Summary: A look at the heroes of the bible, the great crowd of witnesses...
God’s Hall of Fame
Hebrews 12:1, “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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Mt. 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The author of Hebrews is comparing the Christian life to a race. It is a race of endurance. Paul compared our walk with wrestling, another sporting event. Paul was very aware of what he was talking about. The Romans were known for their games. He understood the analogy, as did the writer of the book of Hebrews. We have the Olympics today. An Olympian is focused on his sport. If he is a runner, his entire life is about running. If he is an archer, his life is spent bettering himself, striving to hit the mark. If he is a wrestler, he will diet, he will exercise, he will practice until he is the best wrestler he can be. An athlete will get rid of anything that prevents him from reaching his goal. He is focused. It is this kind of focus Hebrews is talking about.
Nearly every sport has a Hall of Fame. Men and women who stand taller, shine brighter, than the other athletes. Basketball has Michael Jordan, football its Johnny Unitas (Fantasy Football, its Jason Brown), soccer its Pele, running its Carl Lewis, and the list goes on and on.
Can I tell you that God has a Hall of Fame?
The writer of Hebrews said we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. He is referring to Hebrews chapter 11. This is the faith chapter. It is a short walk down the hallowed halls of God’s own Hall of Fame. There we see those who have run this race and made it to the finish line.
We see Abel, who, by faith, offered an excellent sacrifice. He paid with his life, but he finished his race, and is in God’s Hall of Fame. We see Enoch there, what a trophy in God’s Hall of Fame. Here is a man who lived at one of the most wicked times on the planet, but he walked with God, and was not, for God took him. He crossed the finish line. We see Noah there in God’s Hall of Fame. Here is a man who went against absolutely everything and everybody in the society he lived in. He stood, righteous, in the face of complete moral depravity. He had a church of eight people, including himself, but, by faith, he endured, and saved all life on the planet. We see Abraham there in God’s Hall of Fame. Here is a man who lived among the pagans. His entire family were idolaters. But He believed the one true God. He left all he had, forsook the only home he had never known, and followed the call of God. God promised him he would be the father of many nations, but he and his wife were unable to have children. Everything was against him. He literally abandoned all he was to follow an impossible promise. He could have remained where he was, dying comfortably with his family, but he left it all. When God finally gave him the son he had promised him, he was willing to let God take him back, to sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. Abraham was focused, a tremendous athlete, who finished the race strong.
Walk with me through the Hall of Fame.
Jacob is there, Joseph is there: a man sold into slavery by his own brothers, lied about, accused of rape, cast into prison, forgotten by one who said he would help him. Joseph did not know the story of Joseph when he was living it. But he did not give up. He finished strong. He crossed the finish line. He was focused on the race. Moses is there, as well. Here is a man raised in the lap of luxury, wrapped in splendor, granted Royal power. He could have remained there, enjoying the pleasures of life, living like a prince of Egypt.
“When he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”