Valuing our heroes
Every person, every organization, and every nation creates and functions on a set of values. We also value those we consider to be heroes. They embody what we value.
As children, we may envision becoming such heroes. For many, those heroes include firefighters, police officers, and military personnel that voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to preserve life, liberty, or the interests of one’s country. Or it may be doctors and nurses who save lives. At least in the West, we may also make heroes out of public figures including athletes, movie stars, and singers.
What do you value? What does your family value? What does your church value?
Who are your heroes? Who is held up? Who is it that your children and the youth in your area want to be like?
What do you find admirable in the heroes you identify in history, in real life today, in books you read, or in movies you watch?
Our values and those selected to embody our values say a lot about who we are and who we hope to become. They also influence our children, who are always watching us as they grow. We can’t hide ourselves from our children; they may come to know us better than we know ourselves. The situation may be similar for the people we lead on a daily basis.
As Christ followers, we come to think in a new way (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:22-24), and so our values change to line up with those of Jesus Christ. The living Jesus is about love. He is about making things right. He is about giving Life. He is about doing all of His Father’s will. His earthly life culminated in the laying down of His life, driven by His love for God’s people.
As Christians who value following the living Christ, there is no clearer hero outside of Christ Himself than the apostle or missionary who follows in Jesus’ steps to share the message of the love of God for the world.
We should see the early apostles as heroes; so many of them gave their lives to build the church. Knowing that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11), they obeyed the great commission that Jesus gave to all followers of Christ, knowing it was for them and all who followed them in future generations, all who the Lord would call to Himself (Acts 2:39). As believers, they exhorted others in the church to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12).
Some of the most noteworthy heroes after the time of the Scriptures are Tertullian, Augustine of Hippo, St. Patrick, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, Martin Luther, John Wesley, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Oral Roberts, and Billy Graham. (A handful of these heroes are discussed in Chasing Revival: A Road Trip Bible Study.) The presence and power of Christ in them was evident, and they overflowed with His Life. God working with them, they excelled in building up the church in the world! The values are very different in the kingdom of heaven, and these followers of Jesus chose to line themselves up with what God values.
Among the heros that are living, there may be none more impressive in the world than those from among the Back to Jerusalem movement.
I first learned about the Back to Jerusalem (BTJ) movement after reading The Heavenly Man in 2012. A lover of biographies, I was amazed at the testimony given by Brother Yun and those who know him, as recorded in this book published in 2002. Having not come from a charismatic or Pentecostal background, I was deeply encouraged to hear about Brother Yun’s boldness and courage as well as the way God was working in present times in the same ways He had in the book of Acts. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!
It was also edifying to learn that Chinese brothers and sisters had the opportunity, the desire, and the fortitude to go to the most dangerous places for believers in the world to share the gospel, including North Korea, Iran, and Sudan. I learned more about this by reading the Crimson Crucible and Jesus in Iran. So many brothers and sisters have lost their lives in these places, while multiplying the grace and peace of Jesus Christ. The sacrifices of some of the other believers are documented in Back to Jerusalem: The 30 Day Devotional.
During the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and during its peak, while nations were being terrified by sheer evil embodied, refugees fleeing from many countries, the men and women of BTJ moved into the region, undeterred, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with Muslim militants, and they took care of the refugees! Greater is He who is in the church than he who is in the world. (This work is further documented in ISIS: The Heart of Terror.)
These people of God in the underground churches know what it means in practice to love and to bless your enemies. Not thinking of their own comfort, their own safety, or their own will, they believe the word of God and they do it, even as the early apostles did (James 1:22).
Two thousand years after the resurrection of Christ, BTJ is helping to lead the charge to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth – perhaps they are ones God has best equipped at this time to do it. These heroes of our faith have shown the availability, boldness, compassion and determination to follow in Jesus’ steps, even when it brings suffering. This is exactly what the Apostle Peter was talking about when he encouraged the church to follow “in his steps” in 1 Peter 2:21. Peter also knew great persecution, even unto his own death.
And so in 2022, these heroes should have our admiration, our prayers, and our full support. We know they also have the backing of our Almighty God, and so they will be victorious in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Additionally, when it comes to what we value, we should consider the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the church: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
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