Fathers, Live Your True Identity as Heroes

The following is an excerpt from The Soul of a Hero by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop.

Be honest now: Does the word hero resonate with you, or does it miss the mark, leaving you feeling cold and disconnected?

Maybe you’re thinking, What’s heroic about my life?

Well, here are four things you need to know:

  1. God created every man to have a heroic heart, soul, and mind. It’s part of the image of God in us.
  2. There’s a heroic path and purpose for every man, regardless of temperament, personality, or calling.
  3. You have an enemy who will do everything he can to undermine your heroic journey.
  4. If you’re willing to fight (which is part of the heroic journey), you can uncover your heroic heart and pursue your heroic purpose.

So, who is this heroic man you’re designed to be?

Your True Identity: Beloved Son
One of the most moving experiences of my (Steve’s) life was hearing Henri Nouwen, a well- known priest and author, speak in the early 1990s at The Foundation, a small gathering in Ontario, Canada. His message was on the return of the Prodigal Son, using Rembrandt’s famous painting as a point of reference. He explained how both sons in the story needed the father’s grace—the prodigal younger brother, for obvious reasons; but also the elder brother, who was spiritually stunted by self-righteous pride.

It was a life-altering truth and insight for me, and Henri Nouwen became a spiritual hero in my life, though he didn’t look much like a hero by most people’s standards. Tall and gangly, with a long, kindly face framed by wavy silver hair, Nouwen spoke with a charming Dutch accent and gesticulated wildly to make his points with unbridled passion. This priest’s vulnerable writings and lectures have been a guiding light to millions. He was a great hero of empathy and healing to countless souls.

Many of his bestselling books address the subject of Christian identity. Our belovedness and belonging were the central themes of Nouwen’s passion and ministry. He called to who we truly are in the deep core of our being. His Life of the Beloved and The Inner Voice of Love are about discovering our identity and the spiritual practice of discerning the true voice of God, which is the voice of lavish, unconditional,
abundant love.

Left to our own devices, Nouwen shared, we tend to define ourselves in one of three ways: by what we have, by what we do, or by what others think about us. Nouwen emphatically asserted that these definitions are false. In fact, they come from the voice of our enemy.

Jesus was tempted by Satan to do miraculous things (turn stones into bread, then leap off a cliff and let angels catch him) in order to gather riches and power and impress others—as if that would have any meaning to him, who, though going through a very rough patch in the desert, clearly understood his true identity: beloved Son of the Father in heaven.

As the only begotten Son of Almighty God, Jesus already had everything he truly needed and wanted. He knew who he was, he was comfortable in his own skin, and he needed no showmanship or cheap tricks to prove it. Instead, he turned his back on all of Satan’s temptations, recognizing them for what they were: lies from the ultimate con man, the same conniving snake who had whispered false promises to Adam
and Eve in the Garden.

Here’s a truth you can take to the bank: As an adopted son of Almighty God, you already possess everything you truly need and want. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” When you embrace your true identity, that of beloved child of the King, you don’t need to impress anyone or prove your worth. The fact of your belovedness and belonging should center, calm, strengthen, and encourage you.

Immediately before the wilderness temptation, Jesus had been baptized in the Jordan River by his cousin John. On this special occasion, God revealed his Son’s true identity to all who were gathered. In God’s own words, spoken from heaven, he said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” God told Jesus that his favor rested on him. Jesus was already a hero to his Father, and he didn’t
have to do a thing to earn it.

These are affirmations that boys long to hear from their fathers and important male mentors:
• “I love you.”
• “You belong to my heart forever.”
• “I believe in you.”
• “I admire you, just as you are—which, by the way, is awesome.”

Hearing affirmations like these, early and often, helps a boy form his core identity as a beloved son. When life gets hard and he gets hurt, or when temptations arise, his ego may get battered and bruised. But as he returns to the central truths of his belonging and his belovedness, his true identity will grow stronger and stronger within his heart. He has a spiritual core, a calm internal place to which he can return again and again when storms of discouragement blow his way. Sure, hurtful things may sting a spiritually centered man, but assaults from others won’t debilitate him or take him out of the game. As the apostle Paul observed, “We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

My friend, when you know your identity in Christ, you become very clear about fact versus falsehood. You know you are not who people say you are. You are not what you have or what you own. You are not what you do. You are not the sum of your mistakes. You are a son of the King, loved beyond measure. Nothing you do can make the Father love you more; nothing you do will make him love you less. If you
have a child of your own, you’ve had a small glimpse of this kind of love from the Father’s perspective.

The Soul of a Hero by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop

If you are a man who is stuck and empty and ready for change, this is the book for you. If you are someone who would love to see the man in your life with the spark you used to see in his eyes, this book is a superb gift for him.

When people hear the word hero these days, the movie cliché of a superhero rescuing a desperate woman instantly comes to mind. But answering the call to be a godly hero is far from that mistaken scenario. The lives of too many guys are full of pain and frustration and an aimless desire to either medicate the pain or find another victim to rescue—the furthest thing from being a hero. The world needs men who are running on all cylinders, passionate about what they do. In The Soul of a Hero, bestselling authors and respected counselors Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop guide men to a better, hope-filled life by helping them rediscover their true God-given calling: to be a hero.

When men live into their true identity as heroes, temptations lose their allure and depression gives way to energy. Men who once felt as if their best years were behind them find a second wind to help them live every moment to its fullest. This book calls and equips men to become the heroes their wives, sons, daughters, friends, and coworkers want and need them to be.

In The Soul of a Hero, you will learn how to start from empty and transform yourself into a man who is thriving with purpose, joy, and true grit.

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