As an athlete in childhood and adolescence, I remember the excitement when the crowd would cheer for the team when we took the field or came out on the court. In the small towns where I grew up, the football and basketball games in the evenings drew great crowds as the games were a common community meeting place. The excitement filled the air as the teams began to compete. When games were very competitive and the intensity increased, the roar of the crowd would become deafening at times, shouting encouragement and coaching from the stands. Over the years of playing on our home field or home court, I learned to discern the positive voices of “our” fans, over against the other team’s fans.
Hebrews 12:1 has always been a beloved passage in my life. The author writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Our lives, like a race, have times when we are filled with energy and strength, while at other times we feel tired and weak. It is in those times of tiredness and weakness that we find ourselves feeling alone, leading to our easily falling into a more fatalistic and self-defeating mindset. The author of Hebrews reminds us that we are not alone. There is a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on throughout our lives. The testimony of people like those listed in the previous chapter of Hebrews 11 or the “saints” of the church who we grew up around, or the family member whose life modeled for us how to face adversity, we have a great cloud of witnesses.
November 1 is All Saints Day, a day I am reminded of the people who poured into my life a passion for Jesus and who showed me how to face adversity and weary days. I think of my parents, my grandparents, my Sunday School teachers, mentors, professors, and friends who not only showed me how Jesus is active in daily life but also testified to God’s faithfulness through all situations. I am reminded of the women and men whose testimonies shared from their lives centuries ago, serve as an encouragement to me in my daily faith. Who is part of your “great cloud of witnesses?” How is the Holy Spirit using their testimony and life experiences to undergird your faith and encourage you to “keep running the race”? I would love to hear about your Cloud of Witnesses. If you would be willing to send me an email with a story about one or more of the members of your Great Cloud of Witnesses, I would love to read these stories.
You can send me your story: email@example.com.