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QUICK SUMMARY: I love a good action-packed adventure. Though the odds are always stacked against him or her, they bravely manage to tip the scales in their favor. When the dust settles, the universe is safe for another day.
Why is that relevant? As a spiritual coach, I hear at least one very sad story just about every day. Some days it is three or four painful and gloomy stories back-to-back. If your day is full of ministry to others, you know how it is. When I get home at night I usually am not in the mood for a mushy chick-flick. I do not want any more emotion. I have none left. Do not even hint at a tear-jerking ending or anything even close to an emotional moment on the way there.
I need to see things get blown up, in the most ridiculous way, far from anything remotely close to reality. I want an explosion in space to sound like explosions, even though my son informs me that in space, you would hear nothing! The more aliens the better! I need to enjoy a few minutes as far removed from the realities of life on planet earth as possible.
I need anti-reality. Hollywood can always be depended on to misrepresent reality… no matter the subject. Be it an explosion-filled adventure, a heart-warming drama, or most everything in between. Which is exactly why I turn there when I want an hour or so reality free.
Hollywood’s Heroes Vs. God’s
But recently this truth drove me to ask myself, “In real life, what makes a hero a hero?” Really. I do not want a hollow, useless answer from Hollywood. How would God answer that question? I have watched countless numbers of mindless guy flicks and yet I did not know the answer?
Clearly, what I was looking for was not going to be found in the fake adventures portrayed by Tinseltown.
Is heroine status possible in God’s eyes? Should I even be worried about becoming God’s hero? If I should, how do I get to be one of God’s heroes?
To answer my questions I decided to pursue stories in the Bible of heroic adventures and hearts that were stout enough to stand strong and prevail as God’s champion. Here is what I found.
In this article, I will simply state four critical keys and give the first two of six truths about God’s heroes.
1. It Ain’t Sexy
2. An Equal Opportunity Hero-Maker
3. Zero Before Hero
4. Begin at the Beginning
Two of Six Truths About God’s Heroes:
1. God’s heroes are not born, they are grown.
2. God’s heroes are not super-saints, they are simply saints.
Ready to hero-up?!
God’s Heroes – How to Be One in 6 Easy Truths (Part 1)
Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash
by Pastor Kerry Krissel
GO DEEPER: So, how do real heroes and heroines pull it off? Not how the hero ends up with the guy or girl, but how do they not end up frozen in fear as the action passes them by? How do God’s “heroes” know he will come through in the way they need him to, right when they need him to? Where does the pluck come from when the odds are so clearly stacked in someone else’s favor?
Don’t you dare give me the Sunday School “you just have to have faith” answer! That offers nothing practical. While it is part of the answer, it brings up more questions than it answers. Where does that faith come from? How do they know? How do they have the courage to step out? How did they get chosen? How, how, how…
Don’t you dare give me the Sunday School “you just have to have faith” answer!
It Ain’t Sexy
While I am not sure I can answer all of those questions, I think I know one reason the answer is elusive. Being a hero or heroine is stimulating stuff. So we expect the “how” to be equally as thrilling. But when it comes to real-life heroes, “how” is not very sexy. The way “there,” is a lot less exciting than the “there” is. In fact, it is completely ordinary and expected. Predictable. It is not a secret.
And anyone can do it. Anyone can be God’s hero! That is why we miss it. We assume that only certain special people, those of great… something… can be a heroine. As we watch the feat of super-faith unfold, we naturally conclude that it would and could never be us.
Who besides Harrison Ford get to be Han Solo and Indianan Jones in one lifetime!? Or like Julie Andrews gets to be Mary Poppins (7/1964) and Maria (The Sound of Music, 4/1965) in less than one year’s time? It just does not happen very often and to even fewer people.
An Equal Opportunity Hero-maker!
