When do we become who we are meant to be? In a hero saga, it's always that moment of no return: the hero's parents die; the hero chooses adventure over comfort; the hero leaves behind a former life; the hero decides to go against the dominant worldview. It's always a major life transition when our hero's valor is tested and then the hero's moment begins.

Meanwhile, the rest of us—who haven’t been flung into heroic situations—are just waiting for our moment. We live vicariously through our heroes, hoping that someday, we will be Captain America. But it doesn’t take government experiments to make heroes.

For us normal folk, the story of Deborah the prophetess provides a great rubric. She shows us how to recognize “our moment” and act in accordance. Deborah wasn’t extraordinary on her own; it was her embrace of God’s work that made her so. Here's how to move toward your "hero" moment.

1. Cry Out to God for Help

We cannot be who we are meant to be without first admitting that we need help.

“The people of Israel cried out to Yahweh for help, for [Siser, the commander of the army of Jabin king of Canaan] had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years. Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time” (Judges 4:3–4 ESV, adapted). 

There appears to be nothing extraordinary about Deborah. She has simply arisen to embrace her calling as a judge over God’s people. But Deborah boldly embracing this calling makes her extraordinary; she is a woman in a Patriarchal age, leading God’s people. And it will be her leadership that changes the course of history. But Deborah will not act on her own accord.

2. We're Not Special, But We Serve a Special God

“Deborah sent and summoned Barak … and said to him, ‘Has not Yahweh, the God of Israel, commanded you, "Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 … And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand”?’ Barak said to her, ‘If you [Deborah] will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ And she said, ‘I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for Yahweh will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman’” (Judges 4:6–9 ESV, adapted).

As Deborah leaves for war, we learn what makes her truly heroic is listening to Yahweh. She knows what God has said and has full confidence in his message. She makes it clear to Barak—and to us—that she is not special; instead, the God she serves is special.

Deborah knows that God intends to rescue his people, so the question is not whether or not she will join God in it; the question is, who will join her?

3. Trust God and People Will Follow

10,000 men join Barak in his efforts—showing their belief in the words of Deborah (Judges 4:10). But we already know the ending to this story: This battle is not one to be won through the normal act of the sword. Instead, the evil male general will be delivered into the hands of a woman, who will win the war. A God ordained strategy makes this victory possible.

God will stir up confidence around us, by bringing people alongside us in his work, but that does not mean that they will be the way he wins the battle against evil. Instead, God will act in unexpected ways.

4. Believe Even When All Hope Seems Lost

Sisera, the general of Canaan, rises against God’s people with mighty force; he brings his chariots. God’s people are outgunned (Judges 4:13). But Deborah shows her faith. To Barak, Deborah says:

“Up! For this is the day in which Yahweh has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?” (Judges 4:14 ESV, adapted).

It may look like the end to everyone around her, but to Deborah this is not the end. Reading ahead in the story, we know the outcome—God’s people are victorious in this battle (Judges 4:16). But Deborah only knows this on the basis of faith. Her belief convinces those who follow her leadership. Deborah has certainty because she is certain in what God can do.

5. Give God's Strategy Time to Unfold

Following his loss, Sisera the general flees:

“But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite” (Judges 4:17).

At first, Jael acts accommodating, but she is just playing Sisera (Judges 4:18–19). As soon as the man is asleep—and as Deborah predicted—Jael kills Sisera, with a tent spike (Judges 4:20). Up until this moment, the story leads us to believe that Deborah will be the woman who will kill Sisera. But instead, it’s Jael, an unknown character until this moment. God continues to surprise us.

God works in ironic ways; his ways are unexpected and profound. We can count on him to surprise us. We can count on him to require us to act in faith.

Thanks to the leadership of Deborah, the obedience of Barak, and the bravery of Jael, God’s people survived—they were freed from the oppressive, enslaving forces of Canaan (Judges 4:22–24). God comes alongside the oppressed.

When is a Hero’s Moment?

It’s difficult to know when your moment will come, or how it will come exactly. What is certain is that we’re in God’s story now. God expects us to act in faith now and continually—no matter what comes our way. God asks us to see beyond what those around us can see; we must believe in his work in the world, among the hurting and those in pain. When all hope seems lost, God is still at work.

Like Deborah, God has asked us to free those in difficulty and in pain—to be their advocates in faith and action. And it's often in the small things, the sacrificial acts, that the most heroic of moments occur. We don't need recognition to be heroic.

None of us just one day become who we are meant to be. It’s a process. Let’s starting act heroic now, by acting in faith. What if this is “our moment”?*

Act Heroically in Your Giving

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*This article is adapted from my previous article, "How We Become Who We Are Meant to Be."

