which leads to his delight (or lack thereof) in the Word of God.
A man who loves God and is grateful for His grace will appreciate the guidance of God’s Word. But the man (or woman, really) who sees God as the cosmic fun police will not seek out or enjoy God’s Word. To him, the Bible is just another means of limiting his “Christian freedom.” A godly man puts his allegiance to Christ above the privilege of freedom, an action that leads to consistently righteous behavior.
2. HE IS RELATIONALLY, FINANCIALLY AND SPIRITUALLY WISE (v. 2-3).
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7) is proven in this psalm. A righteous man is wise because he fears God. Because God is first in his life, every other decision is made in light of that priority. He will love his wife the way Christ loves the church; he will handle his money as a gift from the Lord; and he will disciple his family in the truth that saved him.
Wisdom is “knowledge applied.” There are a lot of Christian guys who know the verses, the words and the songs, but they don’t know how to apply those “church facts” to daily life. Their faith is surface deep; a little more than fire insurance and a lot less than transformation.
A wise man might actually be the “boring” man. Many of the wise men I’ve met aren’t leading Bible studies and eagerly reaching for microphones—they are quietly working in business, engineering or entrepreneurship, winning those around them with their faithfulness, dedication and love for God. Sometimes the wisest of men are the quietest of leaders.
3. HE IS GRACIOUS, COMPASSIONATE AND RIGHTEOUS (V. 4).
This verse is self-explanatory and unsurprising. If a man is walking closely with God, delighting in His Word, and living in wisdom, the traits of grace, compassion and righteousness will come naturally to him. They are fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 6) that lives in his heart.
What is more obvious (and easier to point out) is the opposing behavior: a man who is entitled, hardened or hedonistic. Graciousness flows from a heart that knows grace. Those who have experienced grace have an easier time giving it; but those who think they don’t need God’s grace will be consequently far less compassionate on those around them. The man who lives with a hardened, entitled heart will make choices based on what suits him first.
This is can be very obvious or very subtle. An obvious example would be the man who attends church on Sunday but in off hours is known to frequent clubs, get drunk and recreationally date girls with no eye to their hearts or future. A subtle example would be the guy who is generally “nice,” but is more concerned with his new Jeep, snowboard and rock-climbing weekend than he is with his spiritual state or his responsibility to be a light to those around him. Both men have hardened their hearts toward the grace of God—just to different degrees. Both believe they are “basically good” and not in need of inner transformation. Sadly, this belief is misplaced.
4. HE IS GENEROUS AND STEADFAST (V. 5-6).
I should probably start by discussing what it means to be “steadfast,” because this trait leads to generosity. To be steadfast is to “hold firm”; to be immovable. God is steadfast in His love for us. Steadfast in verb form could be written as “to stand fast.” It means you don’t budge from your position.
The man who is steadfast in faith knows that God will provide for him. Because of this faith, he is able to be generous. This kind of man isn’t miserly and penny pinching (though he is financially wise, as previously discussed). To the measure God has blessed him, he also gives.
Financial disagreement is one of the chief causes of divorce in today’s culture. It is difficult to know a man’s financial habits until you’ve dated him a while and/or had a lengthy discussion on lifestyle expectations. During our dating years, Mr. M and I took a financial class together (one of the reasons we were able to pay off his $30,000 in student loans in only 15 months) that allowed us to have these discussions and learn each other’s spending habits. This is important because there are those who are wisely generous and those who are foolish. A man who gives money freely to friends and relatives without considering the impact on his personal budget and responsibilities will be a difficult partner in marriage. There is a way to be generous while also managing money in a wise manner, and a financial class is a great way to learn this about one another while also gaining practical skills for the future.
5. HE HAS FAITH IN GOD’S WILL AND TIMING (V. 7).
Closely tied to the previous point is this man’s faith. He has no fear of bad news. His heart is immovably entrusted to the Lord God, where he can rest in the security that only comes from Him.
This is important for single girls to note. A godly man may be very slow to pursue a woman he admires because he will not rush God’s timing. I have known many godly young men to take months praying over whether or not to pursue a certain woman—for reasons such as God’s timing, the state of their own heart or a desire to protect the heart of the girl. Godly men don’t jump into relationships for the sake of having a relationship. This being the case, they will take longer than your run-of-the-mill desperate Joe before deciding how and when to pursue. So be patient.
