Our Cloud of Witnesses

"Do you see what this means--all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running--never quit!"

I'm sure you've heard about them before, "our great cloud of witnesses." I love the way the Message version puts it--pioneers who blazed the way for us and veterans cheering us on." Whichever version you prefer, have you ever really stopped to think about this and what it means for us in our context?

I know I hadn't really the first hundred times I'd heard it or read it. I mean, not really anyways. I understood what it was getting at, but I hadn't really taken much time to sit with it and let it sink in. When I finally did, it filled me with so much passion and joy and this overwhelming sense of encouragement and peace. I think that's the whole point! And I think right here in this little nook between Mother's Day and Father's Day is a really great time to stop and really let this soak in! 

If you backtrack up through chapter 11, the author is explaining genuine faith to his readers (us included.) He describes faith as, "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." And then he goes on to  provide all sorts of examples of people (mostly their ancestors) who lived out that definition and left legacies for them long after they were gone. He goes as far back as creation and down through Abel to Noah and onto Abraham, the "father of our faith." All of these amazing men and women who took crazy risks and looked totally foolish to live out their faith in God. And now, they are up in heaven with God looking down and cheering them on in their own faith journeys. 

w o w 

When the author was writing this, faith in Christ was a crazy risk. It was hard and complicated and came with a lot of dangerous consequences, tough sacrifices, and probably a lot of loneliness and isolation and fear. It certainly wasn't an easy choice to make or an easy road to walk. This had to be so encouraging for readers. To know that even when they felt so alone or defeated or terrified in their faith journey, there were mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters in faith looking down on them and rooting for them to keep running and to finish the race so they could someday join them in the presence of God. 

And guess what. Faith in Christ still isn't easy. It still requires sacrifice and and still comes with risks and loneliness. But we still get that cloud of witnesses--of pioneers and trail blazers and veterans--who went before us and are sitting with Jesus cheering us on in our own faith journeys. And the cloud has only grown and gathered cheerleaders! All of those New Testament church planters and martyrs and generations of persecuted Christians, and all of the loved ones that we've had to say goodbye to...now they're part of our cheering section! They see, they look on with pride as we fight for our faith and navigate difficult situations and keep running when we would rather lie down or move forward; when we would rather retreat. And they fist bump and they hug and they shed tears of sorrow and joy for us as we press on towards our goal of joining them someday. 

I don't know about you, but it sparks something inside of me to imagine my favorite Bible characters like Esther and Noah and Peter, and some of my favorite faith heroes like Elizabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael and my dad all up there with Jesus rooting for me and believing in me and cheering me on all the way home. 

I don't know how Mother's Day and Father's Day are for you. I don't know if you are struggling in your faith or a little bit lost or maybe frustrated. I'm not sure if you feel lonely or if you're wondering if you should just turn around and quit now or lie down because you're so tired and you can't go on. I don't know. But don't. Don't stop struggling and don't believe the lies that you're alone and don't turn around or quit. Because you've got a great big giant cheering section up in the sky and all they want is for you to finish the race and to make it home. And we want that for you too. Girl, keep running! And take heart because we're ALL in this crazy, risky, scary, curvy, beautiful faith race together!

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