FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Heroes Among Us, Part 1

with Drew Ryun, Jim Ryun, Ned Ryun | July 5, 2006
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Do you have what it takes to be a hero? Find out on today’s broadcast when Jim Ryun, Republican Congressman from Kansas, and his sons, Drew and Ned, highlight some of the people who lived by their principles and changed the course of history.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Do you have what it takes to be a hero? Find out on today’s broadcast when Jim Ryun, Republican Congressman from Kansas, and his sons, Drew and Ned, highlight some of the people who lived by their principles and changed the course of history.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Jim Ryun and his sons highlight some of the people who lived by their principles and changed the course of history.

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Heroes Among Us, Part 1

With Drew Ryun, Jim Ryun, Ned Ryu...more
July 05, 2006
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Bob: Sometimes it takes great courage and great heroism to live out your faith in the public square.  Here is Jim Ryun.

Jim: One of the heroes that I really like is William Wilberforce.  He was a Unitarian.  Then he became a Christian, and the question was raised in his mind, "Now that I'm a Christian, should I step aside from being involved in politics?"  But, fortunately, John Newton, who was formerly a slave trader, approached him and said, "Where will the moral voice of government be if you step aside from what you're doing?"  And ultimately he led to the ending of slavery in the British Empire.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We want to introduce you today to some real heroes to see if you know what a real hero looks like.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  I could be wrong. 

Dennis: Yeah, you could.

Bob: There is a possibility of that.  I have a hypothesis here that I'm going to test out, and if I'm right, then this is a FamilyLife Today first.  Do you ever see the old show, "What's My Line?"

Dennis: Uh-huh.

Bob: Okay, well, I want to do this with one of our guests here, all right, and we'll find out if my hypothesis is correct, all right?  Our mystery guest here, Mr. Guest, would you say hello to the audience?

Jim: Good morning.

Bob: All right.  Mystery Guest, is your picture or has your picture ever been on a box of Wheaties?

Jim: No.

Bob: I think that's an injustice, just to start off with.  Mr. Guest, do we need to call the General Mills Corporation and correct this injustice?  I think we do.

Jim: Yes.  Knowing what I know, I think we should.

Bob: That's right.  You hold a record – has you record since been broken?

Jim: It has been.

Bob: It has.  But when you set it, you were the first ever to set this record, is that correct?

Jim: The first high school boy to run under four minutes.

Bob: Run under four minutes in …

Dennis: I hear several bells ringing right now.

Bob: Yeah, everybody knows that.

Dennis: Well, not everybody, but there are a number of our listeners …

Bob: Who know that.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: What year did you do that?

Jim: I did that back in 1964.

Bob: 1964 – and could you believe it the day you did it?

Jim: No, in fact, it took a long time – well, I shouldn't say a long time, but the realization of it happening helped me with what was going to happen for the future, but it took some time to sink in.

Bob: Well, anybody who doesn't know by now, our guest on the program today is the first high school boy to ever run the mile in under four minutes, and I can't believe you didn't make the Wheaties box.

Jim: Well, I am a little disappointed, too, now that you've made such a big deal of it.  Maybe we should go back and make a correction.

Bob: I'm going to work on that.

Dennis: Well, I want to tell you, both Bob and I ran the quarter mile in high school, and …

Bob: Under a minute – under a minute in a quarter of a mile.

Dennis: Yeah, both of us could run under a minute, and we could hang with you in running the mile for the first quarter, but after that we would be off to the side gasping.

Bob: Did you go on in high school?  We should say this is Jim Ryun who joins us in the studio today.  Welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Jim: Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here.

Bob: And in addition to Jim Ryun, we also have the two Ryun boys with us.

Dennis: Sons – men.

Bob: Yes, Drew and Ned, who were also milers in high school, right?

Drew: Yes.

Bob: Did your pictures ever make it on a Wheaties box?

Drew: No, I think that when we did that did mention his dad was on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" seven times.

Bob: Oh, well, see, Wheaties [gives the raspberry].  How's that, huh?

Dennis: I think I would take "Sport Illustrated" over Wheaties.

Bob: Absolutely.

