This was a sermon I delivered nearly ten years ago when I was attending Longview First Assembly in Longview, TX (it was actually the first “sermon” I ever delivered). It was a part of a series of sermons delivered by several different members of the ministerial staff on the topic of “Heroes of the Bible”. The idea of the series was to get back to teaching Bible stories. I was assigned “Daniel and the Lion’s Den”. Some of the historical stuff here I talk about differently today, but I still stand by the message of this sermon. To me, it actually may be more relevant today than it was back then.
Introduction: What are “Heroes” and Why are They Important?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what the word “hero” means. What do we mean when we call some character from the Bible a hero? We don’t mean an action movie hero. That kind of hero generally lives by the motto “blow up the other guy before he blows you up.” Generally, when we call someone a hero, we mean that they are in some way a role-model, someone who displays virtues that we value, especially under adverse circumstances. This is someone we ideally want to be like, but often we think ourselves inadequate to be compared to him or her. So the action movie hero, while not an ideal hero, usually still embodies the virtues of courage, compassion, loyalty, skillfulness, or athleticism.
When we talk about heroes, we inevitably talk about values. The Bible presents a world where there are two competing value systems: that of the world and that of the kingdom of God. Most of the people you and I meet will actually have a mixture of values. Most, if not all, people show some good in their life at some point. Why? Because deep down we are all creatures made in the image of God and share an embedded value system called a conscience. This is why we can see good morals coming from non-Christians like Confucius and Buddha. This means that usually, the world’s heroes actually embody a blend of virtues, some of the world, some of the Kingdom of God.
Let us take, for example, James Bond. Agent 007’s behavior is often reprehensible: taking advantage of women, killing (sometimes where it was not necessary), and being inconsiderate of most anyone who does fit into his agenda. On the other hand, he often shows remarkable bursts of compassion and selflessness, and he is (almost) unfailingly loyal to something bigger than himself, willing to die on behalf of the British crown. I would argue that it is these last few virtues that make James Bond someone we want to cheer for. Despite his womanizing and killing, somehow we feel that he is really a good guy, someone that in some small way we want to be like.
Most of us as we were growing up had people, either real or fictitious, that we wanted to be like. These were our heroes. I would suggest that a person’s heroes will largely determine a person’s character. What we set up before ourselves as an example is what we will become. This is why it is so important to: (1) be a good example for our children, and (2) to make sure that we are always keeping before us and before our children examples that are honorable. God has provided us with just these kind of examples in the Bible. Daniel is one such hero, and in more ways that you may be aware.