December 14, 2019
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
You’re probably thinking, “Didn’t we study these verses a while ago?” Yes, we did focus on them a few days back. But, as we near the final leg of our Advent journey, let’s reflect on another important topic that we find here: the cloud of witnesses.
The author of Hebrews compares the life of faith in this chapter to an ancient Olympic marathon. Luke Timothy Johnson, a New Testament scholar, helps us understand the role of the cloud of witnesses in this ancient race. He writes,
“The runners begin far away from the city in some remote place with few observers, move through growing crowds and greater fatigue, and finally emerge in the stadium before a massed assembly of spectators who watch and applaud as the runners complete their final lap.” (p. 315)
The cloud of witnesses in Hebrews is this joyous, exuberant crowd of spectators; they are the faithful who have gone before us, who are now witnessing our race of faith, and are compassionately cheering us on. They are our fathers and mothers in the faith who are calling to us from their place of victory, encouraging us to keep moving forward and to keep trusting God, even on desert days when our throats are dry and our feet are weary.
We all have our own personal cloud of witnesses.
They are the ones who have given us the gift of their testimony, of their lives well-lived, imperfect and feeble as they may have been. In fact, even their weakness has been a gift to us, because it reminds us that no one is able to finish the race on their own strength.
Every piece of the victory is a grace given to us by our savior.
So, who are the people in your cloud?
My grandmom is in my cloud. A young girl who married at fourteen, she went back to school in her thirties, became a high school science teacher, and attended weekly prayer meetings at her eastern Kentucky Baptist church. She’d stay on the phone with me for hours listening to my questions about the Bible when I was a middle schooler. She’s in my cloud.
Rich Mullins is also in my cloud. An early Contemporary Christian musician, his songs fed my angsty teenage soul. In the midst of massive success, he chose to limit his income to minimum wage. He moved out to the Southwest, lived in a trailer, and taught music to kids on a Native American reservation. He was raw. He was real. He’s in my cloud.
The rest of our Advent study will revolve around the lives of various biblical characters and their testimonies of faith. We will look at key moments in their lives when they met the God who is here and responded to his presence with trust and obedience in the midst of great adversity.
These biblical characters may seem far removed from us and from our stories, but they are also our mothers and fathers in Christ. They belong to our cloud of witnesses, along with all the faithful who have come before us.
As we meditate on their responses to God in the coming days, let’s ask ourselves what kind of legacy we desire to leave behind.
There will be a day when you and I join the cloud of witnesses for someone else.
May those who come after us testify that our lives were poured out as a fragrant offering to the greatest witness of all, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who ran his own race, won the victory, and is also now cheering us on.
God is here.
Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith, empower me to run the race you have set before me in faithfulness and freedom.
Spirit of God, breathe upon me.
- Who are the people in your cloud of witnesses? What are the names of those who have gone before you and have influenced your life?
- What is the legacy that you hope to leave behind for those who come after you?
- Is the life you’re living now in line with the legacy you hope to leave behind?
- Who in the younger generations are you mentoring, guiding, coaching?
- If you aren’t in the life of anyone in a younger generation, how might you reach out?
Song for Meditation: