Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses," wrote the author of Hebrews, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." A vital element in successfully accomplishing anything is having heroes - men and woman whose example spurs us on toward a higher standard. Who have you placed in your "cloud of witnesses"? Who are your heroes?
I'd like to introduce you to three of mine. While I could list men like Whitefield or A.W. Tozer, I've chosen instead to list three that are very much alive. These are men whose lives and continued work for the Kingdom of God challenge and inspire me.
Seeing What is Unseen
Randy Alcorn introduced me to the importance of living my life in the light of eternity. In the past four years, three of his books Deadline and Dominion (Multnomah), both riveting novels, and Money, Possessions & Eternity (Tyndale), a book that outlines a Christian philosophy of wealth, have completely rearranged my priorities and approach to life. Randy writes, "Five minutes after we die, we will understand what is most important. We will see with the clarity of eternity. The blinders will be gone. We can choose either to take off the blinders now while we still have our earthly lives to live, or to wait for them to be taken off after death when it will be too late to change anything we've done on earth." Randy's writing as well as his life have helped me to take the "blinders" from my eyes.
Allow me to encourage you to read one of Randy's books (his newest book Dominion is excellent) and learn more about his ministry Eternal Perspectives.
A Ready Defense
It's been three years since I first heard Ravi Zacharias speak. He was lecturing at Reed College, an extremely liberal school in Portland, often referred to as the "Harvard of the Northwest." Ravi stood before a packed auditorium of skeptics and eloquently shared the Gospel in a way that spoke to their hearts and their minds. I was floored. This Christian apologist and native of India had a style and power to his oration that gripped me.
I walked away with a new appreciation for the spoken word. Determined to learn from him, I ordered over fifty of his taped messages and listened to them constantly - at home, in the car, on planes. He not only influenced my style of speaking, he taught me the importance of developing my mind and having a "ready defense" of my faith.
Although Ravi has several best-selling books, I would encourage you to listen to him speak. Two of my favorite messages are The Questions of a Man in Agony, which draws from the story of Job, and What is Worthwhile Under the Sun?, which addresses the problem of pleasure and the Christian's response to it. You can order these tapes by calling Ravi Zacharias International Ministries at 1-800-448-6766. Or http://www.rzim.com.
Passion for the Church
C.J. Mahaney is the pastor of the church in Maryland that I'm moving out to join. When I tell people his name the most frequent response is, "Hmmm, never heard of him." Though this might sound odd, that's one of the main reasons I hold him in such high esteem. Though he is one of the most gifted preachers I have ever heard, he avoids the spotlight and opportunities to further his own name because his passion is for building and serving the local church for the furtherance of God's name. Besides pastoring at Covenant Life, he also leads People of Destiny International, a ministry whose mission is to establish and support churches across the country.
It was through C.J.'s teaching that I came to understand God's plan for the local church and because of his example that I hope to one day be a pastor. If you enjoy listening to taped messages there are two sets by C.J. that I highly recommend. The first, whose title conveys its contents, is called A Passion for the Church. It powerfully explains God's purpose and plan for the church along with our place in it. The second Another Gospel? addresses the challenge of the therapeutic movement and the threat modern teaching on self-esteem is to the true gospel. You can order these by calling PDI at 1-800-736-2202. Their website can be found at http://www.pdinet.org.
We need heroes! I've shared three from my list. I challenge you to learn from them, but more importantly to start your own list of "heroes of the faith."
And make sure you look in the right place. Too many of us have made the mistake of looking to athletes, musicians (secular or Christian) and actors as our "cloud of witnesses." While it's not wrong to appreciate the abilities of these people, we each need to remind ourselves how insignificant their accomplishments are in the value system of God's Kingdom. We need to begin placing a higher value on character and godliness instead of image. Only when we step away from our culture's standards of success and greatness can we begin to see what truly matters in life as well as who is truly worth looking up to.