“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”(Heb. 12:1).
“Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” The Hebrew writer paints an image of the people who competed in an athletic arena, especially the races. Imagine as the contestants enter the arena. In the stands are the people who cheer them on. But this is not about spectators. “Witnesses,” does not look at the idea of someone looking on, observing. He is talking about witnesses who have something to say. We are looking at a time for these Hebrews in which they are on the brink of disaster. They are about to quit the faith and go back to Judaism. This book is written to stir them. The writer is trying to remind them that Jesus is greater.
Imagine the scene, the contestant walks into the arena and the stands are full. The witnesses are not curious, idle people. They all ran the race. You have an arena full of people who ran and excelled. This is a stadium filled with those who have done what these Christians are striving to do. What greater occasion would it be for the athlete to perform in the presence of those who have done exceptionally well? How much would it affect their drive to perform? We have called Hebrews chapter 11 the Hall of Faith. Hebrews 12 opens to hear the testimony of the heroes.
We need heroes. Their impact on us is invaluable. Sadly, too often, even nationally, our great disaster is we have turned cannibal and eaten our heroes. We drag them out of their graves and closets and expose their faults. Then we justify our failings because we measure ourselves by their faults and when we are through with them they are despised. They never were perfect people. There are no heroes left. When we killed our heroes we lost our patriotism. We lost in great measure a fervent spirit that made America something special. Remember the heroes.
We need to understand we do not run the race alone. One of the most helpful aids we have are the voices from the stands. The heroes are there. The “witnesses” are those who have run, suffered and won. This is not a time for the contestant who walks in to whine, make excuse or apologize. We can’t whine in presence of heroes. We can’t make excuse in their presence. There is a demand; a call to something higher.
Consider, how we excuse ourselves by saying, “I am depressed.” The voice of Jeremiah comes through and says, “I know what it is to be depressed but you can make it. I did it, you can do it too.” We whine, “I sometime feel so alone in this struggle.” The voice of Elijah says, “I know. I felt the same way. You can do greater things than ever imagined. I did it, you can do it too.” We apologetically say, “They will not listen to me.” The voice of Moses says, “I know, I thought they would not listen to me. You can make it.” We offer the excuse, “I hurt. This is painful.” There are nods from all the martyrs. A voice from those who were sawn asunder floats down to say, “I know it hurts. You can make it. We did.” We complain, “It is so hard. It cost so much.” A voice says from those who lived their lives in dens and caves in the earth, “I know, we all know, but you can make it. We did it, you can do it too.” Do we have the courage to whine in the presence of all those heroes? We stand in their presence. There are martyrs of that century and afterward whose blood still stains their robes. We want to whine because we mashed our finger? In their presence we should be so ashamed we cannot whine. Remember the heroes. They can make the difference.
In the days of Martin Luther he made serious charges against the practice of his church. He was called before the Diet of Worms. It was going to be a serious occasion. There was one who preceeded Luther. His name was John Huss. He was summonsed to his hearing. He walked to the hearing and never came back. They executed him. As Martin Luther began to walk to his appointment all knew what it was about. People lined the streets when he left his house. As he began to walk a whisper came from the crowd, “Remember Huss.” Were they were warning him and discouraging him, “You could get killed doing this?” No. They were saying, “Remember Huss.” He did it you can do it too. The voices grew louder. Luther expected to be executed. The people lined the streets expecting him to never come back. The help to him was to say, “Remember Huss,” who went, didn’t recount, and died. They were reminding Luther there was a hero that went before him. Luther was not executed. Wasn’t it an encouragement to have someone who walked that road, with a possible fatal condition before him, bravely and courageously to stand?
We may not agree with Huss or Luther but we agree with their courage. We need heroes like that. We need to look through the Old Testament and New Testament and find heroes. We need to see the courage of people who confidently went to their fate. We need to read Fox’s Book Of Martyrs and learn something about their zeal, fervency, and courage to face not simply a fast execution, but wild animals in an arena or being burned in the gardens. They died dreadful deaths. We need a hero to show how heroes live. How people of faith die. If not we may never know how.
Local congregations have heroes, both young and old. We come together and present are people who are old, sick and hurt. They come anyway. Do we really have courage to whine because we have a headache? We see people who struggle when no one will help them in their family. Yet, they are there in their place. Are we really going to whine because someone said something discouraging to us? The courage we find to take from those living heroes around us is an important part in finding our zeal. Young people live to be pure and honest in the midst of their peers who think it strange. How can we, who are older excuse our immorality and indifference when we see them live pure in spite of their environment? They persevere. We must not quit!
Look up and see the heroes who have served God in all kinds of adverse circumstances but never gave up. They served Him faithfully. Will I?
Take a look at “Fox’s Book Of Martyr’s: click here for free copy of Fox’s Book Of Martyr’s