The late Dr. Howard Hendricks, a longtime professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who died in 2013 at the age of 88, once told the story of a teacher he greatly admired during his student days.

This older gentleman with white and gray hair always seemed to be studying. Howard would walk by his house on campus at 5:30 AM, look up towards his study and see the light on and the professor reading. He’d walk by his home late at night, and there would be the instructor once again, pouring over his books.

Dr. Hendricks asked the old man one day, “What is it that keeps you studying? You never stop studying!”

“Son,” he replied. “I’d rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.”

The legendary seminary professor said those words had a profound impact on him. They served as ongoing motivation to never stop reading and never stop learning.

Nicknamed “Prof,” Hendricks would go on to teach at the seminary for 60 years. It’s said that over 10,000 students sat under his tutelage, and many of his sixteen books remain in print. He was also a popular speaker with Promise Keepers.

We often lament the absence of role models in culture, and that void is very real. Howard Hendricks defied the norm – but it’s only because he kept up his end of the bargain.

In our search for role models, we bear responsibility to stay hungry, attentive, and teachable. They don’t just fall out of trees. We must be on the lookout for them – and be worthy of those who we might find. People who teach from stagnant pools aren’t very compelling – and people who drink from them often run the risk of getting sick.

Are you living enthusiastically, deliberately, and expectantly – or are you waiting for lightning to strike out of a clear blue sky?

What’s the last book you’ve read? Would it surprise you that in a recent survey, nearly half of the respondents admitted they haven’t read a book in the last year?

When you attend services at your local church, are you taking notes during the sermon? Are you discussing the message or asking the pastor or other family and friends questions?

Are you a curious person, interested in other people, or self-consumed, turning everything back towards yourself?

“When you lose your curiosity, you basically have started to give up on life,” said John Maxwell.

If you’re not reading, studying, praying, and inquiring, would you even recognize a good role model when you see one?

My own father regularly used to say something to us that I presume he heard from someone else:

“Show me your heroes and I’ll show you your future.”

Personally, I’m on the lookout for heroes and role models who have guts and gumption. Cowards are plenty – the courageous seem increasingly few.

I came to work at Focus on the Family because I admired Dr. James Dobson. I was working at a news-talk radio station in New York City when I first heard his teaching and counsel. It struck a chord with me.

Social media has corrupted or watered down many words, especially terms like “friend” or “follower.” Regarding the latter, who are you following these days? Be careful. We begin to resemble the people we associate with most often.


Photo credit Dallas Theological Seminary.