FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Heroes Among Us, Part 2

with Drew Ryun, Jim Ryun, Ned Ryun | July 6, 2006
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Is a person born a hero, or is a hero made? On today's broadcast, former Olympian Jim Ryun, a Republican Congressman from Kansas, along with his sons, Drew and Ned, talks about what it takes to be a hero and some of the people in history who were up for the challenge.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Is a person born a hero, or is a hero made? On today's broadcast, former Olympian Jim Ryun, a Republican Congressman from Kansas, along with his sons, Drew and Ned, talks about what it takes to be a hero and some of the people in history who were up for the challenge.

  • 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 talks about what it takes to be a hero and some of the people in history who were up for the challenge.

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Heroes Among Us, Part 2

With Drew Ryun, Jim Ryun, Ned Ryu...more
July 06, 2006
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Bob: When you begin to examine heroes throughout history, you find some common characteristics, some character qualities that define them.  Here is Ned Ryun.

Ned: Well, I think the thing we've noticed, too, about these heroes is that they weren't led by feelings, they were led by character.  If we're led by feelings, doing the right thing doesn't always feel good.  I mean, these guys, a lot of them knew that they would be facing death or physical harm, rejection.  They weren't doing what felt good, they were doing what was right, and doing the right thing is sometimes, in the immediate, a hard decision.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 6th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Are you helping cultivate the character qualities of real heroism in your children?  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.

Dennis: Bob, I found out something about our guest.  He's a big Bible trivia man.

Bob: Oh, is that right?

Dennis: That's right.  I found out that about him, and I know that you are, too.  So I'm going to see which of you knows the answer to this question – it's very simple Bible trivia.

Bob: Do you want to introduce the guest first? 

Dennis: No, no, we'll take care of that in just a moment.  We just want to find out if our guest really is any good at Bible trivia.

Bob: It's you against me, are you ready?

Jim: I'm not sure.

Dennis: All right, Jim, you have the first chance at this question.

Bob: What does he get the first chance?

Dennis: Just relax, Bob, just relax.  Who is the wife of Jabez?

Jim: You know what?  Bob, all defer to you for that one.


 I'll give you that first chance.

Bob: Thank you, thank you very much.

Dennis: And, Bob, the answer is?

Bob: The Bible doesn't tell us.

Dennis: That's right.


Bob: Yeah.  All I knew is that there is, like one verse about Jabez in the whole Bible.  His wife's name in that verse, unless her name is "enlarge my territory" or something.

Dennis: Or Darlene Wilkinson.

Bob: Well, yeah, that could be it.

Dennis: Yeah, really, Bruce Wilkinson's wife.  Well, our guest on FamilyLife Today – well, we have three men with us – Jim Ryun and his two sons, Ned and Drew.  Men, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Ned: Thank you.

Drew: Great to be here.

Dennis: Jim Ryun is a congressman from the 2nd District of Kansas.  He is a former Olympic runner.  In fact, we talked about this yesterday, probably talked about it too long.

Bob: All of us were runners, you know?  Everybody in the studio today was a track star.

Dennis: Bob, Bob, do not put us in the class with this family.

Bob: Oh, you don't think?

Dennis: They've got state champions, Bob.  Were you the state champion of Missouri?

Bob: No, I wasn't.  Did you guys run the 440?

Jim: I did, actually, I was [unintelligible] of the mile relay.

Dennis: And how fast?

Jim: Forty-nine.

Bob: Oh, man, okay.

Jim: But maybe I could give you some encouragement, men.  I used to run four-minute miles, now it's four-minute half-miles, so I've slowed down considerably.  We could go for a jog together.

Bob: Well, as you can see by looking, my running days are long past, right?

Dennis: They really are.  Well, I'll tell you something that's not past any of us, and that's the need today for us to be heroes.  And Jim and his sons have written a book called "Heroes Among Us," and, I'll tell you what, when I saw this, and you sent me the book in your transcript form – it weighed about 18 pounds.  The book is really not that big, but when you put it double-spaced just on a single sheet of paper, it was about two-and-a-half inches thick.  I had to tell you, Jim, I was thrilled that you had written this book, because I believe the subject of dialoging and discussing heroism among men and women needs to become a part of the Christian community's dialog, because these are days that are tremendously needy from a spiritual standpoint; days that need us to step into the battle and take a stand for Jesus Christ, don't you agree?

