3.21.23 | Hebrews 12:1-3


*In-person at 12 Bassett St, Providence RI

Prayer Guide:

The author of Hebrews tells us that we are presently “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” Imagine a stadium around us. We are on the track or the field. Around us in the stands, cheering us on, is a mighty throng of witnesses. The Greek word for witness is the same word from which we get our English word martyr. These are not mere passive bystanders, but they are the saints and heroes of the faith who have finished their leg of the race, in many instances enduring great suffering. They are as invested as we are in the purposes of God in our day, and perhaps more so than we are. They are looking intently at us along with the angels. Telling us to run after Jesus. If we squint we begin to see their faces. Abraham, who left Ur to go to a land he didn’t know, who when asked offered his own son Isaac on the altar on Mt. Moriah. We see Daniel, who refused to stop praying and was thrown into the Lion’s Den. We see David who faced down Goliath as the armies of Israel trembled. We see Rahab, who welcomed the spies when the came to Canaan and threw in her lot with the people of God. We see the Apostles, who finished his race and fought the fight and received the crown – and died as martyrs or exiles. 

We see the leaders of past revivals. We see Charles Finney, we see St. Patrick, we see Bishop Festo Kevengere of Uganda. We see William Seymour from Azusa Street. We see Jeremiah Lamphier who launched the businessman’s revival in New York. We see Reverend Stephen Gano of Providence who went from house to house in 1820 in Providence, leading whole families to faith. We may even see our own contemporaries, martyred for their faith in the Middle East. We see the missionaries who died on the mission field, we see Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. All these martyrs and witnesses, they are all watching us. They have passed the baton to us…they know it is our job to finish our leg of the great intergenerational relay race and hand the baton to the next generation. “Run child!” They cry out. “Keep your eyes on Jesus and run!” My mother-in-law Hallie is there too. Maybe some of your relatives are there too. 

And in this moment as we look around, we also see other men and women who are living, running the race as well. We see the students from Asbury University, caught up in the glory and manifest presence of God. We see them giving their lives and futures to the Lord and his call. 

There are two truths about the cloud of witnesses. The first is this, they cannot run our race for us. As much as they cheer for us and pray for us to keep going hard after Jesus, they can’t do it for us. Only we can run the race marked out for us. Only we can live a life that is handed over to Jesus. They have set us an example. They have shown us the way. But it is up to us to run the race of faith in our own lives.

But the second truth is this, these saints can inspire us. They can encourage us. They can lift our eyes up and remind us that it is worth it to keep going. I remember the first time I ran a half-marathon. I did okay until about mile 10, and then I hit a wall. With three miles to go, I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know how I gutted it out, but I do remember, that just when all my resolve was gone, at mile 12, I caught a second wind. Why? Because I began passing by people I knew, who had showed up to the race to cheer me on. Their cheers didn’t finish the race for me, but they stoked my hunger and longing for the finish line.

Our invitation is to let the cloud of witnesses inspire us with their lives. Jesus is worth everything. He is worth all the pain, all the suffering, all the challenge, all the hardship. He is worth the discipline. He is worth seeking. He is worth chasing. His Kingdom is worth seeking. It is the pearl of great price, worth selling everything for. Jesus is worth the hours of praying. The weeping, the fasting, the contending. He is worth all of it. “We know it is hard sometimes,” the cloud of witnesses shouts, “but he is worth it. Keep running.” Our invitation is to let what has happened in the past and what is happening at places like Asbury inspire us. There is more to Jesus than we have known. There is more to pursue. There is more. 

But then take that inspiration and keep running after Jesus. And to seek his presence and his power and the outpouring of his Spirit and the expansion of our Kingdom in our own time, in our own place, in our own city, church, family, and heart. 

Habbakuk prays:

“Lord, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds. Renew them in our day. In our time, make them known.” 

For Reflection/Prayer:

Where are you finding it difficult to keep your eyes on Jesus? Where are you feeling weary or discouraged? Ask God for the perspective of the saints and angels watching you run from the stands. 

Whose faith has inspired you? Whose life is worth imitating? Begin asking God to do what He did in their life in your life. Ask God for an impartation of their faith and their faithfulness.

What are the stories from the past or the present that inspire or have inspired holy longing and holy discontent in you? Consider these stories. Ask God to do it again, in your life, in your city, in your church, in your family, in your own heart.