Dennis: Well, Jim Ryun went on not only to be a three-time Olympian runner, but he also has gone on to be a congressman from the 2nd District in Kansas where the wind never stops blowing out there.  I mean, the trees grow south.

Bob: Bent over, that's right.

Dennis: That's exactly right.  He and his wife, Ann, have lived in Kansas all their lives and have four children, and they have written a book called "Heroes Among Us."  When I read your book I couldn't help but think of Hebrews, chapter 11, and it's kind of the hall of faith.  It's where those who walk by faith are listed.  But there is a group of people at the end that aren't named who are real heroes, and you guys are all nodding your heads, you know what I'm talking about.  The author says, "Women receive their dead raised to life again, others were tortured not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection, still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins being destitute, afflicted, tormented" – and this is the phrase – "of whom the world was not worthy." 

 You know, I think you've written a book that lists a number of men and women who are well known – saints, politicians, leaders who have been heroic in their lives.  I think, as believers, we are all called to be heroes and, Jim, that really was what motivated you to write this book, wasn't it?

Jim: It was, Dennis, and if you think of that particular chapter and some of the names that we have in our book, some of the individuals, you know, they were self-sacrificing.  They were individuals who were willing to put their life on the line to help perhaps those that are weaker.  Part of the motivation for writing this book is that as I traveled around the 2nd District and then around the country, I kept hearing the association of hero were people who were maybe fast of foot or could dribble a basketball or made a lot of money, but we wanted to go back and define more clearly what a hero was and give some stories that might inspire others to strive for a higher legacy.

Bob: You actually were looking for a hero to emulate when you were a little boy, and you were looking for somebody who was fast of foot, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, right?

Dennis: And he actually concocted a drink to make him superman.

Jim: That's right, and, you know, that true for all of us to a certain extent.  We're looking for someone as a role model, and who we put in front of us as a role model doesn't dictate but often does tell what your future is going to be in the sense if you don't have a very good role model or a hero, you don't set your sights very high.

Bob: Mm-hm.  What was in that drink, do you remember?

Jim: Dill pickle juice, Tabasco sauce, Coke, milk – I mean, everything I could find in my mom's refrigerator, took a drink of that stuff, walked out in the backyard hoping to fly, and, as you now know, it didn't happen.

Bob: It must have made you fast.  I'm just thinking if we can get the recipe we can maybe make future milers, you know?  Dill pickle juice, Tabasco – okay.

Dennis: Ned, Drew, did either one of you guys concoct a drink like that when you were little guys?

Drew: No, we didn't.  I think we just discovered what we were missing.

Ned: I think that recipe is probably locked away somewhere.

Dennis: You think it is?

Bob: But the truth is, all of us grow up looking for a hero to follow, don't we?

Jim: We really do, and I think it's being truthful with ourselves that causes us to understand that not only are we looking but where do we look for those heroes. 

Dennis: And, you know, that has to beg the question, and let's not assume we all know the answer to this – Jim, how would you define a true hero?

Jim: Well, in a sense, it's someone who is self-sacrificing, who is willing to help the weak, who is willing to put their life on the line for a cause greater than themselves.  It's a simple term, a simple way of describing it, but each one of the stories that we tell does that in some way or another.  It simply says there is a cause bigger than themselves.

Dennis: With that as a definition, Ned, who is your hero?

Ned: I have several.  I mean, obviously, my dad is one of my heroes, and Eric Little, the runner, is another hero.

Bob: How about you, Drew?

Drew: Well, I'd have to think it's actually somebody from the book, and we'll talk about him later, but it's Dr. Joseph Warren, a very successful physician who put his life on the line when he didn't have to.

Bob: Let me ask you about him, because a lot of the names in this book were unfamiliar to me, and I'm guessing that as all three of you got involved in the research for the book, you wanted to elevate some unfamiliar names and help us see that some of the – like Dennis read in Hebrews 11, there are those whose names we don't know who have done heroic things.  Tell us about Dr. Warren and his story.

