We ought to be appalled when we consider the heroes of the early 21st Century. With only a few exceptions in a few exceptional people – American heros are unworthy of recognition, let alone respect or adoration. And history proves: as people’s heroes go so goes their nation. When a people’s sights and goals are high those people tend to rise. But when they are pleased with mediocrity or wickedness, then that nation falls.
Some people are admired, if not actually worshiped, because of their outward beauty. As I have often said, beauty is overrated. And even standards of beauty aren’t what they used to be. They change like the seasons. Some models and actors are among our most admired people, when some of them don’t have brains enough to tie their shoes, comb their hair or trim their beards. Perhaps I’m biased, but I think that there is a difference between having a beard and simply being too lazy to shave.
Some people idolize other people because of their great physical strength. Sports stars, Olympic champions, TV wrestlers and fighters. The more pain they inflict on others, the more they rise in the estimation of their mindless minions. It doesn’t matter if they cheat at their sport and draw their strength from chemistry. And it doesn’t matter what they do outside of the spot-light, so long as they perform while they are in it. But many of these people have the morals of guppies. They are paid astronomical salaries and people follow them like puppies chasing a meat wagon.
And then there are some who perform other kinds of great and mystical feats – at least in eyes of worshippers. Great feats of musical accomplishments – in other words, they write filthier lyrics, scream louder and play more dissonant sounds. But it’s not that they have mastered their instrument better than anyone in their generation. I’m talking about great feats – like building a nosier truck or making a car that goes faster everyone else. I’m talking about feats such as going where no man has ever been stupid enough to go before. A friend sent the latest “Darwin Awards,” but those winners sound just like the losers from five years ago.
In the Bible we find a man who encapsulated most of these modern heroic characteristics. “In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as ABSALOM for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” He inherited the skin complexion of his father, David, but he added to it the long flowing hair of an Adonis. He knew how to manipulate the press and the people of Israel – often behind the back of the king. II Samuel 15:6 says, “So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel,” not to mention the silly women. But Absalom was psychopath – a cold hearted murderer – a man who cared for nothing but himself. He lead a rebellion against his father, and would have killed him if he had the chance. He was a hero in the eyes of many, but not in the eyes of the righteous people of Israel.
The modern standards of hero-worship are nothing when studied under the light of Heaven or in the expanse of eternity. “The world passeth away and all [these] lusts thereof.” “Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain.” “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman (or a strong man) which is without discretion.” I wouldn’t surprised if paperback copies of “The Guinness Book of World Records” don’t fuel the fires of the Lake of Judgment for a large part of eternity. It would certainly be appropriate for those who choose that kind of book for their unholy scriptures.
What we need is to recognize are great accomplishments of faith and service for God. What ever happened to reading Christian biographies and the making of God’s heroes our heroes? Who was that slave trader who wrote the greatest Christian song of all time? Who can discuss the life of the first missionary of the modern era? What men influenced our fathers to incorporate religious liberty into the fabric of this nation? How many have wept in looking at the lives of Adoniram Judson, C.H. Spurgeon or their wives? How few there are that know anything about the lives of our Waldensian forefathers?
It seems that even professing Christians sometimes take their heroes out of the enemies’ camp. Even Christians admire Goliath for his great size and strength, despite praising David and his faith in God. They admire Nebuchadnezzar who built great Babylon while talking about Daniel who withstood the persecution of that city and its king. Something is very, very wrong with our society, and a look at our heroes proves it.
This evening I’d like to consider some of the greatest of Israel’s national heroes. The stories of some of these men have been given to us more than once in God’s Word. That fact tells us the Lord thinks this important – for us – as well as for Israel. These men accomplished great physical feats because of their faith in God, and I’d like try to make that spiritual application.
These were, first of all, men that stood their ground when others didn’t.
First, there was Adino who stood his ground against 800 of the enemy. How many people could we comfortably seat here in this room? 100? If we found 800 really close friends, and we tried really hard, could we get them all into our auditorium? I want you to try to imagine what it would be like for one man to fight 800 armed and trained soldiers. This was virtually an impossible task without some sort of machine gun. But Adino did it with faith, courage, strength and a single spear – until he took weapons from the dead.
Eleazer was deserted by the rest of Israel, but fought until his arm was so tired he couldn’t raise his sword. He was battling an army of some of most fearsome fighters in the world. And Shammah determined that a certain plot of ground belong to Israel and to the God of Israel. He wasn’t about to give it up until ordered to do so. These men were all famous in their day for their stand against the enemy. Not for their physical beauty, not for the games that they played, not for the money they made, or even for their skill. Yes, they were strong, and they did amazing things, but it was not like hitting the most home runs or averaging a hundred yards per game. They were famous for what they accomplished for God, for David and for Israel.
There are usually three things that make people risk their lives as these three did. It’s usually out of conviction, simple courage or compassion. You may think of other reasons to risk one’s life, but they almost always come back to these. Even faith fits into these. One person is willing to sacrifice his life for his family – that is love – a form of passion. Others are motivated do the crazy things that make them famous – by money. I reply that it is still a matter of love – it’s their love of money. Someone else may have a desire for the fame that makes people do things which make them people’s heros. But again it comes back to love and a lust for glory. Then there is the heroic fireman, policeman or rescuer. In these cases there is often a mixture of all three: courage, conviction, compassion.
