Using the upcoming 2021 Olympics as a backdrop, my husband recently shared a devotion from Hebrews 12:1-2 with a dear group of seniors. He painted a word picture of entering the arena for the final leg of the marathon. He described the cheering that was taking place as the runners continued to push through that last lap before crossing the finish line.
He explained that the cloud of witnesses mentioned in verse 1 (https://www.bible.com/72/heb.12.1-2.hcsb) referred to what is often called the “Hall of Faith” listed in chapter 11. In this chapter, the author of Hebrews lists several Old Testament heroes, as well as other faithful martyrs, who demonstrated faithfulness throughout their lives.
My husband imagined these heroes of faith cheering us on as we run our marathon—a tough, difficult race we may be running at this point in life. It is important to note that the audience of the Letter to the Hebrews was experiencing a difficult time of persecution and needed encouragement—cheering on—by the author.
Well, I hate to admit it, but he lost my attention at that point as my mind wandered to imagine some of my favorite Bible characters cheering for me at a track meet. I wrote down in my notes, “Reread chapter 11 and choose a favorite hero.”
I read through chapter 11 (https://www.bible.com/72/heb.11.1-40.hcsb) the next day and ended up having a tough time choosing just one! But, I did discover some interesting insight. I created a list of these heroes and, using prior knowledge, included a short summary that described how they were faithful. As I considered these summaries, I noticed that each was faithful in one of four ways:
Courage (persisting amid fear)—Dictionary.com
Endurance (persisting amid pain and hardship) —Dictionary.com
Perseverance (persisting amid obstacles, difficulties, and discouragement) —Dictionary.com
‘Plain Ol‘ Faith’ (persisting amid uncertainty and confusion)---My definition!
For example, Noah demonstrated courage as he built the ark (Genesis chapters 6-7). Rahab, as well, demonstrated courage as she faced possible death for her and her family (Joshua chapter 2 and 6:17; 22-23).
Joseph demonstrated endurance as he faced hardship after hardship involving unfair treatment and imprisonment. (Genesis chapters 37-46; 50).
Moses demonstrated perseverance as he led a confused and rebellious group of Israelites for 40 years through an unknown wilderness. (Exodus and Numbers).
Then, we see how Abraham (Genesis 12-22) and Joshua (Joshua 1-24) demonstrated ‘just plain ol‘ faith’ as they obediently followed God’s leading with head-scratching uncertainty.
All of our struggles---life marathons---are difficult. I encourage you to keep the following in mind as you run your race.
If you are running your marathon amid fear and need courage to complete the race---imagine Noah or Rahab cheering you on!
If you are running your marathon amid pain and hardships and need endurance to complete your race---imagine Joseph cheering you on!
If you are running your marathon amid obstacles, difficulties, and discouragement and need perseverance to complete your race---imagine Moses cheering you on!
If you are running your marathon amid confusion and uncertainty and need ‘just plain ol‘ faith’ to complete your race---imagine Abraham and Joshua cheering you on!
This is just a sampling of the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who are cheering you on as you struggle to keep running. Let their encouragement push you across that Finish Line!
And, if you have recently completed a difficult marathon, cheer on a dear friend or family member that may be running the same race.