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Being The Hero

So there was David, in the valley, ready to face a giant and meet his destiny. “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:45

I love the story of 1 Samuel 17. I’ve probably heard it a hundred times already. The story of David and Goliath is one of the most popular stories in Christendom and if there ever was a hero to imitate in the Bible aside from Jesus it would be David.

Today heroism is very much in the spotlight. Within the stories of heroes, “being the hero” has become not just a story but also a message. And it is a message broadcast worldwide. You can find it on print and in song. You see it in big screen movie theatres, and on paperbag ads that tells us that we can “save the world”. And like all messages it is good to consider how the Bible looks at heroes.

For starters, there are a lot of good things about being a hero.

There are names in the book of Hebrews known as the “hall of faith”, heroes whose example we are encouraged to follow.

Many popular heroes serve as modern examples of Christian living. Some for example follow a sacred call. Others believe someone calls them special even though the world does not acknowledge them.

And judging from the life-sized Ironman figure in one youth room, we leaders are already using heroes as illustrations.

But here are some dangers in the hero message.

1. We might minimize the danger of being a hero.  

There’s a reason why it took a young man filled with the Spirit of God to challenge the enemy warrior and not the thousands of seasoned soldiers. There are real dangers and terrifying consequences to being a hero. Just think of the boy who jumps off the high ledge because he thinks he is Superman. Youth too, are prone to idealism. Psychologist David Elkind first coined the term Personal Fable–a form of self-centeredness where in the young person sees himself as immune to things that happen to other people. The more omnipotent or invulnerable a person thinks they are the more likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.1

Consider this when engaging young people on heroism.

2. We might lessen the importance of being ordinary. 

I do challenge young people to go beyond what is expected, and I love the call to seize the moment and do something extraordinary. But I think many of today’s stories and highlighted lessons already do that. What is less emphasized is that most of the lives of teenagers and most of ministry will be quite normal, sometimes to the point of being dull. How do we prepare youth for such times as those?

In 1 Samuel 17, we often highlight the encounter with Goliath, but consider that before David faced the giant he was trained by God through… sheep-tending! “But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father…” 1Samuel 17:34. Sheep-tending was one of the lowliest positions in the family during that time (and used as a possible insult by his brother Eliab in verse 28) and yet it was the way that God taught David how to face a giant.

In a world that looks for the awesome, we need pastor Matt Chandler’s reminder: “God is awesome; he doesn’t need you to be awesome. He wants you to be obedient.” and the words of our Lord, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Lastly, here’s the strongest danger I see and one that we, as youth leaders, could also fall into.

3. We might think the world revolves around us. 

After pointing out a number of people in 1 Samuel 17, here’s what Tyler Wigg-Stevenson2 says:

Although there are a lot of characters to choose from in the story of David and Goliath, we don’t usually say: “Wow, I’m just like Abner, because sometimes God is doing something and I’ve got absolutely no idea where it’s coming from. Or say “Man, I am such an Eliab, because I am always tearing down the person that God’s really picked for the job.”

Everybody identifies with David. Just think of all the stories, lessons and songs on 1 Samuel 17 you’ve experienced. The thing is very few of us are or will be in quite the situation that David is in. And as helpful as the stories are on King David there is much more to learn when we realize we are less like him than we first imagined.

Tyler concludes his take on the story this way: “If we are to learn one thing from David it should be what the Israelite armies learned that day because he told them so before marching out against Goliath: David was great because he knew he wasn’t the main character in the story.”

The Christian then is a hero as far as we worship and follow the real hero and main character (who isn’t David). The main character of that story, of any story really (for all the heroes in the end are but reflections and shadows that point to the ultimate hero) is Jesus Christ.

References:

1. David Elkind, Egocentrism in Adolescence (1967). “..this complex of beliefs in the uniqueness of (the adolescent’s) feelings and of his immortality might be called a “personal fable”, a story which he tells himself and which is not true.”

A young person could for example see himself as immune to things that happen to other people. Some would think: “Others will experience the negative consequence of engaging in sexual activity but not me; others will get hooked on drugs or vices but not me.” The more that youth see themselves as invulnerable, the more risks they are likely to engage in.

2. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is a Christian nuclear abolitionist who sees the danger even in good causes. His book, “The World Is Not Ours to Save” was the inspiration for this article.

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