The message of Hebrews in the New Testament is one of encouragement to Christians to persevere in tough times.
Do you have any idea of how many folks are looking in on your life and pulling for you to be victorious in your Christian living? The Hebrews writer starts the list with those mentioned in Chapter 11.
In that chapter, the writer begins a roll call of faithful folks who endured. He mentions Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Included in the list are some lesser-known Bible characters such as Rahab (the harlot), Barak, Samson, and Jephthah.
It is encouraging to realize that many on the list lived lives that were anything but perfect. In fact, they were horribly flawed. The important thing was that they came to faith and in the final analysis, clung to the promises of God.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (11:13).
What did they endure? There is a lengthy list of challenges these people of faith faced: torture, jeers, flogging, prison. Some were stoned. Some were sawed in two. They faced destitution, persecution, and mistreatment.
What do all these people have to do with us? Chapter 12 makes that quite clear: “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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:1-3).
There you have it! Those folks are surrounding us and cheering us on.
In 2004 when I retired from the Belton pulpit, I finallly made time to run in the Capitital 10K in Ausitin (the race is always run on Sunday.) I will never forget the thrill of my first time in 2004. For the entire 6.2 miles of the course, the streets of Austin were lined with folks shouting words of support. Some would call a runner’s number and yell, “Looking good! Keep it up! You’re doing great!” The encouragement helped me finish the race.
Our Lord did not promise that living the Christian life would be easy. The Apostle Peter wrote: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering . . . But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ. . . . If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed . . . If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (4:12-16).
Let us remember that, though not seen, the faithful who have gone before join that “great cloud of witnesses” urging us: “Don’t lose heart!”