Jim: Oh, I totally agree, and what we need to do is raise that level of expectation by giving role models and heroes that people can emulate that will give them that hope and that vision for the future.

Bob: Now, you wrote this book with your boys, and I'm going to find out here the real story – who did the work on this book, huh?

Jim: Well, I had the inspiration.


Ned: Let's put it this way – the summer of 2000 my dad came back to us, Drew and I were still living in Lawrence, Kansas, and he said, "Guys, I've got this great idea.  I think we should write a book on heroes.  I give tours of the U.S. Capitol, and one of my favorite statues in Statuary Hall is Peter Muhlenberg.  I love telling his story, and I think more people need to hear it."  So he said, "Why don't we get Peter Muhlenberg and men and women like him and tell their stories in a book."

Bob: And so you went to work then at that point with your master's thesis, or your doctoral thesis here in history, coming up with these heroes.  Drew, tell us about the statue of Peter Muhlenberg.  That's a name most of us haven't heard.

Drew: Well, Peter Muhlenberg – it was interesting that we're talking about this.  So many people have created a dichotomy between the ministry and the political realm.  He was part of the Virginia Assembly before the American Revolution – 1775, he is sitting in the Virginia Assembly, and this little fiery red-headed man stands up and gives the famous, "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, and it's Patrick Henry.  Sitting there in the assembly, Peter Muhlenberg realizes that God has a call in his life, and that he is to be involved in the upcoming war, but as a chaplain or a soldier, he himself does not know.

 Well, the answer comes January 21st of 1776, and as he preaches in front of his church from Ecclesiastes 3 he ends his sermon with "There is a time for a war, and there is a time for peace, and the time for war has now come."  And he throws off his clerical robes and underneath is the uniform of a colonel in the Continental Army.

Bob: Oh, yeah!

Drew: He leads his congregation in the singing of "A Mighty Fortress is our God," he walks to the back of the church, turns around, and he says, "Who among you is with me?"  It is recorded that almost 300 men from his congregation joined him.  He went on to become one of Washington's most trusted generals.  In fact, as we neared the Battle of Yorktown, he was given control of Washington's own, and it was 1,100 light infantry of the Continental Forces, and he himself was given command of the final attack on Readout 10, which was the final readout to fall at Yorktown.

Drew: Now, the reason he is one of my heroes is, again, because of his involvement in the political arena and his willingness to make a difference.  He challenged his brother, Frederick, who was a pastor in Upstate New York to get involved.  His brother Frederick wrote back and said, "You know, pastors don't belong in this process.  They need to be in the pulpit and nowhere else."  Well, Peter challenged his brother saying, "You know, the British know that if they can discourage the pastors, they can discourage the people."  His church was eventually desecrated.  He joined his brother.  Together, they fought in the war and eventually Frederick became the very first Speaker of the House of Representatives.  So they had a great impact not only in terms of what they spoke to the people but what they did in influencing what happened in this country.

Drew: Well, and I think one of the great letters, there was a great exchange of letters between Frederick and Peter, and what happens is Frederick said, "You, as a minister, have no business becoming involved in this," and Peter fired back to him, he said, "It is true that I am a minister, but it is also true that I am a member of this society, and it is my duty to God, and it is my duty to my nation to become involved," and I think that is just a great recognition on Peter's part that he is a member of society, and he owes allegiance to God and his country.

Bob: We said this yesterday, but there are men and women in all aspects of society whose allegiance is, first and foremost, to a higher kingdom and to a higher king, but in that context of that allegiance to the higher kingdom and the higher king, we must live as – well, the Bible says we must live as ambassadors in this foreign land, and the ambassador has to represent that kingdom in every aspect of the land in which he lives, whether it's business, whether it's politics, whether it's pastoring churches.  All of those are legitimate professions that need godly men and women living out their faith in the midst of them.

Jim: That's true.  In fact, I want to have a little fun with this, Bob.  I know, before you were concerned that Dennis gave me the advantage on a quiz, so I will now give you a quote and see if you can tell me who actually said this.

Bob: Thank you.

