Real Heroes

By Tom Wacaster

I grew up reading Action Comic Books. Our heroes were Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel (among several others). I think they are called ‘Super-Heroes’ today, although I do not recall ever having used the terminology. The list of superheroes has increased to include The Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Captain America. A superhero or superheroine is an imaginary character who typically possesses superpowers or abilities beyond those of ordinary people, is frequently costumed concealing their identity, and fits the role of the hero – typically using their powers to help the world become a better place or dedicating themselves to protecting others. The years have come and gone, but basically superheroes of children today fit that same description. Unfortunately, superheroes are part of the world of imagination.

Now let us step back into the world of reality. Who are the superheroes of today? Well, I suppose it depends on who you ask. I’m not speaking of imaginary men and women, but real life, flesh-and-blood men and women. A small child sees his/her hero in the tender care offered by a mother when a boo-boo needs a bandage. Pre-school children trust their parents for food, shelter, and clothing without ever doubting the seeming abundant and never-ending supply at their disposal. “Daddy, just write a check,” said the little girl who realized her father was wrestling with insufficient funds to meet that week’s budget. As we grow older, our concept of what constitutes a hero never changes, although who might play that role may vary from year to year. The older we become, the more we come to discern true heroism. Our heroes come and go, some leaving their footprints on our heart that cannot be erased by the passing of the years or the death of those who have made an indelible impression on our mind. Who are some of my heroes?

Preachers have always been my heroes. Men true to the word. Men who know the book and preach its truths without fear or favor of the unbelieving or disobedient. As a small child, the preachers I was exposed to were giants! Literally! Some standing six foot or more. Of course, every adult appeared as a giant in the eyes of a small child. As I grew older, those men maintained their status as giants, not because of their physical stature, but because of their spiritual might and determination. So many of my preacher heroes have gone on to meet their reward. Claude Robertson, Guy N. Woods, Gus Nichols, Otis Gatewood, B. C. Goodpasture, Franklin Camp, Winfred Claiborne, and Bill Hearn, along with countless others, who blazed the trail and showed this young preacher what it means to be a great hero and leader.

Elders have always been my heroes. Good elders, that is. Having met the qualifications set forth in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, these heroes continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord while serving in one of the most thankless jobs imaginable. As a small boy, I can remember wondering why in the world someone would “desire the office of a bishop.” What would motivate a man to desire that position? Why would anyone be willing to submit themselves to the criticism, ridicule, and rigorous demands placed upon someone serving in such a capacity as that of an elder in the Lord’s church? As the years have come and gone, I have come to understand why! And oh, how that understanding has greatly increased my appreciation for every elder who serves faithfully in that God-given role for which they have volunteered! I will readily admit that several men who have served as elders should never have been placed in that position. In the words of Jude, “The Lord rebuke thee.” But the failure of some to live up to their spiritual obligations is no reflection upon those great and godly men who are diligent in their responsibilities. To these men, we offer our thanks! Godly elders are men who serve in humility and sincerity; men who are willing to go out and search for the sheep that have gone astray; men who love the souls of others, and who are willing to provide leadership in an age of apathy and indifference; men who have never won great recognition, but who continue to plod along, never complaining about the tremendous task that has been assigned to them; men who lovingly and gently continue to carry the load and watch the flock lest one single soul should fail to make it to heaven; men who take seriously the admonition to “feed the flock of God” (Acts 20:28); men who courageously defend the flock against false teachers; men who take seriously the admonition of our Lord that the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” are those who serve! An elder is someone who “stands in the gap,” and offers his services for God and for his fellow Christian. He is someone who serves with humility and sincerity. Here is a man who has spent a lifetime developing the Christian virtues necessary to serve in the greatest work this side of heaven. No wonder the Holy Spirit directed Paul to tell us that those who “seek the office of a bishop…desireth a good work” (emphasis mine, TW).

Good heroes are not hot-tempered. They do not believe that might makes right. Good heroes can be tender and compassionate while demonstrating strength and determination. Gil Brandt, former Dallas Cowboys’ vice-president for personnel, once said of Tom Landry:

People search for heroes in this world. And years ago, some of those people turned on their television every Sunday and saw a guy who wasn’t dissolving into fits of anger, who wasn’t using bad language, who was mannerly and well-dressed. And yet, he was still driven and competitive and won championships. Is that not a worthy hero? (The State Trooper Monthly, February 200, page 8).

One thing I have learned over the years is that good leaders are not born that way. They are ordinary men who are desirous of pleasing God and who want to do all they can to help others get to heaven. Admiral Halsey is credited with having said, “There are no extraordinary men…just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” The longer I live the more that seems to be the case.

To all my heroes, I say “Thank you for showing us the way!” May your number increase!

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