Summary: By the world's standards the men and women in Hebrews 11 were anything but successes but in God's eyes they succeeded. Based on their testimony, the opening of Hebrews 12 tells us what it will take for us to live successful Christian lives.
Living a Successful Christian Life
What comes to your mind when you hear the term "a successful Christian"? How you answer is dependent on your definition of success. Many consider success to be power, prosperity, and prestige. The most common definition of success given is simply achieving one's personal goals. For example, a football coach may consider himself to be a success if he wins every game. A college student may appear successful if he or she makes straight A’s. The problem is that success by that definition varies being dependent on our individual goals. I believe God has a different outlook and definition of success for the Christian. What is it that would make God see me as a success? Charles Stanley says from God's standpoint "success means walking in His way". To God our greatest achievement is a continuing desire to be the person He has called us to be and to strive to carry out the goals He has for our lives. To accomplish this is to live a successful Christian life.
Hebrews chapter 11 provides us with what has been often referred to as "Faith's Hall of Fame". It is the testimony of those who lived successful lives as followers of the Lord. By the world's standards most were anything but successes but in God's eyes they succeeded to live and die for Him. Based on their testimony, the writer of Hebrews, in the opening verses of chapter 12 tells us what it will take for us to live a successful Christian life.
I. We need to imitate those who imitate Christ.
A. Hebrews 12:1 "THEREFORE, SINCE WE ARE SURROUNDED BY SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
B. S Lewis Johnson writes that in interpreting the witnesses in this verse "Many picture the saints who have gone before as spectators in the stadium. So we as Christians are running a race with the spectators observing us. Even your loved ones may be looking down and they are watching you carefully. This may be a motivation for you to run well. If I knew that Moses, and Paul and all the prophets were there watching, that would indeed be an incentive for me. However, that is not what he is talking about. Rather it is the lives which faithful men have lived and the stories found in the Scriptures which are witnesses to us. It is not what we see in our spectators that is to move us, but what we see in the Scriptures!...So as we look at these men and women, there should come to our minds this conviction - that the God of yesterday is also the God of today. In other words, the things that God did through Enoch, through Noah, through Abraham, through Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, the things that God did through them, He is able to do today (through you and through me beloved)!." - copied
C. 1 Corinthians 10:11 "Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction..."
D. We need to realize that these witnesses are not watching believers today. The witnesses are those who have just been presented as having lived victorious successful lives for God. Someone has said that "The witnesses are like a coach who encourages his team to victory by crying out... Others have done it, and so can you! They were able to overcome and they won the victory, so there can be no excuse for us who have so much more at our disposal such as the completed Word of God, the power of the resurrected Christ and His indwelling Holy Spirit to fail, to fall by the way, to be defeated and be “saved so as by fire.” - copied
E. Warren Wiersbe comments that the men and women of Hebrews 11 "are the “cloud” that witnesses to us, “God can be trusted! Put your faith in His Word and keep running the race!” When you read the Old Testament, your faith should grow, for the account shows what God did in and through people who dared to trust His promises (Ro 15:4-note). When you read the Gospels, you see the greatest example of endurance in Jesus Christ. (Wiersbe, W: With the Word: Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook. Nelson)
F. The testimonies of the Old Testament saints ought to challenge us to “see the invisible, choose the imperishable and do the impossible”
G. So I take the witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 to be the saints who have run the race before us, and have gathered, as it were, along the marathon route to say, through the testimony of their lives, "By faith I finished, you can too!.... John Piper