The word of the Lord came again to me, saying: “Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it. Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 14:12–14)
Most of us know the story of Noah, and so did Ezekiel’s audience. Noah is one of the great heroes of the faith in the Bible. In the book of Genesis it says he was a just man, undefiled in his generations and that he walked with God. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and both he and his family were saved from the Flood that wiped out the entire ancient world of the ungodly. Job is another legend of the past who was known by everyone who read the Scriptures in Ezekiel’s day. Like Noah, he is described as “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1). In the New Testament, Job is acclaimed for his perseverance in the face of adversity: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the patience of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord — that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).
But notice who Ezekiel mentions as the third example of righteousness. Right at that time, there was a young man in the king’s palace who had purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies. Daniel was living at the court of Nebuchadnezzar when Ezekiel wrote, and yet he was reckoned with God’s righteous men of old! Sometimes we think that there are no longer heroes and heroines of the faith today as there have been in former times. We often idolize spiritual giants like Martin Luther, John Wesley, George Whitfield, George Muller, Hudson Tailor, Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael, Moody, Spurgeon, and Jim Elliot. In my circle of fellowship, some may especially esteem “chief men among the brethren”1 like J. N. Darby, W. Kelly, and C. H. Mackintosh. But do you know what? There are heroes of the faith living right now, just like Daniel in the time that Ezekiel wrote his prophecy. Will you and I be one of them?
What does it take to be a hero? Are the sports icons, Hollywood stars, business tycoons, and famous world leaders that we look up to really heroes? True heroes are defined by their faith in God and obedience to His word — by magnifying Christ, not themselves; by their sacrifice, not their success; by their devotion, not their talent; by their faith, not their fame! True heroes are characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We don’t have to do anything great or prestigious in order to be heroes of faith. Something as small as a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple is noteworthy to the Lord (Matt. 10:42). In fact, three of David’s mighty men are specifically commended in 1 Chronicles 11:15–19 for just that — bringing him water to drink from the well of Bethlehem! Their actual deed doesn’t seem great in comparison with some of the other military achievements mentioned in the same chapter, and their names aren’t even mentioned. But they dwelled close enough to David to know the longings of his heart and were willing to risk their own lives to refresh his soul, even though it didn’t give them fame in this life! It’s the level of our devotion that is important, not the size of the accomplishment.
God has given all of us a specific purpose and special gifts to serve Him. Romans 12:3–8 lists some examples of these different gifts. The emphasis of the passage is not what the gifts are, but for us to use them! Jesus also taught this valuable lesson to His disciples in the Parable of the Talents. The Master gives to each according to his own ability. The question is not what we have, but what we do with what we have. God will enable each one of us to live for Him in our respective callings: “But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk…brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called” (1 Cor. 7:17, 24). Two well-known children’s songs express this same sentiment:
- “In this world of darkness, we can shine, you in your small corner, and I in mine!” (Susan B. Warner)
- “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for Him each day; in every way try to please Him, at home, at school, at play.” (Nellie Talbot)
Instead of comparing ourselves with others, God simply asks us to do our best according to the abilities that He has given us. “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Cor. 8:12). “If anyone ministers, let him do it with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:11). The widow’s two mites (Luke 21:1–4) and the boy who shared his lunch (John 6:1–14) are two real-life examples of this principle in the gospels. The scribes gave out of their abundance, but the widow out of her poverty; they gave some, but she gave all; they gave what cost them nothing, but she sacrificed her livelihood. It’s important for us to distinguish between portion and proportion — people see what is given, but God sees what is left. Although the lad in John 6 did not have much to give either (just 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish), he was willing to put it at the disposal of the Lord Jesus. Our Savior was able to use and miraculously multiply his contribution so that 5000 men (not including the women and children) were filled.
Hebrews 11 could be described as Faith’s Hall of Fame. It comprises a roster of Old Testament heroes of the faith who inspired the writer of Hebrews as well as countless followers of Christ right up to our generation to trust in the same unchanging God. Notice the personal pronouns used at the start of the following chapter: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1–2). You see, we too can be heroes of faith — not in our own strength, but by looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! With this thought in mind, what if Hebrews 11 didn’t end at verse 40, and continued through the year 2021? What if it included you and me as examples of faithfulness? We know that at the judgment seat of Christ we will be rewarded for our loving devotion to our Savior and faithful service performed in His name. Based upon the living and active word of God, imagine with me what the voice of Jesus’ approval for our generation might sound like:
- Others gathered faithfully with two or three in My name, going forth to Me outside the camp, bearing My reproach. They did not forsake the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some was, but loved to join together in exhortation, especially as they saw the Day approaching.
- Gatherings of Christians collectively received the word with all readiness, holding fast to their first love. By faith they endeavored to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In the last days of decline and dwindling numbers, they held fast what they had till My coming, being watchful and strengthening the things that remained.
- By faith others trusted in Me through sickness and deep trials, considering that the sufferings of the present time were not worthy to be compared with the glory which would be revealed in them.
- By faith husbands loved their wives, just as I loved the church, and wives submitted themselves to their husbands, as to Myself.
- By faith mothers patiently raised their children for Me, reading Bible stories to them and praying with them. Fathers refused lucrative job promotions, in order to have more time for their families and for building up the body of Christ.
- By faith children were obedient to their parents in the Lord. Boys and girls were not ashamed of the gospel when their classmates made fun of them, knowing that it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.
- By faith teenagers and college students did not partake in the passing pleasures of sin. They esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the recognition, fame or prosperity this world could offer.
- By faith a new generation believed that the worlds were framed by the word of God. By faith they honored My divine order governing gender and relationships. They respected every precious soul made in the image of God, manifesting My impartial love without embracing cultural norms or celebrating lifestyles that were contrary to My word.
- By faith they received My word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily in the things concerning Myself. By faith they showed their humble dependence and trust in My promises through steadfast prayer.
- Well done, my good and faithful servants!
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much. (Luke 16:10)
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor 15:58)
1. From the book Chief Men Among the Brethren, by Hy Pickering (Glasgow: Pickering and Inglis, 1918).