Summary: Conclusion of this series on Hebrews 11 which looks at what is required of us now that it is our turn, we are in the field of play.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets – they have all run their race, they have retired and according to the writer to the Hebrews are now a great cloud of witnesses. They are no longer in the field of play, they are in the stands, and they are spectators, watching us, cheering us on. The people who received this letter had been reminded of the great acts of faith against all the odds, now it was their turn. Now it is our turn. Think of it – is heaven watching with baited breath, with cheers and applause? There is difference of opinion – are people who have gone before us watching us as spectators (would that always be pleasant viewing consistent with a heavenly existence?) or are they witnesses in the sense that they have left a great example? Leon Morris suggests that the language may refer to a relay race, in which the “witnesses” are those who have already finished their leg of the race and have passed the baton on to us. [Leon Morris. EBC p 133] I don’t know, but it is our response that really matters. What should be our response? I want to finish this series on faith on trial by looking at how the writer calls for a response from us, from all these fantastic examples and he uses the illustration of a race.
1. Get ready for action
When the athletes come out to race the have layers of clothes on. By the time they run they are wearing shorts and a vest. They could run with the rest of the stuff but it will hinder them. Get rid of hindrances - things that are legitimate but which will hinder – may be different from person to person. Let me give you an example: Some people feel that for them the television is a hindrance and that their lives would be better without it and so don’t have it in their homes. Which is fine. However what some people do is try to make that into some sort of rule that says that we should all do that and that it is a hindrance to all of us. When really if a person feels they should get rid of their TV – do it. But for someone else it may be something else, they may find that their Christian life is hindered. The question to ask here is what is there that hinders me from following Jesus? From the bible and prayer? From witness, from fellowship, from fulfilling God’s purpose for my life? Those are the things we need to look at.
Athletes are focussed – there are things that just do not fit with a disciplined athlete’s lifestyle. The writer says… get rid of entanglements – things that are not legitimate i.e. sin. The trouble with sin in the life of a believer is not that God won’t love us or use us – God is remarkably gracious in this respect. There are many notable examples of people falling into sin still greatly used by God. But it entangles us and slows us down; sooner or later it will trip us up and mess up our race. So let’s get rid of things that are liable to do that. What are the things in your life that might do that? Greed? Lust? Unforgiveness? What is the Holy Spirit bringing to your mind?