This post is an excerpt adapted from A Martyr’s Faith in a Faithless World by Bryan Wolfmueller.
The Christian hero is not the person who has obtained all that he or she desires in this life. Our heroes are not those who have gained the entire world but lost their soul. Our heroes are not those who have achieved a great degree of worldly success or notoriety. Our heroes are those who have fought the good fight and kept the faith, and who have finished the race. Our heroes are those who have stood against the wiles of the devil, who have stood against the wild beasts (see 1 Corinthians 15:32) of the world and the flesh. And having stood, our heroes are those who have died the blessed death.
Hebrews 11 put these heroes before us and gives us clarity as to why they are heroes. Abel, Enoch, and Noah are not our heroes because they experienced all this world had to offer. Abraham and Sarah are not our heroes because they lived the life of their dreams. Jacob, Joseph, and Moses are not our heroes because of their fame or fortune. They are our heroes because they trusted in God. They are our heroes because they believed in the things God promised, things that they did not live to see. They never let go of these promises—not in life, in sorrow, in suffering, not even in death.
Who is a Christian hero?
Dear Christian, your heroes are strangers, wanderers, exiles on earth. Your heroes have a discontent with this world, knowing that there is something better. They have their eyes on the resurrection, the life and the world to come. They have their hearts set on the new heaven and the new earth where righteousness lives (see 2 Peter 3:13)
The Bible puts before us heroes that lived by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith means trusting promises. Christians walk by the words and promises of God. The goal of each Christian is to make it to the end of life still trusting in those promises. And this is the victory: to trust the promises of God through death.
These are not the heroes in the movies. They are not the kind of people that the world wants to follow. To do so means to follow them into death. These heroes are the great cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1) that are put before the Christian to encourage and enliven faith. These are the heroes God sets before us.
Who is the villain to our Christian heroes?
Consider this. If the goal that God has for us is to die in the faith, then the goal the devil has in mind for us is to put our faith to death. The devil does not want us to believe and trust in God. He does not want us to have the promise of the forgiveness of sins. He does not want us to attain the resurrection of the dead and life eternal. He does not rest in his attempts to overthrow us.
One of the devil’s tactics is to provide alternative heroes. Life, success, peace, comfort, fame, whatever—the devil’s heroes win a different fight. They finish a different race. They carry their accomplishments in this world as victory. The Christian heroes carry the cross.
Who are the Martyrs?
Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Faith is following Jesus through death to life. But first through death.
This, I think, is why Christians have always considered the martyrs to be heroes. The martyrs are those who died for their faith. They endured all sorts of terrible afflictions and abuse because they confessed Christ. They preached with their lives, their lips, and their blood. In the lives and deaths of the martyrs, we see the devil’s rage on full display, and we see that his rage comes to nothing—that he is impotent and overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of testimony of those who did not love their lives unto death (Revelation 12:11).
The martyrs remind us that there is nothing the devil can do to us. The martyrs remind us that death is nothing to fear. The martyrs preach to us the victory of the death of Jesus. The martyrs preach to us the victory of the death of Jesus. The martyrs show us how to die. The martyrs encourage us as we are finishing our race; they are cheering for us and reminds us what—or better, who—is at the finish line waiting for us. Jesus stands, waiting for us.
Excerpt is adapted from A Martyr’s Faith in a Faithless World by Bryan Wolfmueller, pages 14-17 © 2019 Bryan Wolfmueller, published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Have you considered your Christian heroes? Are you wondering how these heroes teach us that death is nothing to fear? Order your copy of A Martyr's Faith in a Faithless World to find out more.