Reading: Hebrews 11:33-40
They have achieved things that few men are able to achieve. They are strong and pursue that which they believe. They are not overtaken by discouragement, and are not slack in the things that they do. They are heroes.
Since the time we were young, we have become acquainted with many of them. When we were growing up, we may have dreamed of being just like them.
Instead of just being the average kid on the block, it was wonderful to think of our self running into the nearest phone booth, and like Clark Kent, coming out as Superman. We would be the Hero! Flying through the air faster than a speeding bullet. We would leap far above the clouds, and behold an incredible view of the earth.
We may have imagined ourselves with a secret identity. Perhaps like batman. Having no fear of villains or the rough group of kids at school. But being able to always overpower them or to out smart them. We would save the pour kids who are pushed around by the cruel Jokers, trying to get their lunch money.
During Gym class - how we would have loved the gift of Popeye. With just a little spinach, we could jump incredible distances, climb the highest ropes, do hundreds of chin-ups, and have no problem with the dreaded sit-ups. We would be a hero to all the other kids.
Perhaps we imagined ourselves with the bionic powers of the Six Million Dollar Man. And as our brain acted as a computer, we could kick, hit, throw the ball a great distance. We would be the hero and score the winning touchdowns, or make the final basket.
But as much as we may have desired to be just like the heroes we grew up with, the ones we saw on television or read of in the books, those heroes are not real. They are only actors, fulfilling mans desire in the roles in which they play.
A true hero is more than just a role. True heroes have actually achieved something that other never came close to achieving. They have accomplished some task that usually requires great courage and discipline. They do not seek just to fit in with the crowd, but they are a leader.
They are men like Noah. Noah is a hero. He accomplished a great task in conditions that would make us be ashamed of some of the problems we complain about. We can gain so much through our fellowship with one another, sharing similar beliefs. But Noah did not have this type of fellowship. Except for his family, he was by himself; striving to convince an ungodly world of their ungodly deeds. He knew that men were mocking him, thinking him to be disillusioned or crazy. They probably argued with him that the God that they knew would never destroy so many men, woman and children. Through all of it though, Noah kept his faith in God. While the whole world perished, he was saved. Moses is a hero. Moses had it all. Egypt was one of the greatest nations of that time, and Moses was in essence one of Pharaohs sons. He had an easy life. A huge home to live in, servants, clothes, riches. But Moses understood something men just cannot seem to remember - that no matter what this world has to offer, regardless of what the pleasure is - IT WON'T LAST.
Moses is a hero because he achieved something few men achieve. He forsook everything the world offered him to be a servant of God.
If we are among those who may attend Bible Schools, sitting in the lecture room but our minds are not on the things of God. Instead, we think of the modern day pleasures and fun, chasing after the beauty of the flesh, thinking of the problems and concerns we have at home, and then we are not like Moses. Because he knew that in the end, when it is all done, when the battle is all over, in the end: It is the servant of God, the one who lost this life, the heroes of the Truth, who will stand up and never, never be trapped in vanity again.
The Bible is filled with many heroes. David, Elijah, Daniel, Job, the Lord Jesus Christ. There are also many whose name does not appear in the Bible, who accomplished something that few are able to accomplish. They remained faithful to God.
One example is that of 37-year-old Michael Sattler. He believed similar to us. He believed in adult baptism, separation from the world, refraining from taking oaths, and non-resistance. He helped organize a group calling themselves 'the brethren of Christ' into a group of local units. Each unit was to elect its own serving brethren according to scriptural principles, exactly how Christadelphians are organized today.
But Michael Sattler lived in the 1500's, in a town in Switzerland. It was a time when believers were not casual about doctrine and what they believed, because their very life was at risk for believing the same doctrines that we believe today.
Sattler and his wife were arrested. The soldiers guarding him mocked him and insulted him. Yet he remained silent. During the trial, he answered all the charges, unafraid, skillfully and modestly. Soon the jury was ready with the verdict.
As we read the verdict, put yourself in Michael Sattler's place, because he was tried for his strong beliefs, beliefs that are little different from the ones we have today. Imagine this being our sentence:
"You (all the Christadelphians) shall be committed to the executioner, who shall convey you to the square and first cut out your tongue. Then he shall forge you fast to a wagon and thereon with glowing iron tongs tear pieces from your body. Then on the way to the site of execution, five times more in the same manner. And then burn your body to powder".
Michael Sattler had three days to wait for his sentence to be carried out. But he was strong in the faith, so strong that as the fire burned through the ropes that bound his hands, he raised two fingers of his hand in a victory sign, a prearranged signal to his friends - and to us - that he had remained steadfast. He was a true hero.
Among the brethren of that age, there are found many heroes. Heroes like George Blaurock, who had spent two years preaching Gods word under extremely difficult circumstances, only to be arrested and burnt to the stake. Hundreds were burnt for the beliefs that they had.
Jan Tyshkodych refused to swear in court to the Triune God. He was convicted of blasphemy, his tongue was pierced, his hands and feet cut off, and he was executed.
Cathrine Vogel, an attractive woman of considerable talent was publicly mutilated in a savagely sadistic fashion, and roasted alive. The crime: She believed in on God.
When the brethren tried to appeal to the government, the government response was to send in troops, egged on by fanatical priests, which went into every settlement, into the woods, and into every corner of the country, hunting down men and woman just because they believed like us.
History has recorded how they were treated. It does not really matter what we call them. Heroes, faithful, protesters, because they all paid the price of blood for the sake of the Truth. They are real men and woman, real heroes. Some were hanged, some were chocked. Some were killed with swords and given to the birds of the air. Some were cast into the sea; some were torn to pieces on the rack. Some were shut up in houses and burnt in masses. Some had gags put in their mouths so that they could not speak. Others were starved and died in prisons. Some had holes burnt into their backs and left to suffer in this condition. Like Owls, they dared not to go out by day, but lived and crouched in rocks and caverns, in wild forest, in pits. Where hounds hunted them down, they were they "of whom the world was not worthy". These all died in faith. They all died heroes.
Our life is different today. The government of the US is not threatening to execute us for what we believe. But if our belief in God is strong, one day we may face persecution. How we respond to that persecution will separate the cowardly from the hero, the faithful from the fearful. The age may be different today, but this is not the age for the weak, this is not the age for the fainthearted, and this is not the age for the unstable. This as with any other age is the age for heroes. Men and woman who are not caught up in grumbling, complaining, backbiting and moaning. Instead they are strong in faith and would rather die for that faith then enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Are you one of them?