I wonder if we transfer that sort of rarity over to real life, again allowing Hollywood to pollute and confuse reality? While life is very prejudiced, that is not the way God rolls. He is an equal opportunity hero maker. God is not one who shows partiality due to a person’s station in life or wealth and he cannot be bribed and manipulated into it (Job 34:19; Colossians 3:10–11; 1 Peter 1:17, NLT)
Deuteronomy 10:17 For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. (NLT)
Acts 10:34–35 34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation, he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. (NLT)
God is an equal opportunity hero maker… Jesus is a straight-shooting equal opportunity, Savior.
Heck, even those sent by Jesus’ enemies admitted that he was impartial and did not play favorites (Matthew 22:16, NLT). Everyone knew Jesus is a straight-shooting equal opportunity, Savior. No one is more qualified or more advantaged than another when it comes to becoming one of God’s champions.
Don’t Take it From Me
Take the famous figures of the Bible for example. Have you ever been reading along, come across a story of magnificent faith and unbelievable courage, and said to yourself, “I could never do that?” You read about Noah building that Ark, Moses parting the sea, David killing Goliath, Joshua defeating Jericho, the apostles miraculously healing sickness and disease. How did they do that?! How did they know they would be victorious, let alone have the moxie to try?
Actually, if you were “reading along,” the answer will be evident. More on that in a minute. The trouble comes when you open your Bible and begin reading at those heroic moments and miss the important backstory.
Zero Before Hero
In every case that I can think of, the Biblical hero’s journey did not begin with the exploit they are best known for. Nor did their relationship with God. The truth is, beginning at zero is a requirement for making it to hero. I will double down and say that only zeroes can become heroes. No one begins at hero.
Stan Lee, may he rest in peace, knew that as well. I am no superhero aficionado, nor do I have an opinion regarding Marvel heroes vs. DC, whether it is a movie comparison or a one based on the comics alone. But the fictitious super-heroes I thought of off the top of my head all have a backstory. Even the villains do.
Something happened in their past that pushed them one way or another. Or the guide that came along to show them the way was either good or evil and influenced them down one road or the other. But even that is backstory. Zero comes before hero.
Here, let me show you…
Let’s thumb quickly through the Biblical narrative. As you page back through the stories, keep going until you find the character’s origin story.
Consider a few of God’s heroes:
- Noah already was a righteous and blameless man that walked in close fellowship with God… for 600 years prior to the flood (Genesis 6:9)!
- Moses was 80, had a rocky start 40 years earlier (Exodus 2:11-15), and was still arguing with God when he was called on to be a hero (Exodus 3:1-4:17).
- David had already killed a bear and a lion while still a shepherd boy (1Samuel 17:32-37).
- Joshua had watched Moses lead the people for decades before his big day yet was still apparently very fearful when God replaced Moses with him (Joshua 1:6-9).
- The apostles had three and a half years with Jesus and made a lot of mistakes before they did anything noteworthy.
- And for good measure, remember Paul, who became Saul? His backstory is notoriously negative up until his turnaround. Indeed, he was a hero in some people’s minds, just not in God’s. Little did he know that he was one short donkey ride away from becoming God’s flag-bearer!
In every case that I can think of, the Biblical hero’s journey did not begin with the exploit they are best known for.
Begin at the Beginning!
The hero’s story never begins with the story. Heroes do not just get up one day and decide to become the protagonists in some grand narrative that is way beyond them. Even Jesus’ life did not begin at his greatest moment of self-sacrifice. He grew into it (Hebrews 5:7-9). You really need to know the entire story, chronologically.
Books, especially narratives, are meant to be read from beginning to end. I heard that collective gasp at my profound revelation! Believe it or not, I have heard of people who do read the end before the beginning to make sure it will end “happily ever after!” But that is not the way the author meant it to be read. Reading a novel or biography or history out of chronological order will likely ruin the story if not make it completely unintelligible.
Sunday School Mislead You
The way Sunday School stories are usually told you would think that famous Biblical characters came out of the womb with sword in hand. Slaying giants and leading armies, kicking butt and taking names… in their diapers… sucking their little thumbs! But that is not remotely true. They came out as babies that grew up into zeros before they made it to hero.
