Keep Running! – 2

To endure this spiritual race, we need to do 3 things.

1. Learn from the Winners. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1, ESV). While we run the race, we must learn from the testimony of the great cloud of witnesses before us.[1] Who are these witnesses? These witnesses are the great heroes of the faith listed in Heb. 11. The plural noun, “witnesses,” is from the Greek, martus, which means, “one who testifies.” (Louw-Nida). It refers to people “whose faith is tried and true” (BAGD).

The “cloud of witnesses” does not mean these witnesses are heavenly spectators standing on some heavenly cloud in some heavenly stadium, and watching us struggling souls on earth. The “cloud of witnesses” means that there is a “crowd of witnesses,” or many, many witnesses (Louw-Nida) who have testified with their lives about trusting God.

What can we learn from them? “These people are not witnessing what we are doing; rather, they are bearing witness to us that God can see us through.”[2] These many witnesses listed in Heb. 11 have taught us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1, KJV).

From Enoch, we learn that faith in God pleases God (v. 5-6). From Noah, we learn the obedience of faith, constructing an ark through obedient faith in God (v. 7). From Abraham, we learn to trust God based on his promise, looking forward to the promise of a city, whose builder and designer is God (vv. 8-10). From Sarah, we learn to trust God for the impossible, seeing that Sarah became pregnant in her old age (v. 11). From Abraham again, we learn to obey God even though he had to offer his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice, believing that God will raise Isaac from the dead afterwards (v. 17).

One day, God told Abraham to bring Isaac to Mt. Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice there. When they got there, Isaac asked Abraham, “Dad, where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham replied, “Don’t worry, son, because there’s Jehovah Jireh—the LORD will provide.” Abraham believed God that even though he will kill Isaac as a sacrifice there, the LORD shall still raise Isaac from the dead. He believed God that he will come down from Mt. Moriah with Isaac alive and well by his side, believing that at the end of the day, God will raise Isaac from the dead.

Heb. 11:39 tells us that “all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (ESV). They did not receive the promises of God in their lifetimes. (This means that unanswered prayers are not necessarily a sign of lack of faith. Some of God’s promises were not meant to be fulfilled in church history, e.g. Christ’s second coming.) They saw only glimpses of the future. But by faith, they looked forward to a future hope of fulfillment through Christ, the Son of God, who fulfilled all those promises (Heb. 11:40). And so to endure in this race for Christ, we need to learn the endurance of faith from these witnesses—even though we don’t get answers to our prayers in our lifetimes! In other words, learn from the winners!

[1] Actually in the Greek, there is one subjunctive (“let us run the race”) and four present participles in Heb. 12:1-2: (having a cloud of witnesses; laying aside every weight and sin; looking unto Jesus; and despising the shame).

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, “Hebrews,” in The Bible Exposition Commentary (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 1989), PC Study Bible CD-Rom, version 5.0. Jim Gilbertson, ed. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc., 1988-2007.


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