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On the Shoulders of Giants

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. From the soldier fighting in the desert terrains of Afghanistan to the schoolteacher working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of young impressionable minds. Heroes are everywhere. We read about them. We hear about them from the media. We even encounter them first-hand.
You might ask, “What is a hero?” Most would agree that a hero is someone who is willing to sacrifice their own life or well-being for a greater cause or for the needs of another. Literary figures like Sydney Carton from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities spring to mind. When asked to name their heroes, many would probably mention a sports figure or a president. Perhaps some would even suggest a comic superhero. Others would look to their parents, a relative or an elder in the church. You see heroes are individuals who have impacted our lives in ways that change us forever; those that we determine have demonstrated behaviors and decisions that are emotionally and ethically worthy of our awe. But there are times I feel that the term “hero” is used much too regularly today. In actuality heroes are few and far between.
There’s a familiar expression that is found in a letter written by Sir Isaac Newton in 1676. “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Passages like Hebrews 11 quickly come to mind. You know these heroes of faith. Some are named. Some are not. And what I find remarkable about each of these examples is that they were people, like you and I, who made choices every day. Here we find individuals that chose to go God’s way in a world when many would not. They made the choice to do what was right. And they made mistakes, just like we do. And still the Hebrew writer says:

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith”
Hebrews 13.7

Do you remember those who taught you? Individuals who encouraged you? Those who watched over your souls? (Hebrews 13.17) They sacrificed. They didn’t complain. They loved the Lord and expressed their devotion to Him by serving others.
“Standing on the shoulders of giants.” What a wonderful expression. And as I reflect on the meaning of this phrase, I’m reminded of certain faithful men and women whose paths have intertwined with mine for the past 54 years; people who had a tremendous impact on me. Those who help bolster my faith. Men and women who allowed me to see further. Who showed me that the path of God leads to righteousness. That the path of God leads home.
For me, it’s brethren like . . . Bob and Joy Evers. Buddy and Sharon Clark. John and Ann Fox. Mike and Lou Alice Quick. Bob and Janelle Owen. And many, many others. They are men who helped oversee the saints and helped us grow while at the same time protected us from the wiles of the evil one. Their wives… God bless their wives. They have served quietly and provided support to their husbands. Devotion, contentment, and dedication are integrally woven into the tapestry of their lives.

“Some people come in our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same.”

Look around and you’ll see that there are still spiritual giants among us. Men and women alike who have fought battles we have not, who have endured persecution for His name’s sake, and who stand as a shining light for truth in a world of darkness. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” is their plea. You see, it’s an illustration of a critically important Biblical principle that we find throughout the New Testament. It was told to the Ephesian brethren (Ephesians 5.1), the Philippians (Philippians 4.9), and to us. Our Lord wants us to follow Him. His desire is for us to imitate the pattern and example that is set before us.
Leave no stone unturned. Seek them out, these pillars of truth. They sit in the pews with you on Sundays. They teach in your Bible classes. Learn from them. Consider the outcome of their conduct. Be reminded of where they stood for the Lord and what the Lord means to them. Thank them. Take the time now before the sun sets for the last time. And understand that the higher quality of people you surround yourself with, the better you will become.
We truly stand on the shoulder of giants. And while some have departed for their eternal rest, there still remain those who help us see further than we ever thought possible. Their faith and their example are ever before our eyes.
Model our faith after theirs.