This faith in God’s timing and will is integral to the success of the Psalm 112 man. I’ve watched this play out over and over again with my own husband. When it seems as if God is silent on a topic, he continues to pray and patiently wait, encouraging me to do the same. Whether it be a job hunt, a financial decision or whether or not to move, I can trust that my husband has faith in God’s will. This ‘trust triangle’—between me, my husband and God—allows me to live in complete security with each decision we make. I can’t imagine my marriage without this kind of trust. Look for this kind of faith in the men you date, and you’ll have this kind of trust in your future marriage.
6. HE IS BOLD (V. 8).
Because the Psalm 112 man is secure in God’s provision, will and timing, he is bold in his words and actions! He is not afraid to speak up for what he believes when the opportunity comes. He is not afraid to be a witness to those in his path.
Here is where many young women are misled by the stereotypical “spiritual leader.” Just because a guy is great with words, prays beautiful prayers and holds a microphone does not mean he is automatically a “spiritual leader” (read more here). The loudest man in the room—or the most visible—is not always the best leader present. He may be a great leader, but he is likely surrounded by many other men who equal him in leadership skills, though not in visibility.
“Boldness” does not mean “loudness.” Boldness is bravery, a willingness to stand for what you believe with unwavering faith, even in difficult situations. Neither my dad nor Mr. M are particularly “loud” men; they don’t sing on the worship team, preach or hold highly visible roles in their communities. Their witness is in their consistent faithfulness among their coworkers, serving in the church and taking every opportunity God opens to them to speak His truth into a life. That, girls, is spiritual leadership.
7. HE IS CONSCIOUS OF THE NEEDS OF OTHERS (V. 9).
The verse actually says “he freely gives to the poor,” which we discussed when we talked about his generosity. But generosity comes from a heart that recognizes a need. The Psalm 112 man may be bold and strong, but he is also loving and kind. This can be a difficult balance for men to strike and remember—no man will do this perfectly. Your only choice of a mate is a sinner saved by grace.
But it is this grace that will color his vision of the world and help him see people through eyes of compassion. The combination of strength and grace in the heart of a man is the truest reflection of his dedication to Jesus, because Jesus was the “Shepherd King.” Jesus never compromised the truth, but welcomed the weak and needy into his arms.
How a man responds to the needs of others (not you) while dating is a telltale sign of how he will one day respond to your needs as his wife. We all put “best face forward” in relationships. Someday that façade will fall away and his true character will be revealed—a character you can probably glimpse in his conversations with other guys, how he speaks to your friends, and how well he respects your elderly family and members of the church.
8. HE WILL BE HATED FOR HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT HIS LEGACY WILL LAST (V. 9-10).
Perhaps surprisingly, the Psalm 112 is not liked by everyone who knows him. In fact, there is a large faction of folks who resent his righteousness and success. They feel threatened by his marriage, his family and his dedication to God. Because the gospel offends the world and the Psalm 112 man is dedicated to the gospel, he will be persecuted for what he believes.
Godly men aren’t always as “cool” as some of the guys in the church. They might not have all the physical qualities Hollywood sets as the standard. But in the end, the man who worked and loved and fought for his God and his family will win and his legacy will last—and the guy with the great hair and cool car and shallow faith will be remembered only for those few things he possessed in, rather than contributed to, his world.
With which man would you want to build a future?
To which man would you entrust your heart, your home and your children?
You won’t find all these qualities out in one date. You might go out with four or five guys before you meet one whose heart is wholly God’s (which is perfectly acceptable when you are asking yourself, “How holy can I be?”in your dating relationships). And remember that no relationship is wasted if you lived it out in a way that honored God—even if it didn’t end in marriage. You still learned, and you are still learning.
But let these principles, given in God’s word, be your guide as you look for God’s man. And to the measure you use for a potential spouse, remember—he’ll be using the same measure for you. So spend your time becoming the kind of Psalm 112 woman who can partner with a Psalm 112 man—and that will be marriage leaving the world with no doubt they have seen a glimpse of the glory of God.
A version of this post originally appeared on phyliciadelta.com