Jim: "Only through the belief that the strong are bound to protect and save the weak because God wills it so can we hope to keep self-sacrifice, love, and heroism and all the things that make us glad to live and not afraid to die."  It was a challenge – the person who said that was …

Bob: It was Jim Ryun.

Jim: It was Dr. Henry VanDyke, and he actually said that just after a few days after the sinking of the "Titanic."

Dennis: You know, as you were talking about how there were those who wanted to rob the pastors of their courage and discourage them, I think there is an enemy today who is attempting to discourage men and women who represent Jesus Christ.  Not merely those in the pulpit, although He is aiming there.  But also the layman and woman in the pew who are to be heroic and to do great and mighty deeds for Jesus Christ.

 Change in a nation can't merely come about from the pulpit.  It has to come about when individual men and women, boys and girls, step forward in small acts that may, at the time, look like they're not that much.  I recently read Lisa Beamer's book about the Flight 93 and her husband, Todd, who said, "Let's roll," and I was thinking, you know, could Todd imagine that his wife would be honored in front of the president of the United States national television around the world because of his act of heroism on behalf of his country? 

I just think these are days when all of us need to perform the act that God has put before us today and for some – I'm sorry to move to an application so early here on the broadcast, Bob, but I couldn't help but think that this may be the action point for some as we talk about being a hero.  For some it may mean keeping your covenant, your marriage covenant.  For others it may mean hanging in there with a teenager who doesn't love you, or a family member, perhaps a parent, who is unlovable.  That could be a single, great heroic act that heaven applauds.

Jim: If you'd look at the individuals involved, and you make an application to your own life, when difficulty came, and they were squeezed, the character of Christ came out, and so I know in my own personal life what that entails is, every day, having a quiet time, making sure I spent time with the Lord.  If it hadn't been for someone acting out the Fifth Gospel, so to speak, acting out their life before Ann and before me, you know, we were churched at the time but because someone was willing to say, you know, "By the way, there's more than just going to church.  There's a relationship with Christ," and because they did that, ultimately Ann and I met the Lord May 18, 1972.  But that was a small act, but it was like throwing a rock in the pond – the ripple effects – how that has impacted not only our lives but our children's lives and other's lives because they were willing to make a difference.

Ned: Well, I think the thing we've noticed, too, about these heroes is that they weren't led by feelings, they were led by character.  If we're led by feelings, doing the right thing doesn't always feel good.  I mean, these guys, a lot of them knew that they would be facing death or physical harm, rejection.  They weren't doing what felt good, they were doing what was right, and doing the right thing is sometimes, in the immediate, a hard decision.

Drew: Well, that was just something we were actually talking about just yesterday, and the amazing thing is Dad said a lot of these people did not wake up one morning and say "You know what?  I'm going to go out and be hero."  You know, it's the little decisions that they made in their everyday lives that prepared them for the extraordinary deeds that they did that defined them for who they are.

Dennis: And what you're really defining is character.

Drew: Exactly.

Dennis: And I want our listeners to make sure they don't miss that, because that businessman who may be facing that temptation at work or maybe it's a temptation at home at night after his wife's in bed looking at the Internet, or that wife who may be tempted perhaps with the opposite sex or tempted to give up on her husband spiritually because he hasn't come around.  I mean, it's amazing what can be on the line in a very, very small decision.

Ned: Well, the thing that we deal with in the introduction is that men and women become who they are built upon one small decision, and we deal with a quote by Aristotle that "men become just by performing just actions; brave by performing brave actions, and it's the little decisions, one upon the other, that make the man."

Bob: At one level, all of us are involved today in hero training.  The decisions we make today …

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: … will determine whether we respond with character.

Jim: And that was one of the goals.  Dennis mentioned earlier about reading these stories to your children.  We wanted the stories to be brief enough that they could be read at a bedtime so that they might give them some sort of direction and purpose.  At the same time, enough adult interest that they would have challenges there for everyone that would have an interest in reading.

Dennis: We've talked a great deal about men who were heroes.  What's your favorite woman, Ned, in this book that you've highlighted as a hero?

Ned: Angelina Grimke – she was an abolitionist in the 1830s.  Actually, she was originally from South Carolina from a very wealthy slave-holding family, and she couldn't come to grips with the fact that Christians were holding other men and women in bondage, and she eventually left South Carolina, Charleston, went North, and about five years later became involved in the abolition movement.  In fact, she became one of the great spokespersons for the abolition movement in the 1830s.

