Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Cloud of Witnesses

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

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.” (Hebrews 11:39-12:3 NIV)

This past Sunday at our church, one of the elders gave a prayer of thanksgiving for those faithful servants to the Lord who had passed away in recent months.  There was the elder who faced terminal cancer with great hope and courage.  There was the retired pastor who humbly served the church as a greeter and prayer warrior, and who, just weeks before he died, had preached a sermon where he proclaimed his hope in the resurrected life through Jesus.  They were witnesses of faithfulness and hope.

As one gets older, the “cloud of witnesses” in our lives grows bigger.  The men and women who faithfully followed the Lord in this life and served as spiritual examples and mentors to us move on to the eternal reward for which they spent their lives anticipating.  They may be grandparents, parents, elders, pastors, siblings, or close friends.  They pass on, but their legacies of faithfulness live on to encourage and inspire us.  

I believe this is why the Hebrew writer recounted so many of the faithful from Jewish history (Hebrews 11:4-38).  The Jewish followers of Jesus were experiencing difficult times.  They were being mocked, scorned, and abused because they claimed Jesus as Lord.  They were very discouraged.  So the writer brought back to mind all those faithful servants of the Lord from their past as a means to encourage and strengthen them.

The fact is sometimes Jesus is not enough to inspire us.  While He became one of us, He is not like us.  The Hebrew writer understood this (and since he was inspired by God to write, then we know the Lord understands this as well) and provided a multitude of examples of ordinary people having extraordinary faith and hope—a cloud of witnesses.

Today, think about the people you know who have passed on from this life that faithfully served the Lord during their time on earth in anticipation of the reward they now are experiencing.  These are your witnesses given you by the Lord to encourage and inspire when times get tough and you are discouraged.   They may be gone, but the fruit of their lives can continue to help us produce fruit of our own.

© Jim Musser 2014

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