Drew: Well, first of all, I think, I mean, heroes are the fabric of every nation and I think we, as Americans, have been blessed with a lot of great heroes many of whom we don't know about.  Warren was a pre-Revolutionary War doctor, 1765, the Stamp Act is enacted by the British upon the American Colonies, and that kind of begins his political thought process of "this is an unjust act."  He sits down, and he writes a letter to the editor of The Boston Gazette, it is published, and quite rapidly be becomes the voice and the pen of the Sons of Liberty.

 Then he goes on, and he is chosen as the speaker to give the commemorative speeches for the Boston Massacre.

Dennis: I think that's important because as we talk about heroic acts, many times it is in the face of life and death, and for Dr. Joseph Warren, for him to be the lightning rod, the leader, he stepped forward in a cause that could have cost him his life.

Drew: Oh, very much so, and, in fact, it did.  You know, he was elected the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress.  He was commissioned as one of the generals.  He went to the Battle of Bunker Hill, even though he had voted against sending troops up there.  He said that the time is not now, we do not have enough men or ammunition to beat the British at this point.  Well, he was outvoted, and so after being outvoted, he turned to the Provincial Congress, he said, "Even though you have outvoted me, I will not send another man to fight my battles."  So he goes, even though he had been ill the day before, still suffering from that illness, he borrows a friend's musket, goes to the top of the hill – he had been commissioned a general.  The men who were commanding up there, Putnam and Prescott, asked him "What are your orders?"  He says "I am not here to give orders, I am here to take orders and fight with the other men."  It is he who is covering the American retreat as the British finally pushed the Americans off Bunker Hill, actually Breed's Hill, and he is killed at that point.

 The speeches that he gave still ring true today.  In the last public speech that he gave, he said, "You are to decide the important questions upon which rest the liberty and happiness of millions yet to be born.  Act worthy of yourselves."

Dennis: Wow.  One of the things we prayed before we began the broadcast here today was we prayed that these programs about heroes would not just be a warm memory of those in the past but would call men and women, for that matter, boys and girls, to step forward in their battle and to be men and women who do what's right and do the heroic thing in what God has called them to do.

Jim: Dennis, you make one of the points that was the reason for writing this book, is to raise that challenge and to give people a vision and a hope and a look to the future and then, Bob, you make a point.  You didn't know some of these names.  That was part of the intent.  We wanted to get people thinking you don't have to be a George Washington, you don't have to be an Abraham Lincoln.  We chose, in a sense, if you will, second-tier heroes that people could more perhaps closely identify with who were willing to, when that time came, make the wise and the right decision.

Bob: You know, I grew up in an age in the midst of the Vietnam War when those who were fighting for their country were not immediately recognized as heroes.  In fact, they would come home from the war and rather than receiving a hero's welcome – you remember.

Jim: I remember that very well.  It was one of those times – it was a downer time, so to speak, in our country when those who truly sacrificed were not recognized.

Bob: Right.  In the last decade, though, I think we've had a turnaround in that.  And not only with the current generation of those who are fighting to protect our country, but I have looked back with a fresh appreciation.  Maybe it's been the fact that I went to Antietam a few years ago and walked on this battlefield and saw where these men fought in the midst of the Civil War.  Maybe it's some of the movies I've seen where you watch men who wake up one morning knowing that they are likely marching into death, and they go out to nobly do their duty.

Jim: You give me an opportunity to say that one of the heroes in the book that I really like is William Wilberforce.  And part of the reason, as we did the research and the story has been told, and I can identify with him is that he was a part of the British Parliament, he was a Unitarian, then he became a Christian, and the question was raised in his mind, "Now that I'm a Christian, should I step aside from being involved in politics?"  But, fortunately, John Newton, who was formerly a slave trader, approached him and said, "Where will the moral voice of government be if you step aside from what you're doing?"  And ultimately he led to the ending of slavery in the British Empire.

 But it caused me to say, you know, where God has planted you, let that voice ring wherever it might be, give that challenge.

Dennis: Yes.  You know, I think sometimes when we talk about heroes, we tend to want to put people in the ministry who are missionaries or who are "on the spiritual frontlines," who give their lives for their faith, and we want to hold them up as though that calling is a more significant calling than being a politician and a Christian, or a businessman and Christian, or a businesswoman and one who is a believer.