Bob: That's kind of early on in the process, because we don't hear much about the abolition movement until the 1850s, right?

Ned: She was part of one of the original abolitionists in the 1830s.  It was a very despised movement, it was not popular at all.

Bob: It's parallel to when Wilberforce – we talked about him yesterday – but in England he was trying to outlaw slavery.  Here in the United States, yet, that hadn't caught on.  I think one of the things you point out in your book is that it's characteristic of a hero to stand countercultural, to stand for what's right even if the rest of the culture is saying, "You're wrong."

Ned: Well, even – she had to turn her back on her family to a certain extent.  The rest of her family, besides her sister Sarah, held slaves through the rest of their lives, did not accept Angelina's views on slavery.  The interesting thing about Angelina is she is the first woman to speak before a legislative body here in the United States.  In 1837 she spoke before the legislature of Massachusetts upon the slave issue, and she was terrified.  Sarah was not able to make it that day with her, she was sick, so Angelina was alone, standing in front of the legislature.  And she wrote Theodore Wells, her fiance, later, and said, "Sarah was not able to make it, but Jesus was here.  His arm was underneath me supporting me and keeping me strong."  It's a great quote.

Bob: You face – all congressman face ethical challenges virtually daily where you have to be before the Lord and say, "Lord, I need wisdom in these areas," don't you?

Jim: We do, and, you know, compromise is a word that is used freely in the arena that I now work, and there are some things you can compromise on.  For example, do you want a 15-percent tax reduction or a 10 percent?  Now, I like the 15 percent, but when it comes to moral issues, you know, is that a baby?  It's a baby, and no other choice can be made except saving its life.  There are some things that there is some ability to move on, if you will, but – to compromise on – but there are some that are rock solid.

Dennis: And, Jim, as I heard you answer that question, stepping into the political arena and stepping out of business, I mean, something you've become astute in, successful, comfortable, your sons are nodding their heads.

Drew: Oh, without a doubt.  I mean, Dad is a very successful PR man, he was a very successful public speaker, and I remember the morning he told us that he was praying about it.  We were sitting around at breakfast, and he said, "Guys, I was challenged with something yesterday by Todd Tiahrt, who is currently the congressman out of Wichita, Kansas, and he said, "Jim, the 2nd District seat is about to come open.  We need somebody who is a man of character to run for it.  Would you consider it?"

 He at first told my mom, he's, like, "I don't think I can do this.  But you know what?  I am going to go home and pray."  So we sat around the breakfast table and he's like "You know what?  I'm going to take at least one full day of praying and fasting, and then I will make my decision after I feel what God has told me."  And he came home, and he gathered us one more time, and he said, "Guys, we're going to go for it," and he said "we."  He said, "We're going to go for it."

Dennis: How old were you at the time?

Drew: Twenty-three, and it was good that we were all adults.  In fact, the fun thing about it was our opponent didn't know what to do because it wasn't just Jim Ryun, it was Mom and Dad were in one area of the district, Ned and Catherine would go to another one, and Heather and I would be in another part of the district.  So we split up and …

Dennis: You didn't just give these guys an assignment to write a book.  You've turned them into a political team, haven't you, Jim?

Jim: A lifetime of activity.  You know, the beauty of this is that when we first started, we didn't have funding, but we had convictions, and I knew what we needed to do was to go out in teams in to do what Drew just described, and it was successful because people could see, you know, who we were, what we were standing on and what we hoped to be for the future.

Dennis: Well, what we're all hearing here is Matthew, chapter 5 – "You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  You are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."

 And, Jim Ryun, you and Ann are giving light not only to the House of Representatives but you are giving light to the house of our nation, and I just applaud you and cheer you on as you continue to make heroic acts.

Jim: And that's where I can say for those that are listening, thank you for your prayers, because I know that across the country there are thousands of people paying not just for me but for others that are in, if you will, places of high position, or elected positions, and how important that is because we feel your prayers.  And you often think of the big votes that take place on the floor, it's actually the little votes in the committee, the amendments that are addressed along the way, where we need that wisdom and that input and those prayers.

