The Trophy Of Fallen Heroes

A Tribute to Brother Jesus Vizzerra I can’t remember how old I was when I received my first trophy; but I was very young. I think it was for sailing, and it was small pewter dish engraved with the event, my name, and my placing. There were a few more to follow for playing ice hockey. They are sitting somewhere today, definitely tarnished, I’m not even sure where. Later on in my life there were numerous medals, and some trophies for competing in various marathons, cycling and handcycling events. Most of these are hanging on a nail in my garage. All of them are memories, but I’m not sure how memorable they really are. Now let me tell you about some other “trophies” that are much more meaningful to me. The group picture for Pastor Warner of NGM (Next Generation Ministries) reminding me of the sacred responsibility of the children of our church congregation. Then there is the plaque from Cameroon and Gabon and other places reminding me of the investment in world evangelism that we have been blessed to participate in. There is the picture of my two “bodyguards”, Frank Romero and Chayo Perez (another story for another article). There is the picture of a young and happy Benjamin Cervantes sitting on my lap with the inscription, “The little lion has gone to The Lion” which I will forever cherish. There are the acrylic globes from the churches in Cape Cod and El Paso recognizing the decades-plus of faithful ministry. And, oh yes, there are the countless “works of art” that children draw and give to me all the time representing some aspect of their faith and their depiction of Pastor Warner’s preaching and wheelchair! All of these expressions of gratitude are things that I really do treasure and do not deserve, and many of them I have accepted not for myself, but as a representative of our church, The Door - Christian Fellowship in Tucson, AZ. The greater question occupying my mind today is “what are God’s trophies”? What are the things that the Father delights in and have eternal value to Him? First and foremost, the greatest trophy is Jesus, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Then there is His Church, the Bride of Christ, made up of men and women redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb “out of every tribe, language, people and nation.” When Saul of Tarsus met the resurrected Lord Jesus on the Damascus Road he was asked, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” The church is His trophy! He is so identified with her that when Saul was persecuting believers all the way from Jerusalem to Damascus, he was actually persecuting Christ! There is the trophy of the Lord’s faithful and devoted followers. Referring to them, Malachi says, "They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels." Jewels that are symbolic and worn for special occasions! And let’s not forget the trophies of those who have preceded us in death and gone to be with the Lord, since we are told, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” God does have His trophies! There is also the “heroes of faith” that we talk about all the time and who are recorded in Hebrews chapter 11: a whole chapter devoted to those who believed God, lived by faith, and staked everything they had on God’s Word and promises. The impressive list of people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, King David, Samuel and the prophets. Then, to be reminded, “For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can't receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race.” That means that the story is not over yet. There are still “heroes” of faith running the race today who are part of that great company of God’s people down through the ages, saved and justified by grace through faith. As a church family, we also have our own “heroes of faith!” The converts to Christ and changed lives that are God’s handiwork and the true credentials of Gospel ministry. The faithful saints who have served God with love and excellence for ten, twenty, thirty, some of them going on forty years. Oh yes, they are definitely on the mantelpiece of memory! Having just come out of our Bible Conference we must also recognize the trophies of the men and women God has called and raised up, and are being used by God preaching and planting churches all over the world. People who like so many others God says are “chosen vessels unto Me.” Jesus Vizzerra was one of those heroes! He was born on September 28, 1946 and he went home to his eternal reward with Jesus on June 23, 2010. He was saved in 1976 and was one of the many “Sahuarita crew” of outstanding converts that came from Sahuarita and Continental, AZ and are woven into the fabric and story of our church family over the last thirty-seven years. From the time “Jesus met Jesus” it was so exciting to see him grow in the things of God. He was such a wonderful blessing to our local church as he worked at the mines south of Tucson, and did all he could to be in every service. Even if that meant working the graveyard shift and coming right to church with little or no sleep. He was hungry for Jesus! He is one of my heroes because when he got saved he was not able to read. He went to school and he diligently taught himself to be able to read and write because he wanted to study God’s Word! There were the countless outreaches and “carne asada” fellowships all emanating from Sahuarita, from Jesus and his dear wife, Frances, and the other saints there. The trophy that was Jesus Vizzerra went to pastor a church in Silver City, NM. The trophy that was the Vizzerra family went to pioneer a church as missionaries in San Jose, Costa Rica (and who can forget the “good times machine”). Brother Jesus was one of, if not the longest-standing evangelists in our entire Fellowship of churches, preaching and ministering to people all over the world. It wasn’t so much the eloquent or exegetical quality of his sermons that was such a blessing, but it was his spirit, the type of man he was. He dearly loved His Jesus, his wife and children, his church, His Bible and the people God allowed him to touch over many years. Much of that hyphen “ - “ between 1946-2010 was about Jesus Vizzerra as a disciple, a beloved brother, a faithful minister, a devoted husband, a committed father (who led by example and wanted more than anything to see his children following the Lord Jesus Christ), a hard worker, an upright man, a prayer warrior (“Lord, we are desperate for You”), a man willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel (not just one time but as a lifestyle). What would be my own personal tribute to Jesus Vizzerra? Yes, he was a disciple, but he was also my friend. He was the type of man who made being a pastor a joy and a delight. I was proud of him, because when I saw brother Jesus I knew I was looking at the real deal, a genuine Christian man. One of the secrets to living life well is learning to collect the right trophies. At their best, they are a little reminder of something to make us grateful for the past and motivated for the future. According to the Apostle Paul in 1Corithians 9 one of the fundamental problems of humanity is they’re giving themselves for the wrong trophies, ones that will not last, those with a fading not an eternal glory to them. That’s why he would say “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” People, saved by God’s grace, are the right kind of trophies! That is why we are living to one day stand before God and hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Just try to imagine what that will be like (what Jesus Vizzerra is experiencing right now). John Ortberg said, “The trophy that matters is not on our shelves or our resumes. It is the soul that we become. That is the crown that we will one day cast before God.” In our country there are numerous fallen hero organizations and memorials to soldiers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and others. Their purpose is to remind us that while they are gone they are not forgotten: the memory of them lives on. One poem for Fallen Heroes by Linda Racaniello concludes with this:

So as long as we are alive
we will hold them in our hearts
and as long as we can breathe
our heroes will never be apart
So as we bury you with honor
we will grieve, then heal and pray
and even though we’ll miss you you
we’ll be reunited in heaven one day

One of our warriors has gone on to be with the Lord. He will be truly missed. However, in theface of the last great enemy, death, we have something better than a poem or even a memory. We have the unshakable promise, purchased with the Blood of Christ and the power of His resurrection, of a reunion in heaven one day!! The old hymn says, “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see. When I look upon his face, the One who saved me by His grace. When He takes me by the hand, and leads me to the promised land, what a day, a glorious day that will be!” Jesus Vizzerra will be there on that day, rejoicing in the presence of His precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I look forward to seeing him on that day! Until that day we must continue to run our race. Let this be our guiding light: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”