We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses …”
Hebrews 12: 1
We are called to be a witness – a witness to the world at large. A witness to our brothers and sisters in Christ – a witness to those we love - a witness to a lost and dying world – a witness to those that hate us - a witness to the holy angels – and to the principalities and powers of darkness - a witness to our own self – for we alone know if our heart is genuine - a witness to the Lord our God – Who alone knows the intentions of the heart.
We are not lone witnesses, however cheerless, isolated, or hard our spiritual walk. We are not a solitary witness, however deeply Christendom wallows in apostasy. We are preceded by a numerous and exemplary cloud of worthy witnesses – witnesses that however humble in spirit are giants in the faith that pleases God.
This huge throng of many unnamed souls fills our spiritual horizon. We live and move and have our being in Christ – in the wake of their testimony. Some imagine this huge throng to be peering in on their own private little lives. An intrusive band of peeping-toms invading our personal space or scrutinising us. We have no scriptural authority to see them as spectators, looking in on all we do!
Their witness was by their lives – lives that were lived by faith in God – lives that in many cases were sordid and sinful – yet lives that trusted God. Theirs were rarely a life that we should emulate – for many engaged in foolish actions. Oft-times their faith for which they are applauded was weak, sinful, carnal, or careless.
They were not a witness to what they did but a witness to the One in whom they trusted.. a testimony to His faithfulness, despite their variations of mood or bad decisions; a witness to the One in whom they trusted – not necessarily a life to be emulated; an evidence of God’s grace – despite many imprudent actions or foolhardy words.
From the beginning of time and into eternity there will be a great band of witnesses – multitudes that have borne testimony of faith in the One that is faithful and true. A great cloud of witnesses to the faithfulness of their glorious covenant-keeping God. All in this 'great clouds of witnesses' – had to die to self and finally trust only in God.
Abraham had to sacrifice his Isaac. Jacob was broken at Peniel. Isaiah’s foul mouth had to be cleansed with a coal from the altar. Reluctant Jonah was taken to the gates of hell and back. Zacharias was made mute. Peter had to come to the end of his prideful boasting. Mary broke her precious alabaster box of spikenard, for love of her Lord. All had to deny the self-life, that is so prominent in each of our own individual lives. God must bring us all to our own personal Patmos, so we too can have a vision of Jesus.
For many years Paul kicked against the pricks – resisting the urgings of the Lord. But finally, that proud man was humbled before the living God – by the living God. Until at the end of his life he could say that he considered his life as garbage! – for the excellency of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.
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