When You Start to Outlive Your Heroes

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

How does an old man obey Hebrews 13:7?

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

At 67, who are my leaders? Who has spoken to me the word of God? Whose faith should I imitate? Whose outcome of life should I consider?

The older I get, the fewer leaders are left who spoke to me the word of God. The fewer faithful men in front of me leading the way. They are dying. The older I get, the more people there are behind me looking to me as a finisher. It’s a trembling place to be. Fewer to look to. More looking on.

What caught my attention in my devotional reading of this verse was the word “outcome.” “Consider the outcome of their way of life.” The Greek word is ekbasin. It is used in one other place in the New Testament:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape (ekbasin), that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“Escape.” The idea is both “a way out” and the “result of a way.” So I think the idea of Hebrews 13:7 is: the finishing of a way of life that leads out of this life into the next. “Consider the outcome of his way of life,” that is, consider how a leader’s life leads to the completion of his journey.

It’s one thing to live a “way of life.” It is another to live a way of life that proves itself in carrying you over all the final obstacles through death and into heaven. Dying is a hard part of life, and it takes a deep “way of life” to do it well.

So I am commanded to remember my leaders who spoke to me the word of God, and to watch them finish, and then imitate the faith that bore them safely and fruitfully to the “outcome.”

Who are they? For me a good many have died. Some have been dead all my life, and spoke to me from the grave, like the apostle Paul and Jonathan Edwards and John Owen. But I don’t think this is what Hebrews 13:7 meant. That’s what Hebrews 11 was about. Hebrews 13:7 adds the living examples to the dead ones.

So who are they? Here are some of my older leaders who spoke to me the word of God. I have been watching several of them for a long time. Daniel Fuller, George Verwer, Greg Livingstone, Iain Murray, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Larry Agnew.

For all I know, I am closer to heaven than any of them. So if you think of it, pray for me in two respects. Ask the Father to help me keep my eyes on the wise men whose faith carries them home. And ask him to make me worthy of being watched. It is no small thing to be a spokesman of the word of God.

And, lest it go unsaid, thank God with me that when we fail, and when all of our earthly examples fail, we can — we must — look to the flawless author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).