“Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy”
Today is the 4th of July. It is a time when we, as a people, have set aside to celebrate our nation’s independence. And, unlike the last month, it should be a time of national pride. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of their independence from Britain. Two days later, on July 4th, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence which was primarily offered by Thomas Jefferson. This document declared the 13 American colonies as independent states, free from British rule.
And then the hostilities intensified.
The first celebrations marking the independence of the United States took place on July 4, 1777. They included fireworks, parades, public readings of the Declaration of Independence, and speeches. The celebrations were a way for people to express their joy and unity in the newly formed nation.
The 4th of July did not become a federal holiday until 1870, nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence was signed. In 1941, the U.S. Congress declared it a paid federal holiday, enshrining it in the fabric of our history and ensuring that government employees had the day off. The 4th of July is deeply associated with American patriotism and the values of freedom, independence, and democracy. It also serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the founding fathers and the early American patriots to secure our liberty. These are all traits, unfortunately, that have fallen out of vogue today in our entitled, woke culture.
Who Were These Men?
The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were a cross-cut sample of the Colonial era in America. Some were men of great renown and wealth, such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams. Others were merchants, physicians, farmers, and landowners. Most were lawyers and one was a minister. At the time they penned their names on that famous document, the oldest signer was 70 and the youngest only 26.
Yet they all committed everything they were and had, and ever hoped to be— yes, even their very lives to a cause greater than themselves. They were bold men of vision and courage, willing to sacrifice the future of their families for something they couldn’t see. They were men who were committed to the core, those determined to never look back after putting their “hand to the plow” (Luke 9:62), and they gladly forsook all for the dream we now call America.
How we need men like that today. Not only in Washington, but in church also.
Where Have All the Heroes Gone?
Among other things, the Bible is a book about faith. Faith in God, faith in His promise, faith during difficult times or impossible situations, and faith in a future that makes this world seems like a consolation prize at a county fair. The heroes we find in the Bible were ordinary people, just like you and me, who were presented with a choice to doubt, panic, quit, run in fear, or simply trust something or Someone they could not see. And it is that faith in God, and His Word, that turned ordinary, commonplace people into spiritual heroes we read about today.
Let me list just a few of these for you.
Abraham: In Genesis 22, Abraham was tested by God and asked to do the unthinkable, to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God. Yet Abraham, against all contemporary logic, obeyed God’s command, showing his willingness to risk everything, including the life of his only son, in his obedience to God. And you know how that story turned out.
Daniel: In the book of Daniel, Daniel risked his life by refusing to stop praying to God when a decree was issued forbidding prayer to anyone except the king. Despite the consequences of being thrown into a den of lions and certain death, Daniel remained faithful to God, and God protected him from harm. And Daniel’s only weapon against the king’s decree was faith.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Again, in the book of Daniel, these three men refused to bow down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They risked being thrown into a fiery furnace, but they stood firm on their faith in God. Miraculously, but not surprisingly for those who have faith, God saved them from the flames, and they emerged unharmed and stand as a testimony for us today. Remember their words:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case (being thrown into the furnace of fire if they do not worship the king), our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” – Daniel 3:16-18.
Esther: In the book of Esther, Queen Esther risked her life by approaching the king without being summoned, a crime that was punishable by death. She did so to plead for the lives of her people, the Jews, who were under threat of genocide. And her bravery and intervention saved the Jewish people because she risked her life for a cause greater than herself, which is always the defining mark of a hero.
Gideon: In the book of Judges, Gideon was called by God to lead the Israelites against their oppressors, the Midianites, who had an army described as “numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude” (Judges 7:12). Despite having a small army of only three-hundred men, Gideon had faith in God’s promises, faithfully followed God’s instructions and risked everything by launching a surprise attack against overwhelming odds. Again, Gideon and his three hundred men achieved a remarkable victory because they were willing to risk everything for a cause greater than themselves. And they were only able to do this through faith, and not by their own strength (Zec. 4:6).
We Need Heroes for Today
The book of Hebrews sums up faith and heroes this way:
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us – Hebrews 11:30-40.
Did you catch the last phrase? All of these faith heroes did not receive what they had been promised. Instead, God had a better plan and provided something better for them and for us.
But What About Our Future?
This Sunday, we will be looking at the next prophetic event on God’s calendar – the Rapture. And knowing what our future holds we can, like those heroes from our shared past, risk everything for a cause (Christ and His Kingdom) greater than ourselves. Why? Because there is no downside, no reason not to. There is nothing to lose.
After all, if going to heaven before the rapture, or being caught up with that great cloud of witnesses together at the rapture, is all this world has to threaten us… well, that’s not much of a threat. It is actually a promised homecoming. An amazing reunion that will last forever.
Maybe it’s time some of us in His church stepped up and became the heroes our children need us to be. Maybe it’s time for a new revival, a new reformation. Maybe some of us, maybe many of us need to answer like Isaiah did when he said, “Here am I! Send me” (Isa. 6:8). So stand strong and keep looking up, for our redemption is closer today than ever before (Luke 21:28).
So you will know the “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say, Michael W. Smith wrote an article titled “The Sacrifices Made by the Declaration Signers” which describes the fate that many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered. It was what their commitment to a cause greater than themselves cost them. You can read it here: