To be a hero is a revered position. Parents want their children to see them as heroes, children watch heroes in awe, and adults want to be heroes and, at times, be saved by them. Viewing individuals in the bible as heroes may seem like an exaggeration; something done by sabbath school teachers to help children understand or make them more interesting. However, this is untrue. The residents of biblical history were living examples of heroism, broadening the definition of what it means to be a hero, and showing ways in which we are to be one. This week on ANN InDepth, hosts Jennifer Stymiest and Sam Neves are joined by Dr. Barry Black, the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate to discuss the true nature of a hero.
Our modern concept of a hero is largely dictated by the superhero genre. It is a box office formula that has garnered diehard fans and billions of dollars. However, as marvelous as they are, these characters are fictional, only existing within a man made cinematic universe. When reading scripture, it’s easy to forget that the Bible is more than a book of parables and morals, but a textbook documenting true events lived by real people. Once the biblical hero becomes real, their dimensionality becomes richer. Dr. Black testifies to this truth by adding “you start identifying with these characters.” He elaborates by highlighting the many biblical heroes of the Bible and their power, such as the faith of Hannah, the leadership of Daniel, and the loyalty of Joseph. All of these characters share a similar point in their narrative: conflict. The heroes of the Bible face despair, loss, injustice, and betrayal at some point. However, what makes these individuals heroes is the manner in which they responded. Each responded with absolute surrender, living in the belief that God is faithful. “It teaches you that if you totally commit to the sovereign God of the universe, He totally commits to you.” Says Black.
Rather than viewing adversity as a sign of God's absence, view it within a biblical context. Adversity is the environment in which our relationship with God may thrive. This is the space in which the ordinary individuals of the bible, became heroes. To be placed within hardship is an opportunity for us to see God in all His majesty. How often do we take our God for granted? How often do we sanitize our biblical heroes as one dimensional characters with no relatability? Both are wildly untrue. Stories like Daniel or Joseph are remarkable because they are flawed, vulnerable, and scared individuals who simply allowed the Holy Spirit to move powerfully in their favor. In reflecting on the story of Daniel, Dr. Black says,
“That teaches me that the bar is higher when it comes to God's expectation of what He wants to do for me and through me, and it reminds me of Ephesians 3:20 “now unto him who is able to do immeasurably, abundantly above all that you can ask or imagine” ten times better that's astonishing.”
It is only when the Holy Spirit is invited that our path to heroism can begin. Heroism is often placed on a grand scale, an elite calling that is only for a select few, however this is inaccurate. We are all called to step out on faith and allow God to direct us. In addition, our Lord is not withholding when it comes to wisdom and guidance, in truth, He is holding himself back from showing you everything that is meant for your life. Our God does not show such selective favoritism, nor generic generalizations when it comes to our callings. He is specific, direct, and individualized in His care and calling over us.
In his 18 years as Chaplain for the US Senate, Dr. Barry Black has learned to allow the Holy Spirit to move where it wants. It is leaving space for this movement that is crucial for ultimate heroism. For us to fulfill biblical heroism, we must reject secular definitions of heroism, stripping it of its grandeur to reveal its intimacy. For the past 40 years, Dr. Black has been praying Luke 11:13 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Here, a challenge is extended, praying to our father with the expectation that God will equip us for everything we need to become a hero.