Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV) 1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
In Hebrews chapter 11, we find a list of people and the characteristics that enabled them to do great things by faith in God. The last two verses of chapter 11 make a bold statement. The people listed here did receive recognition from God for what they did. However, there lives and deeds do not really stand alone. What they did was preparing the way for us. They never received the fullness of what God promised his people. The Bible tells us that their stories were not complete without us. To me, this implies that we can, and should, have the same capability to do great things in God by faith that they did.
Let me define great things. In this study we have looked at some of the greatest people in history. They did things that changed how the world looks today. What would the middle east look like if it had not been for Moses? Some may think it would be better and some worse but there is no doubt it would not be the same. That said, we also studied Abel and Enoch. Neither one did anything that changed the whole world. I believe their faith touched God and changed their world.
You do not have to travel the world, change governments, fight in wars or any such thing to be considered for faith’s hall of fame. Abel worshiped in purity. Enoch walked with God. Both were charter members of God’s hall of fame of faith. What you must do is live by faith, grow in the things of God and fulfill what God has for you to do right where you are. If we do that, we can be part of God’s hall of fame. Jesus said that the least who walk in and work to build the kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist who was the greatest of all prophets. What God really wants from us is that we walk in faithfulness and that we grow in our relationship with him. If we do that, we will make God’s Hall of Fame of Faith.
Where chapter 11 ends by telling us that we are called to complete what they began and receive the promise they never did, chapter 12 begins by telling us how. There is a great deal in this chapter and right now I am not sure if that is what I am going to be writing about in the weeks to come, but if I do not do anything else, I want to at least make the connection.
Whoever wrote Hebrews, and I think it was probably Paul, wants the believers of his day to know that they are a part of the story that was begun by those mentioned in chapter 11. Their faith and sacrifice set the stage for the next act in the drama that is playing out in the history of the world. This cloud of witnesses does not end with the Old Testament saints in chapter 11. There are many throughout the history of the church who played their part to bring us to where we are today. There are those dying right now because they refuse to renounce Jesus. They have become part of the cloud as have our fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers that have gone before us.
I travel a great deal in Africa. One of the things we must deal with there is ancestor worship. I do not have time to go into all the problems that poses in this post but let me be very clear that Hebrews is not talking about that. This great cloud is not to be worshiped. They are, however, to be remembered. We will see them some day. Will we be able to join them and say as Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7.) If we can, we will make God’s Hall of Fame.
What this cloud of witnesses must be to us is twofold. First it is a challenge. If they could do so much, we can do our part. We may not be called to lay down our lives or do mighty deeds for God. Nevertheless, we must look at them and remind ourselves that we cannot “drop the ball” in our generation. We must do what is required of us no matter what it may be. Greatness in the Kingdom of God is determined by the God of the Kingdom. They finished their race, we can and must finish ours.
They are also an encouragement to us. In a sense, they are cheering us on in our walk of faith. They stand as evidence that real human beings can do great things for God. Most will never be famous in the eyes of men, but we can be famous in heaven. That is the real goal for a Christian. Our Hall of Fame credentials may be raising our family for God, preserving the God given institution of marriage by staying faithful or just living as a Christian witness in our community.
Some will have the privilege of traveling to other nations and other cultures and preaching and teaching to those people. To God it is all the same as long as we walk by faith. There are no small and great destinies in God. We all receive the same reward when we stand before the master. For that which we have done well we will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” There is nothing higher.
This verse goes on to say something else that is important. The rest of chapter 12 is really telling us how to do this next admonition. He tells us to lay aside two things. One is the sins that so easily ensnare us. We all have such things in our lives. What is the sin that so easily ensnares you? It is the same as the one that easily ensnares me. It is the one you like.
Before you get offended, Hebrews 11:25 says there is pleasure in sin for a season. Each of us has something that we find difficult to let go of. In Romans 14:23, the Amplified Bible tells us that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Paul is not speaking here from a law perspective. This takes sin out of the “do’s and don’ts realm and into the heart realm. If we walk by true faith, we will not walk in sin. Nevertheless, there are some things that each of us find more difficult to overcome because they tend to be pleasing to our flesh. That is just human nature.
I do not have to list them. You know what they are. Sin is anything that controls us or could lead us to compromise the things of God. What may be sin for me may not be sin for you. Paul says as much in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. We must each objectively look at ourselves and find those “sins that easily ensnare us.” Then we must ask God to help us lay them aside.
It might be easy if he was just talking about sins. He is not. He is also talking about weights. Weights are those things in our lives that hold us back from being all we can be in our faith. When we see an Olympic runner, they do not wear anything that is unnecessary. In Greece most athletes performed nude. This had nothing to do with eroticism. It was all about carrying as little weight as possible so they could run unhindered.
To have Hall of Fame faith we must lay aside the weights as well as the sins. Once again, I cannot tell you what your weights are. I can say that you have them. They are the unnecessary things in your life that keep you from growing in God. They keep you from doing what you know you should. Hall of Fame faith, and for that matter lives, require that we examine ourselves and lay aside the unnecessary if it keeps us from walking the way we should.
All of us can do this. We do not do it by law, we do it by faith. Read the rest of Hebrews 12. It will not be easy but verse 28 makes it worth it.
Hebrews 12:28 (NKJV) 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.