Ask a 10-year-old boy who they want to be when they grow up. They may say Tom Brady, Lebron James, or maybe some musician or movie star. The reason why youths admire these people is because they can do special things with their talents, and because they appear on the world’s stage and compete or perform at such a high level. To win the greatest prize, to have the most talent, and to make good on all of your dreams is what is touted as being a true success. People think such fame is what makes a person’s life of value, as if they had not wasted their life on earth. They determine that in these endeavors certain people have perhaps made more of their lives than everyone else.
Recently, I was asked to do a funeral for a friend. He was not a movie star or a well-known athlete. He was a simple man from Lawrence County, Tennessee. He was kind and compassionate. He was daring and bold. He was courageous and sacrificial. He was a family man. He was a Christian man.
Robert Belew fought in World War II at the age of 17. He went on to fight in the battle of Heartbreak Ridge in the Korean Conflict. Later he fought in Vietnam. He served for over 20 years in the military and then he came home and served his family, community, and most of all, his Lord. As a young man, he sent half of his military pay back to his mother to help take care of her needs. He volunteered for all of the difficult things that everyone else usually finds an excuse to abandon.
My friend Robert (we all called him Bob) was one of the most decorated war veterans of our day. As I looked at his bronze star, next to a host of other medals he had been awarded, I was reminded that he never really wanted to talk about them or display them. I wish he had spoken about them more, because these are the stories I want to hear. But he was just too humble to do so. By his casket, there was also a letter from the president of Korea. It was a thank you letter for the service Bob rendered to help ensure freedom in that country. It was an invitation to return to Korea to be honored. In the letter, the Korean president called Robert Belew a true “hero.”
Our real heroes are not people who are good at sports, or music, or acting. They are not the people with the most talent. They are not the people who everyone knows by just one name like “Brady” or “Lebron.” Our true heroes are the people who love us and sacrifice for us daily. They aree the mother who selflessly raised us, the grandfather who took us fishing, and the neighbor who fought in three consecutive wars so that we can live in a free society without terror.
Our real heroes are ordinary people with extraordinary faith, “…who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trials of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:33-38).
It doesn’t take much to be a hero. It just takes knowing what really matters, and a willingness to sacrifice accordingly. It just takes being like Jesus. It just takes a man like Robert Belew, who was willing to do what others were somehow unwilling or unable to do. It just takes a faith that is not merely a belief in something, but which is willing to go to work – a faith that wears army boots…
“Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” – John 15:13
AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum