“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV)
I just heard that another dear friend passed into eternity. She has joined my great cloud of witnesses.
As most people do when they hear this news, I spent some time thinking about my friend. Also, about death in general. Not in morbid fascination. Rather, in quiet reflection about those who have gone on and about my own mortality.
I pulled out my “Great Cloud of Witnesses” folder. It contains the funeral notices and obituaries of family, friends, and acquaintances who, over the years, have escaped the boundaries of mortal clay and have “put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54). As I reminisced over each person, sadness and remorse came over me. Sadness for those who I knew were believers; remorse for those who were not. Even though I miss them sorely, my sadness is tempered somewhat since I know when a believer is “absent from the body,” he or she is in the Lord’s presence (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). But my remorse lingers since I know I could have, and should have, been a better witness to those who did not have a personal relationship with Christ.
Running the Race – Finishing Strong
As more and more people I know arrive in Heaven, they become part of the “great cloud of witnesses.” Angels escort them to their seats in the heavenly grandstands overlooking the race of life. This is what Paul refers to when he encourages us to live as if running a race in front of heavenly spectators.
With each new witness in my section of the grandstand, I ask myself, “How am I running my race? What are my heavenly fans thinking as they watch me? Are they happily cheering me on or frantically urging me to run a better race? Better yet, what is Jesus Christ thinking?” These sobering questions help gain a heavenly perspective as I run my earthly race.
My hope and prayer is that we all throw off everything that holds us back from running a strong race. That we put aside the “pet sin” that so easily knocks us off course. And that we live each day with focused determination, eyes firmly locked on the finish line where Jesus welcomes us home. Let’s focus on running our race and finishing strong.
No pressure, my fellow runners. But we do have a huge home crowd cheering us on!