And that is as good a place as any to begin to unpack the secret of hero-hood! When you follow a character through their development, you discover several things about heroes (and villains) that if understood and applied, will help anyone make it to hero eventually. A hero or heroine in God’s eyes anyway.
Providentially, we do not have to look far to uncover what it takes to make the journey from zero to hero possible, and replicable. In my travels through the Biblical narratives, I have found several reoccurring plot points that reveal how ordinary folks become God’s champions.
Heroes & Heroines
So no one feels that I favor one gender over another, or that God does, and so I do not have to keep saying “hero or/and heroine,” when I use “hero,” understand it inclusively, as gender-neutral, representative of all. Guys get no priority when God makes heroes!
Let me quickly interrupt our chat. If you would like to talk to someone about questions or struggles this article surfaced for you, go to the Two Rivers Counseling Center’s website, and look around. When you are ready, click the “Get Counseling” link. Or go directly to the “Get Counseling” request form. If you are not local to upstate New York and cannot come to my office, we can always make a virtual appointment by using social media to connect face-to-face. Now back to our discussion.
1. God’s heroes are not born, they are grown!
Let me say it again for impact. Many of us may be inclined to think that heroes are a special breed of people of which we are not a part. They are just born that way. But people that do extraordinary things with (not “for”) God grow into it. They face smaller battles and gain invaluable experience along the way. They win some and lose some, but both build strength of character and determination.
God puts people into heroic circumstances that he has groomed and prepared for that particular battle and day! Their gifts are not just physical and mental skills but strength of heart and a well-trained thoroughly-tried God-confidence.
Jesus is the most famous of all heroes in the Christian world but even he learned, advanced, and grew into who he needed to be (Hebrews 5:8), facing Satan and temptation again and again before the final showdown with Satan and death. A showdown that he won decisively (Luke 2:52 with Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 5:1-16, et al)! We could debate whether or not Jesus needed the practice but there is no debating that he is our example, and if it shows that he grew into his victory, so must we.
Dare I say that the heroic results are the product of personal choice, not random selection?
Greatness is Grown
If you think about it, greatness is always grown. People with great potential will become people of wasted potential if they do not choose growth. If they choose entitlement or chance or bribery or luck or some other way to get there, their potential is largely wasted.
Allow me to revisit Hollywood for a realistic example, not found in a movie script but in real life. While I was thinking about Harrison Ford and Julie Andrews, referenced earlier, I checked out Chris Pratt’s IMBd profile. Long before playing Owen Grady (Jurassic World) or Star-Lord (Gradians of the Galaxy), he was anything but a hero.
Star Lord’s Real Backstory
Way down in the credits under “Miscellaneous Crew,” you find “Assistant to the Producers” on a movie called “The Steal” from 1995. Since he was born in 1979, that makes him about 16. I do not know what that job entailed but I see a grunt fetching Starbucks and running errands. Surely that was formative for him. Surely that gave him an appetite and vision and even some idea of the behind the scenes working of a Hollywood movie set. Even Star-Lord has an unheroic backstory!
It Ain’t Luck
Do I even need to say that it takes work and consistency and determination to become a hero? Dare I say that heroic results are the product of personal choice, not random selection?
God’s heroes are not the result of activating a massive dormant genetic potential but little steps of everyday bravery by everyday people. Every single Biblical character that eventually became the subject of children’s Bible stories, had a moment in their life, no, scratch that, had innumerable moments where they were faced with a decision to do something that eventually added up to heroic growth. God’s heroes, or pre-heroes, had to choose to bloom where they were planted.
God’s heroes make critical choices:
- Joseph as a servant and later in jail.
- Moses on the backside of the desert long before the burning bush moment.
- Joshua as “assistant to the producer” Moses.
- David in the fields herding sheep.
- Jesus’ disciples every time he said or did something inexplicable… or offensive to their leaders and contrary to their traditional and beloved way of life.
How many hundreds did I miss? Hundreds of thousands not even recorded in the Biblical narrative or historical records?