Dennis: Well, pray for Jim Ryun and other believers who are standing forth for truth in Congress.  And Jesus said this, Jim – "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Bob: Yeah, and that's where we get back to what is at the heart of all of this, which is where we started today.  We ultimately serve a king.  We represent a kingdom as ambassadors, and this is such a great metaphor.  Our citizenship is in that kingdom.  We serve that king, but we serve here in this kingdom as His ambassadors.  Whether you're a congressman or a businessman or you serve as a pastor, or you're in a para church ministry, you work at the local bank, you're a car mechanic, it doesn't really matter.  Your assignment is to live the kind of a life in this culture that men and women will see and will see your good works and will glorify our Father, who is in heaven.  We are His ambassadors, and that's what's characteristic of the heroes that we've heard about today. 

The heroes that you talk about in the book, whether it's John Harper or C.T. Studd or Adoniram Judson – people whose names we may only be partially familiar with.  Maybe we've heard some of these names but didn't know their story.  These are men who lived out their faith in a profound way.  And as we share these stories with our children, we inspire them to the same kind of heroism, the same kind of character, the same kind of courage, and I hope that many of our listeners will get a copy of this book, "Heroes Among Us," and use it for family devotions, maybe use it in a home school setting.  It's great to supplement your history curriculum.  Maybe you have a student at home like we do who loves history.  This is the kind of a book you can give to your children, and they can read it on their own for pleasure just because they love reading great stories or they love reading about history.

Again, if you'd like a copy of the book, it's called "Heroes Among Us," it's available from us here at FamilyLife Today.  Go online at, and in the middle of the screen you'll see a button that says "Go."  If you click that button, it will take you right to the page where you can find more information about the book, "Heroes Among Us," or call 1-800-FLTODAY and someone on our team can get you more information about this book, take your order over the phone.

And we also want to mention a book – this actually came out a number of years ago right after the attack on the Trade Center Towers on September 11th, but it's a good book to bring to the forefront again, especially since the movie that was just recently in theaters about United Flight 93.  It's the story of Todd Beamer, one of the passengers on United 93.  The book is called "Let's Roll," and it's written by Todd's widow, Lisa Beamer, and I don't know how many of our listeners saw that movie or will see it when it comes out on DVD, but the book really tells a remarkable story of an ordinary person who showed extraordinary courage.  And if you're looking for a couple of books that can highlight those same themes, you might consider getting the book, "Let's Roll," by Lisa Beamer, along with the book "Heroes Among Us."

Again, you'll find more information about these on our website at or call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information.  If you do order both books, we can send you at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation with the Ryuns, and you can listen to it again as a family or you can pass it on to others who may benefit from hearing these programs as well – 1-800-FLTODAY is the number or order online at

One of the challenges we face as we go through the summer here at FamilyLife is that many of our regular listeners for whatever reason, because of vacation schedules or whatever, they are either not able to hear the program regularly, or they just kind of lose touch with us and as a result the financial support for our program often begins to wane during the summer months.  We see a little bit of a fall-off in giving, and we have to look hard at that and see if we need to make financial adjustments because, as a ministry, we want to make sure that we're not living beyond our means or presuming upon the generosity of our listeners or on the provision of the Lord here.

So we wanted to let you know that we're in the middle of summer, and if you are able to help with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, it would really be much appreciated at this time, particularly, and if you are able to make a donation this week, we'd love to send a thank you gift to you.  It's a CD that features an hour-long conversation we had with the author of a book called "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat."  Her name is Elyse Fitzpatrick, and we talked with her about a variety of topics all around the subject of food.  We talked about things like eating disorders, overeating, dieting – we really tried to take a biblical look at the subject of food.  And this week, again, if you are able to help with a donation of any amount, we'd love to send you that CD as our way of saying thanks for your financial support.

If you're donating online, you will come to a keycode box as you fill out the donation form.  Just write the word "eat" in that keycode box, and we'll know to send you this CD or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone, and mention that you'd like the CD on eating, and we'll be happy to send it off to you.  Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

Well, tomorrow we're going to be back to talk about some other heroes you may have never heard of before – people like Elijah Lovejoy and John Harper.  If those are not household names at your house, tune in tomorrow, and we'll see if we can tell you about some remarkable men in America's past.  I hope you can join 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 back tomorrow 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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