The first sentence of our text was spoken to people who had been Christians for many years. At least a generation had passed since Jesus walked on earth. It reads, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
Many people have ministered to us throughout our lives. In preparation for this sermon, I spent some time identifying my spiritual role models. I challenge you to spend a few minutes now thinking about those who have had an influence on your life with Christ. Write their names on a piece of paper and review what they said or did that left you with a lasting impression. Pondering the influence they had on your life is good. They may have come from our families, friends, teachers, pastors, bosses, employees, employers, political leaders, and the list goes on. Now from this list of people, select three or four who spoke a word, taught a lesson, preached a sermon, or performed an act that the Holy Spirit used to make a lasting impression on your life. You have never forgotten what they said or did.
In taking our text seriously, I set aside a couple hours one evening and quietly made up my list of these people who have had a profound effect on my life. Never before had I given these people such serious thought, and I thanked God for the positive effect they had on my life.
The first person who came to mind was a man I met only once. Sixty years ago he was lecturing to people on the assurance of salvation. It was way back in 1943, when I was struggling with the question of where I will spend eternity. I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior but still had little peace in my soul. In this setting the speaker said, “Just remember that Jesus Christ has paid the whole price for your sins Ð not 99.44% of the bill, but all of it. We sometimes think we must do a little bit, and so salvation is a joint effort. Not so. Jesus did it all.” I am his forever.
This was not a new thought. However, on that particular day God spoke to me through this man, and my soul was at peace. I never had a chance to thank him for his ministry, and he never knew how God had used him to change this young man’s life.
The second leader was not a dynamic speaker. I did not know him very well either, but his life brought me a message that made a deep impression. He had lived fifty years in Japan as a missionary. Then he had to return home. During those war years he was restless, wondering how the people were doing whom he had served with the Word of God. When the war was over, he left again for Japan. Some friends invited a group of us to bid him farewell. In his unprepared comments the old missionary said, “I am going home to my people with whom I have shared Jesus Christ. Are they still living? I wonder how my spiritual son, Inadomi, is.” He spoke with such emotion and warmth that I got a new look at what it means to be a child of God.
The old man died in Japan, and I believe he was buried there. However, a few years later his spiritual son, Inadomi, visited the United States and spoke in the church where I was a young pastor. He brought a greeting from his Father in God and then sang a song during the service: “My heart, O Holy Spirit, the city longs to see . . .”
Then he said, “I long to see my spiritual father, for he promised to be waiting for me when I get to my heavenly home.”
Never before had I experienced the relationship that brothers and sisters in Christ can have as they walk through this life on their way to the homeland, which is heaven. How true are the words, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
One more. I visited a friend who was the founder of the Christian Crusaders radio program, Rev. G. E. Melchert. He was not long for this world. I knelt at his bedside to hear what he was saying. He raised his weak arms above his head and said, “Hold high the cross when you preach each Sunday.” That was all the strength he had, but his message continues to ring in my ears as I prepare the weekly messages for our broadcast.
The text says, “Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
We can point to biblical heroes who gave their life for the cause of Christ. However, today I believe we can add to these people those who witness to the faith in the everyday routine of life. Like you, I have many examples of such people.
Today’s media reveals the dishonesty in the financial institutions of our nations. People were encouraged to buy homes for prices that were far above their means. The lenders’ huge profits resulted in a financial recession in our land. How different this practice was from my banker’s, who sold me a house for $50,000 with a $15,000 down payment. The interest rate was reasonable, and we paid the mortgage off in nine years. Our family had a nice house. The bank earned a fair profit. We were all happy. I believe the banker who helped us get that house was God’s servant, practicing his profession with high moral standards.
In the office of my college president was a woodcarving with one word: Others. He used this decorative object as a constant reminder that it is not self but others who must be given first consideration.
We find some very dishonest people in the world. This is true today as always. However, we also find others who are guided by what is right and wrong. I believe they too are God’s servants. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate them.
God continues to raise up great leaders in his Kingdom. They live in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. We give thanks for them to Almighty God, who gave his Son to die for the world and for those whose names are recorded on the pages of Scripture. We also thank God for his servants who live at all times in history.
We have biblical leaders, who spoke the word of God to us. They had special gifts that have blessed us. However, we also have hundreds of contemporary leaders who bring us great blessings. Both messages point us to the Lord Jesus, our Savior and Lord.