Bob: In the case of Wilberforce, he was involved in politics, Ned, before he came to faith, right?

Ned: He was.  He got involved when he was 21 in politics, was elected for the first time, and it wasn't until about four or five years later that he became a Christian.  But eventually he became surrounded by a group called the Clapham Circle, and he and his friend, Henry Thornton, came together in the village of Clapham with two aims – one was for greater devotion to Christ, to encourage each other in that, and also to encourage each other in the political realm.  And in this Clapham Circle were very talented individuals – businessmen, politicians, playwrights.  I don't believe any of them were ministers, but their sole aim was for a moral voice in government, in the business world, in the arts, and to go from there.

Bob: Well, and I know men, you know men, who coming to faith in Christ in the midst of their profession wonder, "If I really want to serve the Lord, do I need to get involved in full-time ministry," and men like Wilberforce show us that you can have full-time ministry in whatever your vocation is, right?

Ned: I think at one point he wrote, Wilberforce wrote his good friend, Prime Minister William Pitt and said, "I believe" – this is after he'd come to Christ – "that I must step out of politics because of my faith."  And Pitt wrote him back and said, "Surely the principles as well as the practice of Christianity are simple and lead not to meditation only but to action."  And he said, "You cannot leave politics."

Dennis: I had a conversation with a businessman yesterday who was questioning the very thing, Bob, you were just talking about.  You know, "Man, am I in the right place?"  And whether you're a man or a woman, whether you're at home raising the next generation or whether you're in a tall office building in Chicago, you need to be in the midst of what God has called all of us to be a part of, which is the Great Commission.  And Wilberforce was involved in the Great Commission when he did battle.

 In fact, Jim, I want you to go ahead and tell the story of Wilberforce, because many of our listeners have never heard it.  He failed repeatedly to free the slaves.

Jim: And it took many, many years – in fact, it was only on his deathbed that that actually happened.  I will make a point that you've been making, Dennis, and that is it's easy for us to think that when we get that conviction that we have a particular function that God wants us to fulfill that we need to leave where we are when, in fact, that's why God has called us…

Dennis: Exactly.

Jim: … for that particular position.  And I mentioned earlier, John Newton, he said this to Wilberforce, as well, he said, "The Lord has raised you up for the good of the church and the good of the nation."  And then, of course, then he gave that challenge, "Don't leave where you are."  Wilberforce remained committed to the parliament, ultimately, through that process was able to bring an end to slavery.  It took years, and it was one of those things that he had to really be very dedicated to.

Ned: If I could bring up a point, I think one aspect of these heroes is the perseverance and determination in doing right.

Dennis: Oh, yeah.

Ned: It took Wilberforce, he began his battle against slavery in 1787.  He wrote in his journal, "God Almighty has set before two great goals – the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners."  That's 1787.  It took him 20 years to get the slave trade abolished.  That was not the abolition of slavery – that took another 20-some years.  The rest of his life was spent fighting the slave trade.  When he was on his deathbed, they finally abolished the slave trade in the British Empire.

Dennis: Yeah, the vote came through just as he was dying, and he was informed he had won.

Jim: There is a wonderful correlation here I'd like to make, if I may, and that is it was not popular to want to bring an end to slavery.  He was not doing the popular thing.  It was a very profitable thing, and if you think about what happens today, you know, you do what God has called you to do not necessarily what is comfortable or what is popular, and Wilberforce had to battle for years to make that change.

Bob: You said there were two things he was committed to – the abolition of slavery and the reformation of manners.  That still hasn't happened, right, the reformation of manners?

Ned: Well, he realized that if he was going to abolish the slave trade that he had to have a change of heart in the people of England, and people's hearts needed to be changed before they would even consider abolishing slavery, and I think that's a very interesting approach to it, and I think it's a very good one.

Dennis: And, you know, I just want to say here, in our national dialog and debate as the Christian community talks about how to change our nation, that change must begin in the heart.  It must start with the Gospel.  We have been commissioned by God to proclaim the Gospel not just to America but to the world.  But we cannot end there.  Each of us has a responsibility, I believe, not only to proclaim the Gospel but, I believe, at some level, whether it's raising the next generation to be change agents in the culture, or to go forth as you are, Jim, into the halls of Congress, and be a light in the midst of darkness.

