“I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy, clearly recalling your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and that I am convinced is in you also.”
(2 Timothy 1:3-5, Holman Christian Standard Bible)
With the turmoil that is taking place in our world today there has never been a greater demand for leader’s to become champions. In the biblical understanding of a champion a champion was one who fought on behalf of another. In the Old Testament we catch a glimpse of what a champion looked like in the ancient oriental tradition in the military engagement between David and Goliath when in I Samuel 17:4 it describes Goliath when entering the field of combat, “And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath.” The description is Goliath is a champion in which in this verse it literally means, “the man of the valley separating the two armies.” In verse fifty-one of this same chapter the word champion is the rendering of the Hebrew word ‘gibbor’ which translates “Mighty man.” It was the custom of ancient world that armies that were opposing each other in the field of combat would choose a champion who would face one another representing their nation. The loser would either retreat or the whole army or nation would be taken into slavery. The consequences were huge for the winner and the loser of this contest to the death.
A Dread Warrior:
Another title that is used of one who is a champion is a Dread Warrior. In the book of Jeremiah 20:1-11, the prophet declares:
“For I hear many whispering.
Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
say all my close friends,
watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we can overcome him
and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.”
Jeremiah had, on one level, a fairly miserable existence. There’s a reason he’s known as the ‘weeping prophet’, and it’s not because he struggled to grow up. His life was hard. He was chosen by God, before he was even born, to fulfill the duties of a prophet to the nations, a job description that not only came with great honor, but great suffering. On top of this, God sent him on this mission when he was ‘only a youth’ (verse 6). Needless to say, the message of ‘repent’ didn’t go over so well with his hearers, and he was repeatedly persecuted, imprisoned, thrown in pits, and the like. Oh, and everyone, including his ‘friends’ hated him.
In one of Jeremiah’s most open moments before the LORD, he voiced his frustration and despair. He literally said that he wished he was never born, for all he seemed to experience in life was ‘toil, sorrow, and shame’. Every time he opened his mouth for God, bad things happened. But yet, he’s conflicted, because God’s word was ‘burning’ from being shut up in his heart. He grew ‘weary’ from holding it in, and in the end, could not.
Where is the hope?
Jeremiah said, “But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior. Therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me.” (v. 10)
The LORD is a ‘dread warrior’. That’s sounds pretty legit, but what does that even mean? Jeremiah wasn’t overly enthusiastic when he said this. He wasn’t unrealistic, and he wasn’t speaking rhetorically. He was simply stating something true and glorious about our God.
Some translations say, ‘mighty warrior’. The Hebrew word for ‘dread’ literally means ‘to terrify’ (as a tyrant). This is the only case where the word is used to describe the LORD, and is usually used to describe his enemies. This is significant. There is a huge difference between a warrior who is ‘mighty’ and a warrior who is ‘terrifying’. The word ‘Mighty’ usually has to do with power, and “that ability to do things by virtue of strength, skill, resources, or authorization.” A ‘mighty warrior’ is a warrior who is powerful, and able to do basically what they want because of that power. While this is absolutely true of God, this is different than a warrior who is terrifying. A terrifying warrior is not just one who is ABLE to defeat his enemy, but one who is terrifying to them. His enemies dread him. They don’t just look at him and see someone who is bigger and stronger, but one who is absolutely terrifying.
New Testament the Good News:
In the New Testament Jesus Christ is our Dread Warrior because he took the Cross as our champion so that we could be free. He did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. Yes, the LORD is a dread warrior. His name is Jesus. He is our terrifying hero. Jesus Christ as our Dread Warrior is both Terrifying to his enemies and a hero to his friends. He can be counted on to deliver those he loves in glorious fashion from their oppressors. Not only that though. He is also merciful to his enemies and those who warrant his terror. In his grace, he came to the middle of the battlefield and paid the price for our rebellion. He died our death. In rising, he conquered our enemies, our sin, and our rebellion. Through faith, our dread warrior God no longer stands across from us, but beside us. His battle scars testify to his love.
A Model for us today Paul and Timothy:
The passage that I begin this blog article with the Apostle Paul is reminding Timothy this young Pastor who is struggling with a church that has both Jews and Gentiles in conflict with his leadership. The Apostle Paul with the wisdom of a spiritual father reminds Timothy of the Champions that have been in his life in his grandmother, Lois, and then his mother Eunice. Paul understood that Timothy would not only be inspired by this but he would grasp that the same faith they lived was also in him.
In our current context we do not simply need the Church to equip and inspire people to become better fathers and mother’s but instead we as the Church need to as leaders equip and inspire fathers and mothers who live as champions for their children. We do not need men and women who will become better coaches and teachers but rather we need men and women who as coaches and teachers are Champions for those they serve. Paul was effective as a Champion to Timothy because he lived like one before Timothy. Paul embodied the message in his lifestyle.
Characteristics of a Champion:
I think there are five key habits of a Champion. I will list them individually in this article and in future articles define them more in depth. They are:
1. First, a champion grasps their significance in whatever role they function.
2. Second, a champion acts intentionally.
3. Third, a champion develops a relational network that resources
him or her in their personal growth.
4. Fourth, a champion both communicates and models
life skills and principles.
5. Fifth, a champion maximizes their moments.
Passing the Jersey:
There is a tradition that is practiced at Notre Dame that models this whole notion of being a Champion. Every year prior to the next football season a chapel service is done in which all the football players and their families are invited too. It is the “Passing of the Jersey!” On a big screen each player is called up to receive their Football Jersey and on a big screen the names and the pictures of all the players who in Notre dame Football history wore that Jersey is presented. “What would it feel like to receive the jersey of a Joe Montana or even a Rudy Ruettiger?” Each player after receiving their jersey then take the right hand of the chaplain who looks in the eyes of each player saying, “Play like a champion remembering those who will follow you.” It’s not just the coaching that has made Notre Dame a consistent winner on the football field it is that each player is reminded that they will leave a legacy.
THE STAKES ARE HIGH! We have more apathy in the life of those who are in roles of influence as well as in a generation that have experienced their family systems disintegrate. Often times there are young men and women who cannot fight for themselves and the risk is we could possibly see generations go into slavery in forms of addictions and even in some cases suicide.
THE ANSWER IS WE NEED CHAMPIONS who have the character to boldly model the message in their lifestyle and not just TALK ABOUT IT WITH THEIR LIPS!
WILL YOU CONSIDER BEING A CHAMPION?
“English Standard Version (Esv).” Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers., http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=I%20Sam.%2017:4&version=ESV.
“Holman Christian Standard Bible (Hcsb).” Holman Bible Publishers, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%201:3-5&version=HCSB.
Kloosterman, Alex. “Jesus: Our Dread Warrior Savior.” In Gospel Preachers, 2007.
 “Holman Christian Standard Bible (Hcsb),” Holman Bible Publishers, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%201:3-5&version=HCSB.
 “English Standard Version (Esv),” Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers., http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=I%20Sam.%2017:4&version=ESV.
 Alex Kloosterman to Gospel Preachers, 2007, http://gospelpreachers.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/jesus-our-dread-warrior-savior/.
 Ibid. p 2.