The preceding excerpt (Hebrews 12:1-2) declaring the presence of a “cloud of witnesses” has been misconstrued in various ways, which will not be addressed here. The imaginary in the letter sent to the Hebrews is actually rather evident compared to the examples that many have likely come across through our lives.
The original goal of the “cloud of witnesses,” within context, was to provide encouragement and call to Christians that had become worn down by the normal struggles faced while living a Christian life to endure through the race. The letter to the Hebrews provided them (and us now) a theological understanding of a Christology of Hope.
My Own Prison
In a previous articled entitled “When Life Reaches Full Circle,” I discussed how my childhood as a “church kid” played a significant role into how I was viewed and expected to act according to “church standards” and “parental ideals.” I went on to further explain how these standards/ideals harvested internal over an extended period of time as I walked a path I considered to be safe according to what I considered to be truth.
The path that I traveled left me one crimson stain after another as I went. The affects resulted in a over an extended period of time as I walked a path I considered to be safe according to what I considered to be truth.
I did not realize that every step on this journey was leaving me a crimson stain after crimson stain. The affects of this journey resulted in having to face the reality that a separation between the biblical truths that I learned as a child and a genuine relationship with Him had occurred until I faced a decision that was life changing.
I mentally checked out of church towards the end of Junior High and, in some degrees, I ignored what I was taught to accept which amounted to altered truths.
The phase of checking out did not end well as within about a year, I found myself in a situation that changed my life. I wish this pivotal event had only sent an earthquake through my life, but this decision included others. Thus, some of the side effects rippled to those that I find dearest.
The decisions preceding the linchpin event seemed to add individual dark clouds above me that made me feel like God was not around. I believed He was nowhere to be seen. This belief cause me to hit a point in believing I created my own prison.
It is truly difficult to convey the mental and emotional road I went through this time. As I spent time deliberating how to put thoughts into words, I could only refer to the song “My Own Prison” by Creed. As a result, I will let it speak for me as it represents this part of story well.
Running The Race
The opening word (wherefore) of verse 1 illustrates that the contents of chapter eleven has been preparing its readers for the proceeding verses. These verses show that His followers are not to “shrink back” (10:39) from their faith to return to face their struggles alone.
In my own prison, like others, I had to face the reality that the struggles I faced – and will face – are not intended to push me away. The crimson stains which resulted in a separation did not hinder His desire to have a personal relationship with me and (2) that He would never leave or forsake me (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20).
His followers are actually told to run “the race for which we are entered” (Hewbrews 12:1 NEB).
It can not be any more appropriate for these verses imagery to be focused on a stadium (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 2:16; 2 Timothy 2:5) for a culture that causes our attention to be placed on achieving health, wealth/possessions, and glory/recognition.
As I have reflected on my own life, I have come to realize that my own struggles have occurred due to my own neglect of Him and not Him leaving. The pursuit of what ever my own personal desire might of been, it resulted in my own decision to slowly take Him for granted. And to ignore the fact that I actually had to make a conscious effort to put my faith into action on a daily basis.
I know that I am not alone in this journey as it is certain that everyone will face difficulties and our own fears in our own lives. Jesus stated that “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33, ESV).”
But everyone is able to deal with our own difficulties that test our faith, which builds our steadfastness according to James 1:2-4 (ESV), which states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
The attribute that all the members of the “Hall of Faith” had in common, and what we must aspire to do, is being fearless due to their great faith in God. Thus, they had a desire to follow Him wholeheartedly with no restraint.
In order to do so, it is necessary to lay lay aside all our excess weight that holds us back from committing fully to running the race (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Throughout the Bible, we are told not to be afraid or discouraged. We are also told of His faithfulness despite our fears and shortcomings. We see this common thread in what is refereed too as the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.
These men are not here because they did not have difficulties and fears that tested their faith in their faith. Rather, they had similar troubles and character faults as we have in our own lives.
These men are our heroes of faith which have already ran their races and are now in the stands as they are witnesses to the life of faith. These are no mere spectators of our own races as they are all collectively extorting each and everyone of us to run our race well to the finish.