“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…” (Hebrews 12:1)
I don’t know about you, but for the last two weeks my wife and I have spent our evenings glued to the television, joining millions of spectators around the globe in a glorious pastime: watching our country’s athletes compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. We’ve cheered, roared, and come near to tears as we’ve watched the likes of Missy Franklin, Gabby Douglas, Rebecca Soni, and Michael Phelps turn in the performances of their lives before a frenzied crowd. Man, are they in shape!
In many of their post-event interviews, exhausted from their exertion but exhilarated by their victory, they point to a common factor: the power of the crowd. Hearing the roar, knowing that family and friends are passionately cheering them on, and that the whole world is watching in those final moments before the buzzer sounds and the race begins, these athletes were compelled to reach deeply to “run” like they never had before. It is not only this “crowd,” but the “crowd” of the great American Olympians that have come before them and given their all that compels these athletes to run well, knowing that they themselves are inspiring the next generation through their faithful dedication to run their race well. What a legacy!
In Hebrews 12, we see a reference to a “great cloud of witnesses.” Who are these witnesses that he is referring to? All those people that fill what is called the “Hebrews Hall of Faith” in the previous chapter! If a witness is someone who bears witness to the truth of something, what do these witnesses point to? To the amazing things that God can do in and through us “by faith!” Just as Olympic athletes are spurred on by the legacy of those that have come before them, both living and dead, it is the legacy of living “by faith” that those living and dead leave that is meant to inspire others to run the race of faith.
How does this apply to us? I think the question it raises is this: what truth are we “bearing witness” to? Do the children you influence see you living “by faith” on a regular basis? Or do they see you and I depending on OUR strength, OUR ability, OUR understanding, choosing the life of comfort and ease over a life of total dependence, complete reliance on an all-sufficient, wholly-worthy Savior? What needs to change in your life and in mine so that we live life “by faith” before the children that we long to see “run the race of faith with perseverance?” The truth is this: if we want our children to be inspired to run the race of faith well, it will be by the race of faith they see US run. It is not easy, but this is a key factor: the power of the crowd. May we bear witness to the glory not of standing on the top of the medal podium, but the glory of a life lived “by faith.”