What does a strong person look like? 

When I say “strong person,” my imagination creates a picture of someone standing tall and confident. I see him as he holds his head high, his chin pointed toward the sky. He keeps his hands on his hips, ready to conquer. He makes himself larger in the shadow of the vast world. The sky illuminates behind him as the mountains shrink in his presence. Nothing can slow him down, and nothing can stop him. He is a strong person.

When we think of strength, we each—in our own way—summon images like these. We imagine a person with enough willpower to do anything they believe in. We imagine a hero.

We associate strength with power and power is associated with heroic actions. 

This makes me feel smaller. It makes me feel like I can never measure up to the strength and dignity of a hero. I will never be that big. I will never be that important. I will never make big changes in the world. I am the person who might make little ripples—coursing love and peace into the lives of the people directly around me. I tell myself that I will never be able to turn my ripples into waves, and that the world will never know I was here. 

But I have to stop myself before I get carried away. I don’t know exactly what God’s plan is for my life. I don’t know whether he will or won’t turn my ripples into waves. 

God might call me to only make small ripples and do little things. But if this is what happens, it won’t make me weak. 

It Is Not Our Impact that Makes Us Strong

A strong person is made by their ability to let go of themselves, turn their lives over to God, and let him be the guide. A strong person is one who humbles themselves before the throne of God, and admits that they cannot do it on their own. The only thing we can really do on our own is to fall short of the glory of God.

But once we commit our lives to God, he can do anything through us (Philippians 4:13). He can use us to do something big and heroic, like he used Deborah as she led the Israelites. He can also use us to do the little things.

Giving Our Life to Serve God in Little Ways

It’s in the “little things” that we find Priscilla. She isn’t very well known in the Bible, but she displayed true heroism. For Jesus, Priscilla did the small things to make the big things happen. Married to a man named Aquila, Priscilla and her husband traveled with Saint Paul, as he ministered to others. Her support of Paul made his ministry possible. And Paul’s ministry, which must have also felt like Priscilla’s own (as it was), made way for the gospel to reach a large portion of the world.

Aquila and Priscilla are only mentioned six times in the Bible and each mention is brief. They are mentioned as being friends with Paul, and working together before they left to minister with him.

“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.” (Acts 18:1–3 ESV).

When Paul mentions Priscilla and Aquila, it’s always with adoration:

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well (Romans 16:3–4 ESV).

What makes this mention even more impressive is the fact that Priscilla was a woman—in the first century AD’s patriarchal culture, Priscilla was in ministry each step along the way. Never are the husband and wife mentioned apart from one another. As Aquila and Paul worked to share the truth, Priscilla was there too. She worked with her husband as a tentmaker before they left, and she worked with him as a disciple after. She lived the life God called her to live, and it became one of ministry and encouragement. In Acts, Luke tells us:

“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus.  He was an eloquent man, competent in the scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.  And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, thought he knew only the baptism of John.  He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24–26 ESV).

 They took him and explained to him—together, Priscilla and Aquila work for the gospel. Priscilla may not be the most influential disciple, but she was critical to God’s work in the world. In addition, Paul’s gratitude for Priscilla’s gifts, efforts, and fellowship suggests that Priscilla likely empowered many others—as that was a core belief of Paul’s.

Heroic in the Small Things—for Jesus

Priscilla was a strong person. She was a hero. She humbled herself before God and accepted his plans for her life. She loved people and invested in them. It appears that Priscilla never gave up—even to the point of risking her own life for Jesus’ ministry.  

We can all be leaders and empower other people. This isn’t something chosen for a few of God’s elect. It comes with listening to him and means a change in our lives.

God’s call means different things for different people. For Deborah, it meant becoming a judge and leading the Israelites into an important battle. For Priscilla, it meant that she dropped everything to travel with her husband and Paul to proclaim the hope of salvation.

Disciples Work Together

Paul never worked alone, and neither did Jesus. They both had supporters who helped them in their work—and made the ministry their own. Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary of Bethany all contributed to the gospel through what seemed like little deeds. But they each accomplished something much larger as they spread the gospel.  It’s as a team that God’s people work.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 ESV).

Real Strength

Priscilla’s actions suggest that strength is really about boundless faith, humility, and obedience to God.

Now, when I think of strength I see someone kneeling before the cross, infinitely small in the presence of a God so great. There are tears streaming down the person’s face as they accept an everlasting love. They leave their past behind and look to their future with God as they say, “Here I am, send me” (Isaiah 6:8). 