Think about the need of courage in twenty-first Century of Christianity. The fear of man bringeth a snare and kills a huge portion of our Christian service. Many Christians refuse to obey the great commission of the Lord Jesus because of a lack of courage.
People say, “I’m just too shy to talk about the Lord.” Most bashfulness is simply a lack of courage, conviction and/or compassion, mixed with a dose of pride. Those very same people can get quite bold when it comes to their sports, their politics and their other pastimes – their passions. But they are too shy when it comes to the most important all subjects – the gospel of Christ.
There are few heroes for Christ because people don’t want to be known as “fools.” Nobody wants to be called a “fool” – except those who know their Bibles. The unbeliever and the wicked called the Apostles “fools” and mocked their every move. That is exactly what is needed in these last days. People laughed at Elijah and Elisha – two more of the heroes of Israel. Michael mocked her husband David, and there were those who ridiculed the saints of Hebrews 11. All of these people were heroes; they are worthy of emulation in any and every generation. And what happened to the wicked teens who mocked Elisha? They were killed by a bear. And what happened to Michael, David’s proud and ungodly wife?
Those that live Godly in Christ Jesus should expect the same sort of treatment. The people of Hebrews 11 – Enoch, Noah, Moses, Gideon, Samuel and so on, were all people of faith, and because of that, they were people of courage. And the word of God commands us to be just like them. “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” “Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in work of the Lord.”
Another great need of these last days is good solid conviction about what is right and what is wrong. Conviction is the root of real courage. “Therefore brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” The problem with general Christianity today is a lack of conviction. This explains how people can attend a church like ours for a while and then move to a convention church. This is the reason that folk drop out of church all together. A conviction is a belief that cannot be compromised – not for fame and not for death.
Most Christians today have plenty of preferences, but few if any convictions. The Southern Baptists prefer a man as their pastor, but if a good woman preacher comes along, many have no convictions against her becoming their pastor. Most Baptists prefer the King James Bible, but if the preacher studies from the NIV, and refers to it only once in a while, they will tolerate it. They have no convictions about the Lord’s Supper or about the strictness of baptism. They no convictions about separation of sin, especially when it comes to their own sin. For most Christians, ability, personality or looks are more important than faith or conviction. A few years ago, a man of my acquaintance, someone who professed to believe as we do about sovereign election, was call called to become pastor of a church in Richland, WA, which in its past had declared its hatred of that doctrine. Either the church decided that its doctrine was no longer important. Or more likely that preacher wasn’t forthright in the declaration of what he believed. In either case that doctrine was a matter of preference rather than conviction.
Do you think that Adino expected to win in his battle against the 800 armed men? Logic says that it couldn’t be done. Those were worse odds than David and Goliath. But winning and losing is not important to a person with true convictions. A person with convictions is not going to be pushed around by even million heretics each with two swords.
Another thing seen in these three men, and which is needed today, is true compassion for the King of Kings. These men thought that their lives were expendable for the sake of their King’s glory. Several broke through enemy lines, just to collect a bit of water for David. My friend, that was love. How can we love any less than these, in the light of the Lord’s love for us? “Greater love hath no man than this, than that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That this exactly what Christ, our King, has done for us. Now, says he, “if you love me keep my commandments.” We must and should love Him because He first love us.
Oh, how cold we become and how quickly does it descend upon us. Truly, the birds of the air snatch away the seed before it springs into action in our hearts. 85-95% of all Christians are as cold and dead as hollow logs in a mid-winter blizzard. 85-95% of all Baptist churches are as dead as rocks in the middle of a freezing stream. If they ever had a zeal for the Lord, it was smothered by their love of world long ago. I read of a man who was walking along a pier to go fishing, but he tripped and fell into the water. He couldn’t swim, and his family was too far away to give him any assistance. But only a few yards away on yacht was sun bather who saw it all but looked the other way, and the man drowned. Later the courts said the observer had no legal obligation to assist. Legal grounds or not, there were moral grounds.
These were men who fought for the Lord and the nation that they loved.
They took the only weapons that were available to them. They weren’t waiting for the Spirit to lay some soul upon their hearts. They weren’t waiting for more knowledge about the cults before confronting them with the Truth. They certainly weren’t waiting for David or the preacher to do it for them. They grasped the sword of the Spirit and went into battle. I like what Jonathan once said: “Let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.”
In some cases these men were defending Israelite territory. Like them, this is a part of our ministry. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give answer to every man asketh you a reason for hope that is within you…” The truths we hold dear are under considerable attack today and must be defended. Eternal security, the doctrines of the Church, salvation by grace alone, the imminent return of Christ. If we don’t open our mouths our great grand-children may never hear the truth.
In some cases these men were attacking the stronghold of the enemy. Oh, how we need to be more active in just this kind of ministry. Matthew 16:18 is a precious verse: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates hell shall not prevail against it.” Most people think this verse says that Hell will never destroy church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It says nothing of kind – the GATES of hell will not withstand the onslaught of the Lord’s church. This is a comfort to the militant saints who take attacking heresy seriously. Most Christians are too complacent.
Each of these three soldiers had a desire to win – whatever the cost might have been. There will rarely be any victory without this kind of attitude. They were like Paul who said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Most Christians are very content with low grades before the Lord – D’s and C’s. What shameful creatures we are. What unthankful recipients of God’s grace. When Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” he implied “I will attempt to do great things for God through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Effort like that is what most Christians lack these days.
May God forgive our past, and may God impel us forward for his glory!