I remember a pivotal time in my journey through Cancer, I found myself taking romantic strolls with the love of my life through the halls of a local hospital while toting an IV pole on wheels. This type of road trip I have become very familiar with as over the past year. I focus on walking at a decent pace and Cathryn focuses on making me laugh and finding ways to keep me smiling. I don’t deserve the angel God gave me to go through life with. I love her more with each lap through this hospital wing and each day of our lives together. Five chemotherapy treatments down and seven to go!
As I am walking, I notice the wheels on my pole don’t work so well and it makes it hard to push along…kinda like the shopping cart I tend get at the grocery store. It reminds of how my life seems like that pole sometimes…I wished all my wheels worked and it wasn’t so difficult to keep moving. Then I recalled the passage that became my mantra through cancer.
I meditated on the Scripture with which we began the road trip and was encouraged. Hebrews 12:1-2 just seemed to nail my necessary outlook and I hope it hits home with the 2 or 3 of you who actually read this! Paul writes (once again…I believe Paul wrote it, although it is debatable) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”. As he finishes the roll call of the hall of fame of faith in the previous chapter, he pulls them into the motivation of our lives. We are not alone in the struggles of our lives. Many have gone before us and faithfully followed God through much more intense struggles. (take a few minutes and read Hebrews chapter 11). When we think “woe is me!” or “nobody knows my pain” we are fooling ourselves. Men and woman have been facing great struggles and glorifying God throughout the ages.
Paul brings two great word pictures into play that help us understand his inspired meaning in almost High Definition. First, he uses the odd word “cloud” to describe the witnesses that have gathered around us as we run this race called life. Many scholars say that Paul is probably calling the readers attention to the Coliseum in Rome. You see the very top tier of seats in the Coliseum was referred to as the “clouds”. You see, as we are struggling to endure our race (I sometimes throw myself a pity party), we must remember that there is a tier of witnesses who have lived through much worse and their example cheers us on.
Secondly, he uses the term “witnesses” to describe these hall-of-famers. The original Greek word used does not necessarily mean that they are witnessing our lives or that our races are played out before them, rather it presents more accurately the picture of a witness in a trial defending the truth. These hall of fame witnesses defended the truth that God is Great, Sovereign, and deserving our best and our praise. These men and women we are to revere in chapter eleven did not have wonderful peaceful lives. They were stressful, struggling lives with overwhelming problems. But they brought sweet, sweet glory to their God by living courageous, faithful lives fully depended on Him…many of them didn’t have much, but they had God!
After graduating from college, I had the privilege to work very closely with arguably one of the most influential Christian leaders of the previous century. He is no longer with us and has joined that tier of witnesses in the cloud. He explained it this way…”You don’t determine a man’s greatness by his wealth or talent as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him!” — Jerry Falwell
Today…Who from Hebrews 11 inspires you? Why do they inspire you? How does this change your life today? Will you be known someday as a great man or woman or will you allow yourself to be discouraged?