The Great Cloud of Witnesses

cheers

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us” [Hebrews 12:1, AMP].

In the post The Race of Life, we looked at what it means run in the race of life and to run effectively, with our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ. When it comes to the race of life, we are not the first and only to have run, nor the first to endure the contradictions that come with the Christian life. In fact, there are many who have gone before us to pave the way for us. These are whom the Bible refers to as the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” [Hebrews 12:1, KJV]. Now imagine running your race with King David, the prophet Isaiah, Apostles Paul, Peter, James and John, sitting alongside with our Lord Jesus Christ, cheering you on from the grandstands as you run. Let that image be permanently planted in your mind as you run. It should shoot some adrenaline in your system to keep you going, irrespective of the circumstances you are facing.

However, we know that just with the Olympics, it is not solely keeping your eyes on the finished line that guarantees us winning the race. You can also have all your friends, loved ones and even the host of angels cheering you on, but that does not automatically guarantee that you will win the race. Winning athletes prepare months or even years ahead of the race to ensure they are in tip-top shape to run their best. Some hire world-renowned coaches to take them through intensive training, with each session looking at how they can outperform their previous goals. Part of the training is to strip the athlete down of anything and anyone that will weigh them down physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially and even financially. “In a race everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears” [1 Corinthians 9:24-25, TLB]. Good coaches understand that it takes being in shape wholistically to win a race. The athlete would need to be in a sound mind and in a state free from internal distractions, to keep their eyes fixed on the prize and to run their best.

Now, the Bible makes us aware that there are certain things that can bog us down in our race if not dealt with. So it admonishes us that, “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins” [Hebrews 12:1, MSG]. When you look at the clothing of runners, it is very light and body-clinging, almost as though part of their bodies. This is because the athlete who wants to win cannot afford to add any extra weight to their body weight. Similarly, we cannot afford to add any extra baggage of unforgiveness, bitterness, envy, jealousy and anything that can weigh us down when running our race.

The Living Bible refers to parasitic sins as “especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up” [Hebrews 12:1, TLB]. This is what a parasite does; it latches itself onto another organism, feeds off of it and sucks the life source rendering its host weak. Parasitic sins do the same to Christians as a parasite does; they drain your strength such that the strength you need to run dwindles to a place where you are constantly fatigued even in the early stages of the race. The goal of parasitic sins is to get you to drop out of the race even before you make headway. This why the bible says no parasitic sins; meaning we are not to even give them room to latch onto us. That is why the Apostle Paul said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” [1 Corinthians 9:26-27, MSG].

Let us not simply run but let’s run effectively. It starts by stripping off anything that will be a hindrance to our walk. Then we keep our eyes on the prize, empowered knowing that we have a Great Cloud of Witnesses cheering us on, knowing that we have been destined to win.

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