One of the greatest needs in our world today is for godly men and women to step forward in their service to others and to be bright shining lights of what true Christianity should look like. We are always more inspired by 21 herosan example than by instruction. Many of our idols and heroes today are deficient in character and have serious flaws. Our athletes often struggle with gambling and illegal drug abuse. Yet we hold them up as examples to our young. The actors and actresses in our society are often immoral and unethical yet they are highly esteemed and nearly worshipped by their following. Politicians are often found trapped in personal promotion and even dishonest gain, yet we insist on re-electing them to office time and again. Paul wraps up his discussion about sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to Philippi by encouraging them to “…receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men” (Philippians 2:29). These are the kind of men that we should follow and honor. But we must be careful not to just try to do what they did; we need to seek to understand their heart. Find the source of their strength and tap into that ourselves.

Young people often chose an idol, or icon, to model their life after. They copy their hero’s every movements. Kent Hughes observes, “Many boys copy the way a great batter steps into the batter’s box—how he hikes up his belt, taps each cleat with his bat, spits through his teeth exactly sixteen inches to the left of the third base line, and then steps into the box, cracks his neck, brushes the bill of his hat with his left hand, and assumes his stance. Some girls imitate the wardrobe of a much admired older girl—her casual panache, her poise, her walk.” But this is to miss the very aspect of that individual that made them worth following. You must go deeper in people’s lives to find what matters most.

Phillips Brooks once observed all the young preachers who were copying Billy Graham. They would try to model their delivery after Billy’s but they missed what mattered most. In reality, one will never become a great preacher by copying the cadences of Billy Graham, or a major leaguer by chewing tobacco, or a beautiful woman by changing nail polish. Spiritually, as Brooks rightly observes: “If you really reverence a great man, if you look up to and rejoice in his good work, if you truly honor him, you will get at his spirit, and doing that you will cease to imitate his outside ways. You insult a man when you try to catch his power by moving your arms or shaping your sentences like his, but you honor him when you try to love truth and do God’s will the better for the love and faithfulness which you see in him.”