The Rise and Fall of a Hero

There is a hero within us that wants to be recognized for making a positive difference in the lives of other people. That’s why when we do something good we say, “Look what I did!”

The Hero Pastor

We especially want to do something great for God! And be appreciated for this. That’s why many people become pastors, ministry leaders, or dedicate themselves to serve the Lord.

Spiritual heroes dedicate their lives to serve God as pastors or they go on the mission field to share the gospel. They step out of their comfort zones to feed the hungry or encourage abused children. They become tireless workers at churches and nonprofit organizations. Or they dive into fasting, extended hours of prayer, or other spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual heroes make sacrifices for God. They do good things. They help other people. They are applauded for their sacrifices. And eventually they burnout.

Prevent Burnout — Don’t Be Heroic

Zeal without knowledge does not lead to life (Proverbs 19:2). Eventually heroes burnout from exhaustion and depression. Or they blow out from a moral failing (which means a sanctification gap that has been hidden for a long time becomes publicly exposed) and it contradicts everything they’ve stood for. We see it in our world around us all the time. Not only in the well-known stories of ministers “falling” but also in the sad statistic that the average pastor only lasts five years in the ministry.

Jesus surprised everyone in his day when he cut the legs out from under this spirit of heroic sacrifice for God: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

The True Hero

To be sure, it’s good to present an offering to the Lord — a special prayer or generous act of service — but Jesus is telling us to be careful how we do this! The attitude of our heart is crucial. We should not be making offerings to God while neglecting to be reconciled to a brother or sister. Genuine sacrifices help us to love God and our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). And they don’t draw attention to us, but to the Lord who loves us and empowers us to love others. (See Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost of Highest devotionals on September 24 and 26 for his comments on the heroic spirit of sacrifice in light of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:23-24.)

Jesus Christ is the true Hero. What’s important is not our sacrifices, but the one Jesus made at the cross for all people (Philippians 2:6-11). The way to greatness is not by striving to be a hero for God, but by submitting to the Father and joining his work of love as Jesus did (John 4:34, 5:19). Like Paul, our motto is, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

A discipline that serves as an antidote to the hero spirit is to Abide in Prayer. Praying Scripture from our heart in this way helps us to abide in Jesus, which is the only way to have a life full of joy and that bears fruit for God that lasts (John 15:5, 11). Abiding in Jesus is the only way for pastors and other servants of the Lord to prevent burnout or a moral blowout.


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