Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
These past few weeks have seen much media coverage of the lives and deaths of several well known public figures, and many around the world have mourned at the loss of such well known people. For me, the last two weeks have also been ones of mourning for two little known individuals, both of whom still impacted others in spite of their "anonymity". One was a woman who lived a long and full life faithfully serving the Lord in her quiet and unassuming way. The other was a woman who sadly led a much shorter life, but spent the last of her days showing everyone exactly how one does "die with dignity", trusting God, praising Him, and looking to Him for strength throughout her year long battle with cancer.
Remembering the lives of these two godly women reminded me of the first three verses of Hebrews chapter twelve. The writer of Hebrews exhorts his readers to throw off the sin in their lives and focus on Jesus, remembering the amazing example of Jesus' life and death, and also the example left to us by the "great cloud of witnesses". While the cloud of witnesses refers to the many faithful Biblical characters mentioned in chapter eleven (and that passage is very worth reading!), I believe that God also gives us "witnesses" in our daily lives. Are there godly men and women at your church, in your family or amongst your friends who are shining examples to others of how to live for Christ? Do you know Christians who have been called home but whose godly legacy and example still live on?
And one cannot read these verses and consider the example of others without also thinking about our own legacy and example which others will see. I know that I need to sit down and seriously consider how I live. Do I embrace the sin trying to entangle me, or am I earnestly seeking God's help to turn away from temptation? Do I constantly fix my eyes on Jesus, or do I merely serve Him for a season and then give up when life gets tough? These are questions which have really challenged me in recent times, and I am sure most Christians have found this a challenge at one time or other in their lives. So let us pray this week that we would take these verses in Hebrews to heart. Let us pray for faithful perserverance and for God's strength to follow Christ's example.