 It's not one or the other, it's both, and it is both preaching the Gospel and also being agents, as you guys just shared, agents of spiritual change, and, you know, I wish, Bob, at points we would lay down our swords about making it one or the other.  The Gospel was given to us to redeem men and get them out of hell and put them into heaven, and after that heaven was to be lived out in their souls in such a way that they would make a difference in the culture.

Bob: Well, you introduce men to the king, and they come into the kingdom, and then the kingdom of God is manifest in the earth has been live out kingdom priorities, and that's really what we're talking about here, and that's what's in the book, "Heroes Among Us."  It's a book full of men and women who understood life from a kingdom perspective and who lived their lives with that in the forefront.

 I've thought of this book often as a book that dads can read to their sons and their daughters.

Dennis: Absolutely.

Bob: As a part of family devotions to stir up some of that heroism in the soul of their children.

Dennis: In fact, I was thinking, Jim, are you going to give a copy of this book to every congressman and senator in Washington, D.C.?

Jim: I'll do my very best.

Dennis: I think you need to do that, I really do.  I think these are days that we need strong, spiritual, and moral leadership for our nation.

Bob: And I'm thinking about the future congressmen and senators who moms and dads are raising right now.  This is a great book for Dad to sit down at dinner and read a chapter to the whole family – bedtime reading for the boys or for the girls.  It's a great book that reminds us of the heart of a hero, the character and the courage that is a part of real heroism.  We've got copies of this book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Again, the title is "Heroes Among Us," and if you'd like to order a copy so that you can read this for family devotions or read it at bedtime with your children or just read it yourself – these are fascinating stories for any age.

 Contact us – 1-800-FLTODAY, or go online at  If you go to the website, in the middle of the home page you'll see a button that says "Go," a big red button.  If you click on that button, it will take you right to a page where you can get more information about the book by the Ryuns and other resources we have here at FamilyLife.  In fact, as we were thinking about heroism, one of the names that came to mind for us was Todd Beamer, who was one of the passengers on United Flight 93.  I don't know how many of our listeners just saw the movie that was out in theaters or are going to get the DVD and watch it, but Todd's wife Lisa wrote a book called "Let's Roll," that tells the story of an ordinary person who showed extraordinary courage, and that story is worth reading and reminding ourselves of as well.

 Go to our website,, click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen.  There is information there about both of these books, and if you're interested in ordering both of them together, we can send you at no additional cost the CD of our conversation this week with Ned and Drew and Jim Ryun.  Again, the website is, the toll-free number, if you prefer to call, is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll be happy to get these resources out to you.

 You know, there are some folks who listen regularly to FamilyLife Today, and you may not think of yourself as a hero, but those of you who help support our program, we really do see you as partners in making this radio program available not just for you and your family but for your community, and, in that sense, you're pitching in and making a difference I the lives of people around you, and that's one of the marks of heroism that we've talked about today.

 We want to thank you for your support in the past, for helping to make today's program possible, and we want to encourage those of you who are regular listeners, if you've never made a donation to FamilyLife Today, we would love to hear from you.  We'd love to have you joint that team that helps make this program possible in your community.  You can do that by donating online at or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY.  When you make a donation of any amount this week, we'd love to send you as a thank you gift a CD that features an hour's worth of conversation with author Elyse Fitzpatrick.  She wrote a book called "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat," which is a biblical look at food and diets and eating and eating disorders, things like that.  We had a very provocative conversation.  That is available on CD, and we'd love to send it to you as our way of saying thank you for a donation of any amount this month to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 If you're donating online, when you get to the keycode box, just type the word "eat" into the box, and we'll know to send the CD to you.  Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, mention you'd like the CD about eating and, again, we'll get it sent out to you, and we appreciate your financial support.

 Tomorrow we're going to be back with our guest, Jim Ryun, and his sons, Drew and Ned, and we're going to hear about a couple more heroes, folks like Peter Muhlenberg and Dr. Henry VanDyke.  They may be unfamiliar names, but it's uncommon courage that we'll hear about tomorrow, and I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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