Paul the Evangelist and Apostle
Who went through more pain and suffering in this life for Christ than Paul? I can’t think of anyone who suffered more for Jesus’ sake than Paul did. Listen to what he endured in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 “with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Paul was beaten countlessly, imprisoned, lashed, stoned, shipwrecked, hungered, thirsted, was in toil, in hardships, in sleeplessness, exposed to cold, and constantly in danger from robbers, at sea, from Gentiles, and from his own brethren (the Jews). This was all because Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel” (Rom 1:16). This ensures that if He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ then Christ would not be ashamed of him on the Day of Judgment (Luke 9:26). That makes him one of the greatest men of the Bible.
John the Baptist
Jesus said about John that among men born of women (that would include everyone by the way!) there was none greater than John (Matt 11:11). This was “the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’” (Matt 11:10). John was not afraid of being politically incorrect and apparently he was not sent to make friends and influence people but speak the truth and prepare the way for Jesus Christ. On one occasion, “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7-9). Can you imagine calling out to the crowds where were coming to him to be baptized (Luke 3:7) “You brood of vipers?” That took great courage. John even told King Herod that “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18b) and ended up losing his head for it, therefore John the Baptist is among those who I considered one of the greatest men of the Bible.
Abraham the Faithful
Who was more faithful than Abraham? He was willing to sacrifice his own son in order to be obedient to God. This was the son of promise too and so how hard this must have been. He also left his own city-nation in Ur, leaving the rest of his family, his friends, his security, and all that he knew to go to a place that he had never seen. He was willing to do this as an act of faith and obedience. When we act on faith when we can’t even see the promises of God, we are justified by this faith as those who believe in Christ Whom they have not seen to receive the ultimate promise of eternal life that they have not yet possessed. That is why Abraham is in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. It was “by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore” (Heb 11:8-10, 12). Our faith is only as strong as the Object of our Faith and that is Jesus Christ.
Moses the Meek
It is said of Moses that he was the meekest and most humble man on the face of earth (Numb 12:3) but that doesn’t mean he was weak. Meekness is not weakness but strength under control for it was “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”
Imagine that you are next in line to sit on the throne of Egypt, the most powerful nation on the face of the earth at that time. He gave up all of this, willing to be a reproach for God, and willing “to be mistreated with the people of God [rather] than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” He “endured as seeing him who is invisible” just as believers today are willing to believe in an invisible God for that which will be made visible someday. Are we as willing to be mistreated, to pass up the “fleeting pleasures of sin,” because we are “looking to the reward” someday? That is a question that I ask myself.
So many that I counsel with so quickly become disenchanted with God simply because things are not going well with them so I frequently point them to Job’s story. God never promises us happiness in this life and Job is the ultimate example of that. Job suffered so much and for no reason that he could see but he still said “even though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). Imagine losing all your children, losing all your belongings, everything you have and then still saying “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)? I don’t think that I could endure what Job did. Even his friends were of no help because they kept blaming him for all his problems which are what we tend to do as humans. Suffering is not always attributed to unrighteousness and Job’s life lesson shows us that even the godly suffer.
Daniel the Courageous
Daniel is among the greatest men in the Bible because he was willing to die for his faith. He was not going to change his worship and Who he worshiped just because of the threat of losing his life. Daniel in the lion’s den is a supreme example of willing to die for something that he believed in. Even with the threat of being cast into the fiery furnace, he didn’t blink an eye but obeyed God rather than disobey God by giving worship to a god that he knew did not exist. Daniel even reprimanded King Belshazzar for his impiety (Dan 5).
David, a Man after God’s own Heart
David was Israel’s greatest king and when he ruled the nation reached its zenith. I love the fact that the Bible tells the story of men and women and doesn’t paint it a rosy picture. The Bible gives us all there is about all they’ve done…warts and all. Maybe the fact that the Bible is transparent gives us sinners who still struggle every day some hope. David committed adultery, then conspiracy to commit murder and then premeditated murder, yet God called him a man after His own heart because it was said of him “he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22). Could God say that of me? I doubt that very much. The Psalmist said of David, “I have found David my servant” (Psalm 89:20) and David so pleased God that He told him that his throne would be established forever. This is why it was said of David “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:13).
Who would you include among this list of great men in the Bible? Would you include the Apostle Peter, Barnabas, John, Stephen, or someone else? As the author of Hebrews writes “what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them” (Heb 11:32-38). Thankfully, we are made worthy because of Him Who died for us and His righteousness was accounted toward us (2 Cor 5:21).
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon