A few years ago, when my oldest daughter Jaclyn was a high school sophomore, I asked her to name the kind of guy that she would like to marry one day. She named about four different guys that we both knew. They all had come from our youth group, or one like it, and they all seemed like excellent choices. But then I asked her if she realized that all the guys that she named were adults or had at least already graduated from high school. I understand that she was not saying that she wanted to marry those particular guys, but just wanted to marry someone like them. While I was pleased with her choices, I wanted her to realize that those kind of guys are interested in girls (usually girls close to their own age) that had been preparing themselves from the time they were her age for the day when they would need to be ready to handle a romantic relationship. In other words, I wanted her to realize at least two things. First, she needed to know that she did not name guys her age, because, just like her, the guys her age were still in the process of building themselves to become the kind of person to whom a godly young adult would be attracted. Second, I wanted her to realize that she needed to start purposely making choices that would lead her to become the kind of woman whom she needed to be several years later when she was ready to begin a romantic relationship.
This is the exact same principle that James addressed in James 4:13-14. He gives the command, “Go to now…” In other words, James was telling us that we needed to give attention to where we are in life right now. Let me explain.
When you look at your heroes, don’t try to be what they are. Try to be what they were when they were your age. “Go to now.” Certainly, we may have heroes that were not the kind of person as a teenager that you should model, but when that is the case, you should try to be what they wish they were or should have been when they were your age.
In another conversation with Jaclyn, when she was in Jr. High, she said to me, “Dad, I love how you treat mom. I want my husband to treat me that way when I get married.” Humbled by such a comment, I told her, “I have not always treated mom like I should. It has taken me several years to learn to treat mom the right way. Just remember not to compare your future marriage of 2 or 3 years to the marriage that mom and I have after 15 years. Don’t look at the cars we drive now or the house or furniture that we have now; look at us when we started.” Jaclyn looked at me with all the admiration and profound maturity of a Jr. Higher and said, “Dad, that is really good advice.” I couldn’t help but smile. Essentially I, like James, was telling her, “Go to now.”
I would tell you the same thing about your heroes. Where should you start? Well, first of all…
1. Do what they did.
Ask yourself the obvious question, “What did they do when they were my age?” By answering this question, this will give you the answer to what you should do first. Many young people want to become like their hero. They want the results that their hero has, but they have forgotten the principle of paying the price first. In order to pay the price, you have to “go to now.” You need to be the kind of teenager you ought to be, and in so doing you are laying the foundation for becoming the kind of young adult you need to be. You are not setting out to be the adult that you need to be; rather, becoming the adult you need to be is merely a byproduct of following the path that began as a teenager of walking with God and serving the Lord.
If your hero has a great marriage, then right now, even though you cannot have a great marriage as a teenager, you should still be in the process of becoming the kind of person who can one day have a great marriage. If your hero is a great parent, then right now you should be putting into your life the traits that can one day make you a great parent. We could say the same about countless other scenarios.
Not only should you be doing what they did, but also you should …
2. Follow whom they followed.
The people that are your heroes became the great men and women they are by following the right people. In fact, since your heroes are probably a bit older than you, the people that they followed may no longer be alive. Though you may not be able to follow the exact same people that they followed, you can still follow the exact same kind of people that they followed. Again, that is something that you can do right now.
3. Learn from the mistakes that they made when they were the age that you are right now.
You will never have a hero who did not make mistakes and who did not learn from those mistakes. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:…” While it is wise to learn from your mistakes, it is even wiser to learn from the mistakes of others. Obviously you should not duplicate the mistakes that your heroes made. Learn from them.
I’m sure that there are many other ways to “go to now” and work on becoming like your heroes, but I hope these three thoughts have been a help.
For a complete study on how to learn from your heroes, I highly recommend Dr. Jack Hyles’ book, “Fundamentalism In My Lifetime,” particularly Chapter 2 “How I learned from the great men.”
Lewis Ave. Baptist Church