We worship our “heroes” by idolizing them, only later to scold and turn on them when we find that they don’t live up to our expectations. Consider the life of Pete Rose. Rose was well-known by the nick-name, “Charlie Hustle.” He earned that endearing title because he never gave less than 100% to his Cincinnati Reds baseball team while he was on the field. He would run full-speed to first base on a walk. He would dive head-first into first base to beat out a bunt. Charlie Hustle would stretch what should have been just an ordinary single to a double, placing himself in scoring position and helping his team to win the game. In 1978, Rose had one of the longest hitting streaks ever, 44 straight games with many 2 and 3 hit games and only 12 short of the famous Joe Dimaggio.
Pete Rose was a threat every time he stepped to the plate. He had a long and illustrious career. Rose was an assured that he would be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot after he would become eligible. Rose was “worshiped” by most baseball fans and players alike. He was the darling of the press. As one of his fans, I can say it was a joy to watch him play.
But then one day all of that dramatically changed. The press revealed that Rose had a darker, secret side to his life. Rose was accused of gambling big time on the very games in which he was playing. Rose vehemently denied any wrong-doing but was ultimately banished from baseball in 1989 to a state of disgrace and shame. To this day, Pete has never been elected to the Hall of Fame because of his banishment from Baseball. Time has lessened the effect of the public’s disdain for Rose and what he did but he has never returned to the status of a “True Hero.”
So what is a True Hero? And how do you identify a True Hero? The Bible offers a number of examples of true heroism that have withstood the test of time. In speaking about faith, the writer of Hebrews 11 mentions many of them including Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Rahab. Let’s pick up at verse thirty-two for this quick study to be reminded of others.
Scripture: (all NIrV unless otherwise noted)
Hebrews 11 NIrV – 32 What more can I say? I don’t have time to tell about all the others. I don’t have time to talk about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah. I don’t have time to tell about David, Samuel and the prophets. 33 Because of their faith they took over kingdoms. They ruled fairly. They received the blessings God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions. 34 They put out great fires. They escaped being killed by the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became powerful in battle. They beat back armies from other countries.
35 Women received their dead back. The dead were raised to life again. Others were made to suffer greatly. But they refused to be set free. They did that so that after death they would be raised to a better life.
36 Some were laughed at. Some were whipped. Still others were held by chains. They were put in prison. 37 Some were killed with stones. They were sawed in two. They were put to death by the sword. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats. They were poor. They were attacked. They were treated badly. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains. They lived in caves. They lived in holes in the ground.
39 All of those people were praised because they had faith. But none of them received what God had promised. 40 God had planned something better for us. So they would only be made perfect together with us.
My Pastor, Dr. Keith Pisani, recently shared a series of sermons that highlighted some of the heros of the Bible. Each of his sermons was inspiring, focusing on the role of faith in the lives of the heroes, and ultimately provoked me to think deeper on this topic.
Merriam-Webster defines a “hero” as:
- a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage;
- the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work; the central figure in an event, period, or movement
God uses each of His heroes to accomplish His purpose. God’s True Hero receives their guidance from Him. True Heroes live their lives to: bring glory to God (Jesus, Daniel, Paul), put the focus on Him and not on themselves through their righteousness (Abraham, Jacob), bring blessing and help to others (Mordecai, Boaz), sacrifice to prepare the way for others that follow (Moses, John the Baptist, Stephen, Sampson), show their devotion and love for God (David, Paul, Peter the Apostle), defeat God’s enemies (Joshua, Gideon, Jephthah, Barak, Deborah).
After discussing numerous examples of God’s more prominent True Heroes (Hebrews 11:1-31), the Hebrew writer says that he doesn’t “… have time to tell about all the others” (Hebrews 11:32) such as Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel. He noted in particular “that their weakness was turned to strength. They became powerful in battle. They beat back armies from other countries (Hebrews 11:34). Many of God’s True Heroes were laughed at, whipped, held in chains, martyred, were poor, were treated badly, “… wandered in deserts and mountains. They lived in caves. They lived in holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:38).” The writer concludes by saying that all of these lesser-known heroes had one thing in common: “All of those people were praised because they had faith” in Almighty God!
God’s definition of what constitutes a True Hero differs from that of man in that the primary quality that identifies that hero is his faith in God.
While the accomplishments of Pete Rose as a baseball player certainly cannot be denied, he will not be remembered as one of our True Heroes. Instead he will go down in history as a failure, a cheat, and a liar … not because of his lack of baseball skills, but because of his character. How can you have faith in such a man? How can he be a hero?
One of Max Lucado’s short daily audio devotionals, A Hero in the Bible, compares a human hero to one of God’s True Heroes.
Behold a hero of the west. A thousand head of cattle pass behind him. He needs no one. He’s a cowboy. The American hero.
Behold a hero in the Bible: the shepherd. He too is rugged. Like the cowboy he makes his roof the stars and the pasture his home.
But that’s where the similarities end. The shepherd loves his sheep. The cowboy leads the cow to slaughter. The cowboy drives the cattle. The shepherd leads the sheep. The shepherd calls each sheep by name. Aren’t we glad Christ didn’t call Himself the Good Cowboy?
Psalm 100:3 says, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
We don’t need a cowboy to herd us. We need a shepherd. A shepherd to care for us and to guide us. And we have One. One who knows us by name.
Lucado describes Jesus Christ as our shepherd, our True Hero. Jesus is my True Hero. How about you? Who is your True Hero?
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Received via email On Mar 7, 2013, at 9:51 AM, Bill Peterson wrote:
I really enjoyed this one. If someone like Pete or Tiger Woods would publicly turn their life over to Jesus, they really could be a true hero. No matter what else had even happened in their lives!
Coach Bill Peterson
Yes, Christ is my true hero. He has saved me through Grace and I thank God for sending his son to die for me. In conclusion, I am very thankful for my parents who raised me in the house of the Lord.
Jim, thanks for another inspiring message.