Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive
what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they
would not, without us, be made perfect. Therefore, since we are
surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every
weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance
the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of
My first response to what I was seeing was to feel small, very small. I felt that on a recent trip to the Holy Land where the centuries unrolled before me. I walked amidst extraordinary buildings thousands of years old. I stood atop Mount Nebo where Moses once gazed out over the Promised Land. I marveled at ancient Canaanite gates through which Abraham led a small army to rescue his nephew Lot. I journeyed the land in which patriarchs roamed, Joshua led the Israelites to victory, David stood against Goliath — I felt small in the face of the greatness and the centuries.
But then it came to me; it came to me that God never intends for you or me to feel small. Rather, God has made us players in something big – God’s story of world redemption. We get to be a part of that!
God’s big story is laid out in part in today’s scripture from the book of Hebrews. In previous verses the Holy Spirit has hailed some of the big names of faith: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samson and David. But the author concludes that the lives of these heroes are incomplete without us: “God has provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect”. I am stunned by that statement! God so works that the lives of these great people would not be perfect without us. Or, as the Knox Version nicely renders the phrase, “We are needed to make the history of their lives complete.”
Today’s text paints a vivid picture of a large stadium filled with the great saints of the past. We see them cheering us on as we run the race set before us. I imagine David holding up a banner with your name on it urging you on. I see Abraham high fiving us as we sweat and agonize to run the race. Their lives remind us that we are not the first to run the faith race, as they also fought against trouble, trials and discouragement. They surround us as a great cloud of witnesses because they know we are needed to complete God’s big story.
Not only does the great cloud of witnesses surround us, but Jesus stands at the finishing line cheering us on. Jesus is, after all, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the One who got us started, and the One who sees us through! We are a part of something big! One day we will stretch for the tape at the finish line and hear Jesus’ excitement: “Well done! Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Abraham, Moses and David are cheering us on! Jesus awaits us with the crown! Let us then lay aside everything weighing us down, every sin distracting us and run the race with perseverance! It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
A fellow traveler,