History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness. —James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans
Shortly before we moved to Texas, a pastor friend of mine whom I’d been working with in Illinois gave me a book. It was about five great Christian leaders in the last 100 years: John Stott, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Francis Schaeffer, J. I. Packer, and Billy Graham.
As I read it, I thought, These guys are heroes, and I want to be like them. I want to write like John Stott, preach like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, engage culture like Francis Schaeffer, theologize like J. I. Packer, and evangelize like Billy Graham. I wanted to be the best of all five of these guys.
Then I heard Haddon Robinson preach, and I discovered how much Scripture Dawson Trotman memorized. Naturally, I added these guys to my list.
I’ve even incorporated this exhortation of imitation into my preaching: “Imitate the way Daniel prays.” Or “When faced with temptation, run away like Joseph.” But all of this stopped when I recognized truth: Imitating heroes is a dead end. It’s exhausting trying to mimic the best things that the best people do best.
As I accumulated heroes over the years, I found myself depressed. My heroes were discouraging me because we aren’t called to imitate heroes. Rather, we’re called to consider Jesus.
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus … (Hebrews 3:1)
In Hebrews, we encounter a people tempted to imitate a hero of the Jewish faith—Moses. They had been drawn to faith in Christ, but they were tempted to look back and ask themselves, Would it hurt to reintroduce just a little of the old way into the new? For those who are struggling in their faith, the author of Hebrews encourages: Jesus is the better way.
Lord, it’s a fool’s errant to emulate people. It is exhausting, discouraging, and defeating. I don’t want to do it anymore. I choose to fix my gaze on Jesus instead. Amen.