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.
What a crazy thing to say! We should run hard and fast because there are witnesses?
Very often I hear about how we should run the race with perseverance because there is a “cloud of witnesses” watching us. As though we’re in an arena and they’re observing. While we certainly should throw off everything that hinders our spiritual lives, it’s not because there is a great cloud of witnesses watching us. There’s a much better reason – we’ll get there in just a minute.
In the previous chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, the writer walks us briefly through the lives of many of the pillars of our faith: Abraham, Abel, Moses, and the countless more who lived and died in the hope of the resurrection we now have. Some who received their children back from the dead, others who were tortured and refused to be released because of their faith. Big shoes to fill.
But these are not witnesses of our lives. Rather, their lives are witnesses to us. They are the ones who have gone before us whose lives tell us that there is the hope of the resurrection. The are the ones whose lives tell us of God’s unlimited power, divine creativity, and his goodness. Their lives are the ones who tell us that it can be done – our lives can be lived in faith, through faith.
This is the reason we should, and even can, run the race of faith hard, quickly, with purpose, and with hope. There are witnesses all around us whose lives and testimonies tell us that it’s possible. That there’s hope and purpose to our lives.
Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes those people don’t seem all that real to me. Oh, sure, I believe the stories. But sometimes I need something more immediate, more accessible.
That is where the body of Christ comes in. Not only do I have a rich heritage in the saints who have gone before me, I also have a rich inheritance in the saints living right now. As I get to know the body of Christ, I learn that there are heroes of faith all around me.
All I have to do is look up on a Sunday morning and see someone who’s going through a tough time praising God and I know that his resurrection power is at work in the world. I can see the hope of his resurrection in the lives of those struggling with illness who still trust God. I can see this hope in the lives being transformed all around me every day.
And if I look hard enough, I can even see a little of that hope in the history of my life.