 

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How does a person become a hero? When do you move from acting on your own accord to empower others? In this video, I tell you about the powerful example of Deborah the Prophetess: She demonstrates what it means to rise to the occasion to free the oppressed.

Becoming a Hero Like Deborah the Prophetess

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When do we become who we are meant to be?

If you’re watching a movie with a hero saga, it’s almost always right after the hero’s parents die that they become who they are meant to be. If you’re reading a book, the hero usually becomes “a hero” in your mind when he or she decides to go against the dominant worldview of others, for some larger purpose. Movies and books alike, it is right after our hero’s major life transition that his or her valor is tested. Meanwhile, the rest of us—who haven’t been flung into heroic situations—are just waiting for our moment. We live vicariously through our heroes, hoping that someday, we will be Captain America.

But it doesn’t take government experiments to make heroes.

For us normal folk, the story of Deborah the prophetess provides a great rubric. She shows us how to recognize “our moment” and act in accordance. Deborah wasn’t extraordinary on her own; it was her embrace of God’s work that made her so.

When We Cry Out for Help

We cannot be who we are meant to be without first admitting that we need help.

“The people of Israel cried out to Yahweh for help, for [Siser, the commander of the army of Jabin king of Canaan] had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years. Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time” (Judges 4:3–4 ESV, adapted). 

There appears to be nothing extraordinary about Deborah. She has simply arisen to embrace her calling as a judge over God’s people. But Deborah boldly embracing this calling makes her extraordinary; she is a woman in a Patriarchal age, leading God’s people. And it will be her leadership that changes the course of history. But Deborah will not act on her own accord.

It’s Not Us Who Are Special; It’s the God We Serve

“Deborah sent and summoned Barak … and said to him, ‘Has not Yahweh, the God of Israel, commanded you, “Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 … And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand”?’ Barak said to her, ‘If you [Deborah] will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ And she said, ‘I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for Yahweh will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman’” (Judges 4:6–9 ESV, adapted).

As Deborah leaves for war, we learn what makes her truly heroic is listening to Yahweh. She knows what God has said and has full confidence in his message. She makes it clear to Barak—and to us—that she is not special; instead, the God she serves is special.

Deborah knows that God intends to rescue his people, so the question is not whether or not she will join him in it; the question is, who will join her?

10,000 Will Rise to Your Side

10,000 men join Barak in his efforts—showing their belief in the words of Deborah (Judges 4:10). But we already know the ending to this story: This battle is not one to be won through the normal act of the sword. Instead, the evil general will be delivered into the hands of a woman, who will win the war.

God will stir up confidence around us, by bringing people alongside us in his work, but that does not mean that they will be the way he wins the battle against evil. Instead, God will act in unexpected ways.

Just Because It’s The End Doesn’t Mean It’s Over

Sisera, the general of Canaan, rises against God’s people with mighty force; he brings his chariots. God’s people are outgunned (Judges 4:13). But Deborah shows her faith. To Barak, Deborah says:

“Up! For this is the day in which Yahweh has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” (Judges 4:14 ESV, adapted).

It may look like the end to everyone around her, but to Deborah this is not the end. Reading ahead in the story, we know the outcome—God’s people are victorious in this battle (Judges 4:16). But Deborah only knows this on the basis of faith. Deborah has certainty because she is certain in what God can do.

Of Friends and Enemies

Following his loss, Sisera the general flees:

“But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite” (Judges 4:17).

At first, Jael acts accommodating, but she is just playing Sisera (Judges 4:18–19). As soon as the man is asleep—and as Deborah predicted—Jael kills Sisera, with a tent spike (Judges 4:20). Up until this moment, the story leads us to believe that Deborah will be the woman who will kill Sisera. But instead, it’s Jael, an unknown character until this moment. God continues to surprise us.

God works in ironic ways; his ways are unexpected and profound. We can count on him to surprise us. We can count on him to require us to act in faith.

Thanks to the leadership of Deborah, the obedience of Barak, and the bravery of Jael, God’s people survived—they were freed from the oppressive, enslaving forces of Canaan (Judges 4:22–24). God comes alongside the oppressed.

When is a Hero’s Moment?

It’s difficult to know when your moment will come, or how it will come exactly. What is certain is that we’re in God’s story now. God expects us to act in faith now and continually—no matter what comes our way. God asks us to see beyond what those around us can see; we must believe in his work in the world, among the hurting and those in pain.

Like Deborah, God has asked us to free those in difficulty and in pain—to be their advocates in faith and action.

None of us just one day become who we are meant to be. It’s a process. Let’s starting act heroic now, by acting in faith. What if this is “our moment”?

 

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