“A Great Cloud of Witnesses”
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses…let us run with endurance the race….Heb. 12:1
Take a look at the following list and see if you can discern what they have in common: Enoch, Moses, Teresa of Avila, San Juan de la Cruz, Charles Finney, Gideon, Rahab, Therese of Lisieux, Watchmen Nee, Oswald Chambers, Francis of Assisi, Dallas Willard, Harold Hoehner, and Mother Teresa. Everyone one of these men and women have demonstrated an active life of dynamic and charismatic faith. Dynamic, because they refused to live by the status quo, and often had to endure hardship or suffering for the sake of the gospel. Charismatic, because in one degree or another the simplicity of their faith was commanding and life-changing.
The anonymous author of Hebrews compiled a short list of people who showed exemplary faith and used their lives as a means of challenging the early church to live their own lives of great faith. Look at what he wrote: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. These men and women showed us how to live mature, Christ-like lives. Their testimony and witness surround us for every step of the journey we take. When we follow their example, we have a blueprint, a matrix, a standard that can guide and inform our every step. It includes throwing off every encumbrance (often the good things that we do but which God has not called us to do…they weigh us down and prevent us from flourishing in the journey), and the sin that so easily entangles (look at that list again, can you see the sin they wrestled with? Maybe or maybe not. Truth is, however, they all knew that sin was an easy entanglement that had to be confronted and cast aside in order to conduct the journey properly), so that we can run the race well.
There are two forms of reading that hold my interest: the first is biographies. I just finished a biography on the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great pastor of London in the middle and late 1800’s. It was refreshingly written, for in it the author described, not just the accomplishments of this amazing man, but the challenges and struggles he endured for many years of his life. I find that his trials and labors are not too dissimilar from my own, and in that I find great encouragement.
The second, actual writings of great men and women. While biographies paint a picture in broad strokes of a person’s life, the writing from their own hand reveals the thought processes they went through as they sought to live the spiritual life. They reveal how they discipline their mind to be able to receive instruction from the Holy Spirit. They explain how they were able to find solitude and silence in the midst of their busy world. They articulate ways they practiced to draw closer to the Lord (Teresa of Avila, for example wrote the Interior Castle describing how to get deeper with Christ or San Juan de la Cruz who wrote some of the most beautiful poetry in all of Spanish history expressing the depth of his love for Christ).
The end of October is a celebration of Saints (an all hallows eve) that for many in the Christian tradition was a way to remember the lives of those amazing men and women of faith and the markers they left for us to follow. I challenge you to use this month to read a good Christian biography or find a work they penned themselves. I believe your life will be richer for it…and run the race well!!
Blessings on the journey,