When Your Hero Falls

John 2: 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.

Lance Armstrong was a champion youth Triathlete and then after concentrating on cycling he began having international success even gaining attention amongst the Europeans.  I enjoyed watching him compete because he appeared fearless and he refused to lose.  It was only a matter of time before he would win the biggest cycling crown, the Tour de France.  But at age 25 he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer which had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen.  Saving his life was the only goal; returning to competitive cycling was not even a consideration.  But against all odds Lance began racing again in 1998 and in 1999 he became a legend by not only overcoming cancer, but by winning the Tour de France.  Now Armstrong was a household name, and his Livestrong Foundation (cancer support) was everywhere, with people wearing the telltale yellow wristbands.  And his mythical status only grew as he won a record 7 consecutive Tours.  But during his comeback years, rumors began to emerge about his use of performance enhancing drugs.  Most dismissed them, but increasingly more evidence came out (including from former teammates) and in a 2013 Oprah Winfrey TV interview, he finally admitted to his cheating.  A hero had fallen.

Anyone in tune with the Christian evangelical landscape over the past years would have heard of the fall of some well-known pastors:  Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill), Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Church), and most recently James MacDonald (Harvest Church).  Relevant magazine’s article “James MacDonald and the End of the Celebrity Pastor” makes some pretty good arguments about the pitfalls of elevating pastors to celebrity status.  So, what happens when your “spiritual hero” falls?  Does he or she take you with them?

Years ago, God spoke to me through a scripture that completely changed my spiritual journey.  My wife and I were struggling with an issue at church and we could not support the position of the elders.  They asked me to come meet with them.  That night I read a devotional that led me to the following passage:  23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. (John 2: 23-25).  I recall reading this and I was puzzled.  In verse 23 we read that “many believed in his name”, because the people saw the signs Jesus was performing.  Logically one would expect that Jesus would be pleased, but instead it says: “but Jesus would not entrust himself to them”, because he knew what was inside of all people.  That word “entrust” in the Greek is pisteuo, and means to “believe in, commit oneself in faith”.  This led me to dive into the scriptures to see whom we are asked to trust.  I was shocked to find no verse that overtly asked me to trust another person, but rather we are asked to trust God (over 200 times).  We read in the Bible that leaders are “entrusted” with followers, but that is passive.  I realized that God was telling me that any trust I placed in people would always have to first go through my trust in God.  He was my filter through which everything had to flow.  And in doing so, if my spiritual hero fell, it would not change how I saw God; it would not affect my relationship with him.  It was my responsibility to put all they said and did through the Biblical filter (Acts 17:11).  Have you lost a spiritual hero?  Has this caused you to tailspin?  If so, then you need to ask yourself if you have entrusted yourself to man or to God?

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