Modern day Unlikely heroes

We have spoken about a few of the unlikely heroes of the Bible but even though we see them as men and women with issues just like us, we tend to think of them as somehow better or greater or more godly than us because they are recorded in the Bible, so tonight I want to talk about real people who lived in more recent times.

I am not even going to speak about people who lived a long time ago, I am not going to talk about the saints of old, but of more recent people in the last century.

Like, Smith Wigglesworth

Smith Wigglesworth was born on 8 June 1859 in Yorkshire, England, to an impoverished family. As a small child, he worked in the fields pulling turnips alongside his mother; he also worked in factories. During his childhood he was illiterate.

Nominally a Methodist, he became a born-again Christian at the age of eight.

Wigglesworth married Polly Featherstone on 2 May 1882. At the time of their marriage, she was a preacher with the Salvation Army.

Wigglesworth learned to read after he married Polly; she taught him to read the Bible. He often stated that it was the only book he ever read, and did not permit newspapers in his home, preferring the Bible to be their only reading material.

Wigglesworth worked as a plumber, but he abandoned this trade because he was too busy for it after he started preaching. In 1907, he experienced speaking in tongues.

He had an international healing ministry. His methods were away from the norm. On one occasion Wigglesworth declared to the sick "I'll only pray for you once, to pray twice is unbelief". The second night, a man approached the altar to receive prayer again and Wigglesworth, recognizing him, said "Didn't I pray for you last night? You are full of unbelief, get off this platform!"

Like William Franklyn Graham

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born on November 7, 1918, in the downstairs bedroom of a farmhouse near Charlotte, North Carolina.

Graham as a youth was turned down for membership in a local youth group for being "too worldly".

Graham was converted in 1934, at age 16.

He was almost expelled from seminary. He was told "At best, all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks "

He went on to preach to millions worldwide and bring huge numbers to faith. He was Billy Graham.

Like Charles Colson

Charles Colson served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. Once known as President Nixon's "hatchet man," Colson gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate scandal, for being named as one of the Watergate Seven, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for attempting to defame Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg. In 1974, he served seven months in the federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama for Watergate-related charges

Colson became an Evangelical Christian in 1973. His mid-life "conversion" sparked a radical life change that led to the founding of his non-profit ministry Prison Fellowship and, three years later, Prison Fellowship International, to a focus on Christian worldview teaching and training around the world.

Like Nick Vujicic

The Australian Nick was born in 1982 with a rare disorder  characterized by the absence of arms and legs. He is one of the seven known surviving individuals planet-wide who live with the syndrome.

Vujicic thrived in his teenage and young adult years despite being bullied. After his mother showed him a newspaper article about a man dealing with a severe disability when he was seventeen, he started to give talks at his prayer group. He graduated from Griffith University at the age of 21 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, with a double major in accountancy and financial planning.

He is an inspirational Christian speaker, speaking all around the world.




Like Andrew Marshbank Johnston

Andrew Johnston grew up on a farm at Waikaka in Southland.  At age 19, World War 1 broke out and when he turned 21 he joined up.  In 1917 he landed in France and within a few weeks of joining the NZ Rifle Brigade he was permanently blinded by shrapnel.

He was returned home after recuperation and resumed working on farms in the south.

In 1927 he went to the Pounawea Keswick Camp and hesitantly preached a sermon. 

That was the start of a career of preaching thought NZ.  He brought revival to many parts of the country. Quote from his revival meeting in Otautau: “Otautau has gone mad for the power of the Holy Spirit was in evidence in every meeting. Men were so convicted they were afraid to go back again. Truly the town and district has been turned upside down as never before. Homes have been made happy. The township purer.”[1]

What defines these men? Clearly it was not their circumstances. 

What defined their potential to go good through God? Clearly it was not what other people thought of them.

What defined them was God’s call on their lives.

Here we have the most unlikely candidates to be heroes for God:  an illiterate man, a youth considered worldly, a white-collar criminal, a tetraplegic and a blind man yet those men became heroes of the faith.

This week in my devotions, I read that we often use the word can’t:  “I can’t do that, I can’t do what God calls me to do. “ We should be using the word that more reflects our attitude and this  “I won’t”.  When we say I won’t, we really reflect our disobedient attitude to God.  We can do things too big for us because God does the impossible through us.  When we say we can’t/won’t we reveal our true level of trust in God

Do not underestimate your value in the kingdom of God.  Your restrictions and the views of others about your worth are not God’s view of you, they are your view of you.

As the Word for Today said this week it is wrong to blame God for your lack of growth, because he has provided all the tools and ideas you need in order to grow. It is our lack of faith that stymies us.

God gives us big dreams. It is our lack of faith that stops them from coming to fruition.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I chose these men because they are unlikely heroes and I want to affirm that you too can be a hero for your faith. 

“God doesn't call the equipped, son. God equips the called. And you have been called.”

Hebrews 13:20

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


[1] Light in Darkness: the story of Andrew M Johnston “The Blind Evangelist” 37