Wayne D. Hannah
Director of Missions
Blue Ridge Baptist Association
Whenever the church (any church) gathers together to worship, the Scripture teaches us that our Lord is always in our midst. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Jesus reminds us that whenever and wherever Christians come together to worship, He is with them. Likewise, in the 12th chapter of Hebrews we are told that not only is Chris in our midst when we worship, but we are also surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1a) NKJV.
One interpreter describes this cloud of witnesses as the saints who have gone on before sitting in the stands encouraging us in our worship and ministry. But I see it as the faithful saints who have gone on before, sitting among us, in their usual place, as we worship.
The important thing is their purpose. Even though we cannot see them, we can sense their presence, just as we can sense the presence of the Lord. The reason they are there is to remind us to run the race of faith as they ran the race.
The Christian life is described in the New Testament on a number of occasions as a race. The unseen witnesses are to remind us how we are to run that race. “… 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.” (Hebrews 12:16 NKJV)
Jesus’ call to discipleship is for each Christian, who “… desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV) Luke, in his gospel adds one word to Jesus’ command and that is “daily.” In running the race of faithfulness the first weight we need to cast aside is self. That is a daily battle. If we are to faithfully run the race of discipleship we must be willing to do Christ’s will over our own will. It is so easy to let self become a hindrance in being faithful to our commitment to Christ.
Faithfulness is one talent that God has given to every person. It is up to each individual to carry out the faithful will of Christ. What about the person who would make an excellent Sunday school teacher, but is unwilling to do so because it would mean they would have to be present nearly every Sunday; or any other responsibility in the church. We need to lay aside the will of self, if we are to run the race that is before us.
Some other common sins that easily beset us are: inattention, impatience and sluggishness. Daily we need to renew our commitment to Christ, setting aside anything that would hinder us from running the race.
The Lord does not leave us without the help we need to be able to put aside the things that hinder us. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …” Hebrews 12:1a NKJV. Our looking to Him gives us the strength to remain faithful, reminding us of what He has endured for our salvation. The Scripture points out the fact that we have yet to endure such a suffering as He has. Christ did it with joy—not the joy of pain, but for the joy of obedience to the Father and the joy of providing for us the forgiveness of our sins.
Also, we are to run the race, so that those who come behind us (the next generation) might have the witness of our faithfulness. That great roll call of faith in Hebrews 11 ends with these words: “And to all these having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise. God having provided something better for us that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (verses 39-40 NKJV).
Therefore the way we run the race will have a bearing on the faithfulness of those who come behind us. “Wherefore, we also, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witness, let us lay aside every weight and sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”