In our culture of celebrity, everyone wants to be a hero. Whether our cause is grand or small, playing the role of a hero holds an appeal to all of us. Perhaps rightly so, we all have an innate desire to make a difference, to change a life and to make our life count. I do not doubt that it was part of God’s plan that we should leverage our lives in heroic ways to accomplish heroic acts that further expand the redemptive story that God is writing. Honestly, can there be anything more heroic than, through the power of the Holy Spirit, rescuing someone from hell and ensuring they meet Jesus and enter heaven? There is nothing more heroic that changing the eternal trajectory of someone’s life.
I have recently spent considerable time studying the book of Acts and within its 28 chapters are many heroes. We read of the accomplishments of Stephen, Phillip, Paul and Peter and rightly see them as pioneering heroes of the faith. For about 99.9% of us though, their acts are ones that we can never replicate. As we read through this action packed book, we see that there are other heroes, whose everyday lives end up having a global and eternal impact. These are the kind of heroes that we can be just by living our lives. Let me introduce you to some of these unsung, everyday heroes in Acts who changed the world.
1) The Crippled Man. Acts 3:9-12
This beggar had been sitting at the temple gate since birth, begging and pleading for money. As people gathered for mid-afternoon prayers, Peter took a step of faith and told this guy that he didn’t have any silver or gold, but if he wanted, he could walk again. The beggar didn’t think twice, he leaped to his feet and started running and dancing. As people saw right before their eyes the change in this man, they gathered around him. As they gathered, Peter preached, and over 3,000 came to faith in Christ that day! This unsung hero became a visual aid for the story that God was telling. Once you surrender your life to Jesus, there should be a change in your life and that change should draw others to Him.
2) Seven Deacons. Acts 6:2-5
The need was so great within Jerusalem that the Apostles needed some help. They were crystal clear that God had called them to ‘serve the word’ to people and proclaim the gospel, but the need was present to ‘serve tables’ and take care of the needy. Rather than attempt to multitask or manage, they empowered seven men – of the right character – to take care of the widows and other social needs. These deacons were unsung heroes because they did what only they could do while encouraging the apostles to do what only they could do. Unsung heroes function in their strength and allow others to as well. Because of this, the apostles were free to take the gospel to the end of the earth. They did.
3) Ananias. Acts 9:10-19
Ananias loved Jesus and heard God speak to him very clearly that he needed to do something incredibly difficult – to go and embrace, bless and pray for his arch enemy Saul. He first responded “yes” to the invitation of God, but then back tracked a little as he said, “But”…before finally going to meet Paul. The tension in the room must have been unbearable, but melted when Ananias greeted Paul with the affectionate term ‘brother.' Ananias was an everyday hero because he took Jesus words seriously to love our enemies. Because he loved Paul, Paul was empowered to take the gospel to the world. He did.
4) James. Acts 15:13-21
The Church is at a pivotal moment in its infancy. Is the Church going to encompass all people? What does that need to look like? As Peter and John share their experience, James speaks up and speaks scripturally to the situation. He establishes himself as a spokesman and moderator based upon the word of God. While experience, reason, and conviction are of some use, the truth of scripture should be what defines reality for us. Unsung heroes provide an authoritative voice of truth. Because James spoke up, the gospel was free to break out of its Jewish roots. It did.
5) Lydia. Acts 16:13-15
Not being allowed to bring other religions into Philippi, the believers often met and missioned by the river. Crossing cultural barriers they witnessed to some women and met Lydia. Even though she was a believer in God, she hadn’t yet known Jesus. As the gospel was shared with her, she quickly received it and was baptized. The gift of hospitality was realized through her. She opened her home to the apostles - providing protection, safety and a haven of rest for them. Everyday heroes open their hearts and homes to care for others. You should.
6) Paul’s Nephew. Acts 23:16-24
This is the only biblical reference to Paul’s family; most of them would have forsaken him when he began to follow Christ. In this story, a conspiracy had been formed to plot against Paul. Mobs wanted to ambush and kill him. Somehow his nephew got wind of this. At risk to his own life, he went to the commander of the city and told him about the plans. The commander was both sensitive and protective and worked to ensure Paul’s survival. Everyday heroes blow the whistle on injustice. If Paul’s nephew hadn’t spoken up Paul’s missionary journey would have ended abruptly. It didn’t.
There are many more unsung, everyday heroes in the book of Acts who show us that small acts can have heroic returns. You can be a hero within the kingdom of God perhaps not by doing anything big or dramatic, but by simple acts of faithfulness.
Be a Hero!