The Helpfulness of Heroes

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Following Godly Examples
Emily Miller

Follow me as I follow Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 MEV)
These words of Paul always hit me in the stomach. How can a person set themselves as an example to follow? How can Paul be so sure that he’s following Christ well enough that others should imitate him? Is the self-proclaimed chief of sinners, suffering from a puffed-up ego?

I’m easily a cynical person. Growing up as a missionary kid gave me a front-row seat to some of the slickest frauds of Christendom. News of thieving pastors; boasting missionaries who slander, exaggerate, and lie to keep support flowing in; and mission leaders with little accountability and salacious sex lives; barely surprise me. Wolves can look like sheep for years and the best of us have feet of clay. I also see my own sinfulness; my own potential to rebel against God and leave tremors of damage in my wake.
Yet, I’ve also had some of the godliest examples. My parents gave themselves to hard mission work in a challenging country for 26 years and the visible results from that were more ordinary than sensational. Yet, maybe more importantly for me, their faith was not just public but private, quietly proving itself in their parenting, generosity, work, relationships, and time spent in worship, Bible study, and prayer each day. I saw them become more and more like Jesus as they fell more and more in love with Him. And they weren’t my only godly examples! The majority of Christians I've known have been excellent examples of quiet and faithful devotion to Jesus.

“Follow me as I follow Christ”.
When I was twelve, the leader of our mission, Ben Sawatsky, visited our home. Age is highly respected in Asia and the life expectancy in Mongolia when I lived there was 63. He was in his seventies and very important. So, when he got up before us one 20-degree spring morning to chop wood for the stove that heated our home, I was shocked that such an important person would serve us in such a hard, lowly, and practical way.
When I was thirteen, at our mission conference in Thailand, Mr. Sawatsky set aside time from his busy schedule, to teach the youth group. I hung on to every word he spoke. He quietly told us that the most important thing we can do with our lives is to form the habit of reading the Bible each day. He formed that habit when he was a teenager and told us that at first, it was drudgery, then it became a discipline, and eventually, it became the delight of his day.
The next day I began reading the Bible. Nineteen years later it’s still my daily practice and, as Ben promised, my quiet time has become the most delightful part of my day.
The best godly examples finish well. Mr. Sawatsky lived well until his last breath. The second love of his life after Jesus was his wife. He loved her so much that he prayed they would die together so that neither of them would live lonely without the other. They died in the same room, within days of each other, as each prayed the other through their last battle before glory engulfed them and they saw the face of their Master.

“Follow me as I follow Christ” is not a delusionally proud Pauline slip-up. Yes, we’re faulty. If I knew Mr. Sawatsky better, I’d see his faults. We’re never going to be perfect examples. But we can become mature believers who give an encouraging and helpful example of how sinners saved by Jesus can follow hard after His perfect example!

Godly examples are necessary.
Without godly examples, the resolutions we make for ourselves can become a pursuit of an exceptional version of us who is better than other people. When we follow the good examples of other people, we don’t chase being exceptional, but we simply work to become mature, like countless other mature Christians. This guards us well against pride.
Without godly examples, the standards of scripture can seem unrealistic. With godly examples, we can rightly expect that if other Christians do it, we can learn to do it too! This protects us from discouragement.

So, friend, find solid Christians and follow them as they follow Christ. If they prove to be wolves or fall down spectacularly, don’t crumple! Our hope is in Christ, not in Christians. He never fails, we often do. Let’s become mature Christians who finish well. May our lives be an encouragement to each other. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT)

  Emily Miller began having daily quiet time at the age of 13. This habit has been one of the few constants in her life as she transitioned from being a missionary kid in Mongolia to a barista in Oregon to a stay-at-home mom in central Florida. The Word of God has anchored Emily to Jesus through depression, struggles with doubt, health issues, and her son’s cystic fibrosis.
Examples Resolutions

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