Heroic actions are not the result of activating a massive dormant genetic potential but little steps of everyday bravery by average people.
God wants men and women who serve faithfully right where they are.
God’s heroes are faithful:
- Whether their job and position are glorious or inglorious.
- Whether they are being watched or when in private.
- Whether there appears to be room for advancement or not.
- Whether it is completely incongruent with their previous interests and dreams.
- Whether it seemed to fit what God had revealed would someday be or not.
- Whether it…
Faithful Not Fortunate
The key is not to be in the right place at the right time, which is out of our control and cannot be staged. The secret is to be the right person when the opportunity comes to do the mundane and ordinary with extraordinary faithfulness. People do not become heroes as the result of happenstance and luck but consistency and integrity. Said another way, God’s heroes are not fortunate, they are faithful.
Heroes do not sit around doing little or nothing, waiting for the heroic to come to them. They get up, do what is in front of them to do, and are ready to seize the moment when providence gives them the opportunity of a lifetime. They pray to God and row toward the shore. They do the last thing God told them to do until God gives them a new thing to do. And they do it in humble dependence on God not in arrogant, self-promoting independence and stubborn selfishness.
The secret is to be the right person when the opportunity comes to do the mundane and ordinary with extraordinary faithfulness.
2. God’s heroes are not super-saints, they are simply saints!
Again for emphasis… Simple saints as common as you and I. If you read the end of their story first, it is only natural to imagine these people were extraordinary, super-saints… or just plain crazy! It would be natural to look at their feats of valor and faith and conclude that they were not just a normal Joe or Joann. But when you look more carefully into their story you find that this is seldom the case, especially not at the beginning of their journey.
The Bible makes no effort to gloss over their warts and scares. They all were born the same way and put on their pants, or skirts, one leg at a time. Their humble beginnings are the perfect place from which to follow God’s lead, step after laborious step. If you feel rather normal or unexceptional, take heart, you are in good company! Take heart, you have the making of greatness in you. Take heart, you are hero material.
Church Leaders Are “Normal”
Go ahead and read the qualifications for elders that you find in the “pastoral epistles” of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Go to 1Timothy 3:1-13 and read. Everything you find there is just a restatement of what any and every Christ-follower should be doing. Apart from the gifts of hospitality and teaching which are needed to serve in the office of elder (v. 2d), you find there the description of Joe and Joann Normal.
It even says that the church leaders should not be new or young believers to protect from pride when the devil tries to take them down (v. 6). Can anyone say “backstory?” They have to have won some smaller, everyday battles first.
A little later it says that those who are appointed to serve as deacons should be closely examined, and they must pass some sort of test to prove they are ready to serve. Um, do you hear the echo? “BACKSTORY… BACKSTORY… backstory…” Nothing in those requirements for church leaders is out of the ordinary or special, or unique or above any other Christ-follower.
If you feel rather normal or unexceptional… Take heart, you are hero material.
True, these leaders needed certain gifts–but that does not make them God’s heroes–which gifts fitted them to the position. They just have to have a backstory that prepares them to serve and lead. What qualifies them beyond the gifts is their track record. Things like how they are perceived by those outside the church matters (v. 7). None of that is extraordinary.
It seems that the more ordinary you are the better the candidate you are for hero-hood. There are no super-saints. There are only simply saints. They were given more visible missions, but that does not make them extraordinary unless faithfulness in the mundane and routine makes you special. The difference is not the Saint, it is the job that God gives them. God’s heroes were first ordinary zeroes who were faithful where they were and made the choice to exercise faith when God picked them from the crowd.
Following closely on the heels of this comes the next reassuring truths… but you will have to wait for part 2 in our next episode…
Again, if you would like to talk to someone about questions or struggles this article surfaced for you, go to the Two Rivers Counseling Center’s website, and look around. When you are ready, click the “Get Counseling” link. Or go directly to the “Get Counseling” request form. If you are not local to upstate New York and cannot come to my office, we can always make a virtual appointment by using social media to connect face-to-face.