A Great Cloud of Witnesses-August 18, 2013
Scripture: Hebrews 11:29-12:3
We did not read all of chapter 11 but the faithful of God go back to the beginning and moves forward though time. God has always had those that were faithful to Him and if you look at this list you will see men and women who were faithful to God even though it cost them greatly. In some cases it cost them their lives. As we look at this list we my be surprised at their faithfulness and the circumstances that surrounded the lives of these individuals, but we too can be confident in the faithfulness of God.
These names are being called and we being to realize throughout time that the circumstances of each are different, but there is a common thread that develops, they are all connected to one another by their faith. There would not be enough time to talk about all those that have been and are faithful to God. It was said of these faithful that the world was not worthy of them. The world will always be opposed to God and those that are faithful to Him. The world was not worthy of them because their citizenship is in heaven. These went to the ends of the earth for the sake of the gospel, willing to share their faith to those whom they encountered. These were commended for their faith. It would be difficult for any of us to argue about their faithfulness and dedication to the gospel.
They have all been reported and testified about how great their faith was and yet, they had not received the promise. Anyone would have thought if any should be deserving it would certainly have been these on this list. Still they did not receive the promise. How about us? Are we afraid that we may give our lives and make sacrifices and also not receive the promise? So does God withhold or not keep His promises?
In our modern culture we use the term “we” very loosely and are prone to thinking of ourselves and want to be seen as individuals. It is often this pride and looking only to ourselves that has its own adverse affects. It leads us at times to feeling alone and uncertain when things get tough in this world. When you have taught yourself to rely on your own strength and knowledge, there will come a day and a time when we realize the limitations of our humanity. We are not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all loving like our God. It is in these moments that life can come crashing in around us, that we find as individuals little comfort.
For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Romans 10:2-4
When we are connected to a powerful, all-knowing, all loving God by faith that we are connected to this long line of faith with all believers of all times. Perhaps the idea of a line is a bad analogy, this is just one line of a larger more encompassing presence and does not just include our fellow believers in this time but for all time. We are now and forever joined to the body of Christ and the people of God from old. We are His. Being His is better than what we could imagine. Why go this far to get back to a question I asked earlier, are we afraid to make sacrifices for God out of fear that He won’t keep His promises? Perhaps the promise was being delayed for a reason, one that they did not know about but would be better than what was originally promised. If I promised you a bicycle, but then later told you that I would not give you what I had promised because I wanted to give you something better like a car. The something better usually comes with greater sacrifice for the giver and may take more time. In this case it was the cost of this greater gift was the life of the Son of God.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25
It was God’s desire that we all would be the completion of His work together. It is for God’s own reason that He delayed His promise and His wrath finally that more would have the opportunity to receive His grace. Where would be if it were not for the grace of God? Trusting God by faith allows us to enter into a relationship with Him. We also become connected to all others who have trusted God. There is a great cloud of witnesses connected to and enveloping each of us. We are not alone as we trust His Lordship more. We are also helped in understanding and following Him daily by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help each of us the see the sin in our lives and helps us to do something about it. The Holy Spirit also helps us to hear and follow the lead of Christ.
So let us throw off the sin that ties us up, weigh us down, and keeps us from focusing on Christ. There will always be the temptation of sin. Sometimes sin will tie us up, tying up our time and attention. Sin can weigh us down with guilt, grief, pain, and regret. Sin also dims our vision and distracts our focus. We are no longer able to see God.
The Holy Spirit will help us to recognize and cast off sin so we can run the race with perseverance and determination the race marked out before us. In order to run a race we must know the destination or focus. So we fix our eye on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. A farmer plowing a row in many cases will find a focal point a long way off to aim themselves up with. If they continue to focus on that object that is ahead and continue to make small adjustments to that fixed point, the line will be much more straight than just looking over the front edge of the tractor.
I used a stick as an illustration…I put it on end in my hand and tried to balance it. Balancing the stick is not so hard if you keep your eyes up to the top of the stick and make small adjustments. If I put the stick in my hand and only look at my hand the stick will never be balanced and it would come crashing down. So the question is would it be better to focus on my own hand or to look up and make small adjustments? Only one will help to bring balance to our lives.
If we want to maintain balance and perspective we must look up and as He moves we must make adjustments to balance our lives. We must make the adjustments not Him because that what followers do. Are you a follower? Don’t be discouraged, remember the great line of faith stretching back to the beginning and the great cloud of witnesses, remember the Holy Spirit will help us to recognize and cast off our sin, and guide us as we seek Him. May we follow and fix ourselves on Him. Who for the joy set before Him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
You Are Not Alone!! For by faith you have Christ Jesus;
You Are Not Alone!! You have the encouragement of a great cloud of witnesses;
You Are Not Alone!! You have the help of the Holy Spirit;
You Are Not Alone!! You have the fellowship of this body;
You Are Not Alone!! You are His, deeply loved, encouraged, helped, and connected.
May you live this life of faith with your eyes on Him, hopeful for the future, sure of the past, and supported each day.
You Are Not Alone!!