Defining a Hero

We’ve been talking about heroes lately, and specifically, what makes someone a hero or a hero of the faith. You all have shared some great descriptions with me on Facebook (as a side note, I absolutely love when you interact with me over there!), and I’ve been trying to come up with my own “definition” for the word.

First, let’s take a look at a few dictionary definitions for the word HERO.

  • a person who is admired for great or brave acts, noble qualities, or great courage (Merriam-Webster)
  • a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life (
  • a prominent personage in any remarkable action or event, who shows distinguished valor, enterprise in danger, and fortitude in suffering (Webster’s Dictionary)
  • a person who has heroic qualities such as distinguished courage or ability, or who has performed a heroic act, and is regarded as a model or ideal (

Notice the common key words that are used: courage, valor, noble character, fortitude, sacrifice. If you check a thesaurus, you’ll notice those same ideas in its synonyms: champions, conquerors, role models, victors. So let’s combine all of that, mix it up together, and lay it out in simpler terms.

A hero is… any person who courageously sacrifices for the sake of others.

But that doesn’t really explain what makes a hero, or what lies at the foundation of someone’s courageous sacrifice for others. So let’s break it down even further. What lies at the root of being a hero?

A hero is… any common person, placed in uncommonly difficult physical circumstances, who displays uncommonly noble character.

Now let’s bring that into the spiritual realm. Now someone must champion not only the physical level, but on a spiritual level as well. So what makes somebody a distinctly Christian hero, someone we can consider a role model for Christian living? What is a hero of the faith?

A hero of the faith is… any common person, placed in uncommonly difficult physical and spiritual circumstances, who displays uncommon confidence in God and His promises.

For instance, since I recently shared about The Hiding Place, let’s consider Corrie ten Boom. Why do we call her a hero of the faith? Well, she was…

  • a common person: Corrie was just a “regular old person,” a middle-aged woman living with her family, working in their shop and minding her own business.
  • placed in uncommonly difficult physical & spiritual circumstances: Her home was trampled, and remodeled. Her quiet family life was distorted forever. She was betrayed. She was thrown in prison, and herded like cattle to a concentration camp. She watched her best friend — her sister Betsey — die in that camp. She herself barely escaped dying in the camp.
  • who displays uncommon confidence in God and in His promises: Corrie had a firm conviction that God would prove Himself greater than any earthly power. She boldly lived out her faith that “Jesus is the victor.” She manifested her wholehearted belief by allowing her life to be utterly interrupted, for the sake of ministering to His persecuted people, at the risk of her own persecution and death. She put herself in grave danger, yet found peace and even compassion toward her captors, because she counted Him faithful who had promised.

Notice how Corrie’s life portrayed her faith. Or, to use the words of James, she showed her faith by her works. That is certainly one of the crucial trademarks of a Christian hero!

Nobody becomes a hero just by verbalizing their belief in God — they must live it out, usually through some dangerous and tragic circumstances. Their lives prove beyond a doubt that God is greater than all others, and that He is the only true God.

Defining a Hero

Who are some other heroes of the faith that come to mind?

  • Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Joseph, Noah, Rahab, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel
  • New Testament characters such as Mary, Joseph, Peter, John, Paul, Timothy
  • Missionaries such as Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, John & Betty Stam, Brother Andrew, Darlene Rose, David Livingstone, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor
  • Notable believers such as Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.H. Spurgeon, Joni Eareckson Tada, Watchman Nee, Elisabeth Elliott

Each of them faced some extraordinary circumstance which involved intense physical suffering or threat of death, along with extreme spiritual warfare, and yet lived in a way that shouted God’s greatness to the world. They were people, just like you and me, who grabbed onto God’s promises and never let go, despite the raging storms of suffering.

They were just common people, who found themselves in uncommonly difficult circumstances, yet displayed uncommon confidence in their God.


What do you think of that definition? What would you change or add to it?
Who are some other Christian heroes that come to mind?

And don’t forget, if any of you want to write a post (500-800 words) about one of YOUR favorite heroes of the faith, I would love to share it on here! Email me for more details!


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6 thoughts on “Defining a Hero

  1. This is a great and unique series…I’ve been following along and have some of the same people listed as my heroes as well. Elisabeth Elliot has actually been like a spiritual mother to me as I’ve grown in my faith (without having many older Christian women locally to guide me.) Her books have been invaluable. I’ve read The Hiding Place and also A Chance to Die about Amy Carmichael. Both are really good! I see a spiritual hero just as you’ve described and also someone who puts their life at God’s disposal. A person with open hands and an open heart ready and willing to do as He says – that takes trust. I think also of lesser know/talked about Bible characters, like Bezalel from the Old Testament, who followed God’s commands to Moses to build the tabernacle. His is a story of submitting to the Lord and seeing the work of his hands being used for the Lord’s glory. Also some great hymn writers could be considered heroes as well even though many of them were just “ordinary” Christians. I love the story of Annie Hawks who wrote I Need Thee Every Hour – she was “just” a housewife and mom but penned one of my favorite songs 🙂 Lots of think about here and how others’ lives can and should influence our own 🙂

    1. I love that you mentioned a few lesser known heroes. Would you be interested in writing a guest post about one of them? 🙂

      1. Yes, I’d love to write a guest post! 🙂 Would you prefer a biblical hero or more modern? I’ve been wanting to blog about Bezalel or Annie Hawks actually but haven’t gotten around to it so maybe now is the time 🙂 I can email you about details and what you’re looking for.

      2. Just sent you an email, Kim. Thanks! 🙂

  2. My son is named Elliot, after Jim Elliot. Jim’s journals were a significant connection point for my husband and I when we were dating. I like the way you’ve parsed this out: common person, uncommon circumstances, uncommon confidence in the Lord. I’d be interested to look at practices some of these heroes did to exercise their spiritual muscles and developed uncommon trust before the uncommon difficulty came their way.

    1. That’s a great idea, Darcy. I’m actually reading a biography of Bonhoeffer right now, and I’ve been noticing how he was technically preparing his whole life for the years of intense suffering, by digging deep and regularly into God’s Word. I’ll try to bring some of that out when I write about it!

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