Several years ago I received a letter from an Our Daily Bread reader after I had written about a family tragedy. “When you told about your tragedy,” this person wrote, “I realized that the writers were real people with real problems.” How true that is! I look across the list of men and women who pen these articles, and I see cancer and wayward children and unfulfilled dreams and many other kinds of loss. We are indeed just regular, real people writing about a real God who understands our real problems.
The apostle Paul stands out in the Real People Hall of Fame. He had physical problems. He had legal issues. He had interpersonal relationship struggles to deal with. And in all of this messy reality, he was setting an example for us. In Philippians 3:17, he said, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
Those around us who need the gospel—who need Jesus—are looking for believable people who can point them to our perfect Savior. And that means we must be real.
A recent book that puts a fictional flavor on a slice of US history portrays Old West gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday as shiftless bums. In an interview with National Public Radio, the author said of the real Earp, “He didn’t do anything remarkable his whole life, ever.” Through the years, in books and Hollywood movies, they’ve become heroes. Yet reputable historical accounts show that they were not.
In contrast, the Bible is full of flawed people who became real heroes. But don’t lose sight of the vital source of their heroic actions. The object of their faith was God, who chooses flawed human beings for His remarkable purposes.
As biblical heroes go, Moses stands tall. We tend to forget that he was a murderer and a reluctant leader who once directed a rant at God: “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly?” he demanded. “What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them?” (Num. 11:11-12 nlt).
How very human of Moses! And yet Hebrews reminds us: “Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later” (Heb. 3:5 nlt).
Real heroes point to the Hero who never disappoints. “Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses” (v. 3 nlt).
When I was a young child, our family escaped near tragedy. Most of the main appliances in the house, as well as the furnace, were fueled by natural gas, but a small leak in one of the gas lines put our lives at risk. As the gas poured into our little house, our family was overcome by the lethal fumes and we lost consciousness. Had we not been discovered by a neighbor who happened to stop by for a visit, we all could have been killed by this dangerous, unseen enemy.
During my days as a high school basketball coach, I made a huge mistake. I sent some of my players to scout an opponent. They returned with this report: We can take those guys easily. Overconfident, we lost to that team. Does that sound familiar? To me, it sounds like the situation at Ai when Joshua sent out his scouts, who misjudged their opponent’s strength.