Reflections on Heroes

I used to be that kid.

It’s the kid at the concert who is obsessed with the band.  It’s the over zealous sports junky rattling off the statistics.  It’s the impassioned believer listening to three podcasts a day of his favorite preacher.  I loved my heroes.

Of all these things have something in common:  admiration of heroes.

However, if you are anything like me, this can get out of hand really quickly.  Our heroes become unrealistic, air-brushed, plastic, over venerated saints that will fail our unrealistic expectations.  What does this do to us as believers in Jesus?

  1. It demands too much of our heroes and refuses to recognize them as sinners.  Much of the time, we elevate our heroes to such high places that when they stumble, we are appalled and give them much more grief than they need.  We slander their names privately to our friends, “Did you hear about…?  Someone told me that he was a jerk in real life…”  Instead of dealing with our leaders in gentleness, we impose standards that we would label as unmerciful if imposed on us.  Our heroes are sinners, and sinners sin.  We would do well to keep this in mind.
  2. It demands too much of those who work in the same arena, but are not as popular or gifted.  Some people are just flat-out gifted and can communicate with ease at moments notice; some people are incredible hard workers and have to prepare for days for a 15 minutes sermon.  To scoff at the nervous preacher, the mediocre (but faithful) worship leader, or the not-so-theologically nuanced friend lacks grace, patience, and compassion.  To compare our friends and local leaders with these men can be detrimental to community, and is fertile soil for unhealthy suspicion of good and faithful servants of Jesus.
  3. It communicates that Christian maturity must have a certain style or appearance.  Not long ago, my pastor made the statement that, “Christian maturity is diverse.”  This is a helpful thought to keep in mind as we interact with our friends and local leaders on a daily basis.  Your pastor does not have to carry himself like your favorite preacher to be a godly, spirit-filled preacher of God’s word.  Your girlfriend does not have to talk like Elisabeth Elliot in order to passionately pursue purity in dating.  God made people with unique personalities to reflect his own artistic flare and creativity.  Let him receive glory by growing all different sorts of people into Christ likeness – bringing all of their personality quirks, oddities, and altogether wonderful flavors of temperament with them.  Learn to appreciate personality instead of comparing it to your own preference.

I love my heroes.  I cannot tell you the impact men like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and John Piper have had on my life.  But I am not them; and I shouldn’t expect myself be.  Heroes are more like signposts, lining the way as we focus on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)

“As saints of old still line the way
Retelling triumphs of His grace
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When with Christ we stand in glory”
-Keith Getty & Stewart Townsend

Waiting With Simeon

My name is Simeon, and I have been refined through the furnace of forbearance.  I had a promise stored away in the confines of my heart for many years.  A confidence; an assurance; a hope; a revelation.  All of this from the very Spirit of Yahweh.  You see, I had the great promise of looking incarnate salvation straight in the face.  Israel’s consolation.  The Messiah.  The Lord had promised that I would not see death until this promise had been fulfilled before my eyes.  And, oh, how it’s fulfillment was so sweet.

Yet, between the birth of the promise and its consummation, there were great days of angst.  You know the feeling, don’t you?  The promise is received.  The fire of faith is white-hot in your soul.  Then a week goes by, and then a month, and a year; your hair starts to grey.  Your skin starts to wrinkle.  Your bones begin to ache.  And things grow dark.  Do you know what I mean, friend?  Do you know this feeling?  Do you know the feeling of a promise received from our great God, but then the tides of time beat on your shore, grating away at the foundation of your hope?  I knew this feeling.

You see, friend, rarely do we hear of the between days.  Those twenty-four hour cycles of waiting.  When all one can do is cling to what one knows is true about the promise-making God while his promise remains unfulfilled.  This is my story.

How did I wait on this promise-making, delaying God?  By constant reminder.  How David’s songs soothed my soul!  It seemed as though David’s song voiced the words that were in my heart that I could not speak.  I can’t begin to number the times that I reminded myself of this great confidence he had:  “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14)  This was my song.  Because it seemed that all I had was a promise. And yet, I believed that I would see that promise.  My stumbling, weak hope was set steadfast on the sovereign God of Israel.

And so, in the weary days when the promise had no vigor, I reminded myself.  In the temple, in the Spirit, my faith was refined through hope deferred.  Do you know this, friend?  Have you felt the tender hand of our Father who is never slack on his promises, but also never premature on his delivery?  This is our great God.  The one who gave our people 430 years of silence until the cries of John in the wilderness.  All of this according to plan; all of this by great orchestration.  No promise unfulfilled; and no child of his unpurified by patience.

But, friend, when I held the promise in my arms for the first time – when my heart sighed in great relief while holding the Messiah of the nations – I knew that I could die.  For I had looked upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  I had tasted and seen that the Lord is good.  Yet, I did not just see and taste his goodness in the moment the was promise fulfilled.  I had seen it in the waiting.  The Spirit of God was upon me, giving me faith in his promises during the weary days of lost hope.  When my faith was gone, I knew that my God held my right hand and was the one who helped me (Isaiah 41:13).  I have seen Israel’s hope with my own two eyes.  And I have seen Israel’s hope with my heart, as well.

So, friend, take advice from an old man who will soon die.  Wait on the Lord.  He is never slack, yet never premature in his fulfillment of his promises.  Yet, be sure of this, he will keep the promise he has made.  For his promises are always “Yes” and “Amen” in that child that I held in my arms.  If you ever doubt God’s promise to you that he has made in his word, think of me.  Think of my days of waiting.  Even more, think of that child.  The Messiah.  Who grew, and lived the life of obedience that I could never live (no matter how hard I tried!), and then died for all my moments of weak, silly unbelief.  And his resurrection speaks to you and I.  It is the great, “Yes!” to the promise.  Believe, believe, believe!  You shall see salvation, perhaps at a distance for now.  But soon, face to face.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen you salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” -Luke 2:29-32

Spencer Harmon