Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3 NRSV

On this second day of Lent, a lot of us are trying to adjust ourselves to the fasting commitments we made for this 40 days plus Sundays of Lent.  In the process, some of us are struggling a little bit and maybe wondering if we’ve made a mistake.

And, we’re kind of feeling in the spotlight because we made that commitment before God and now we feel like we have His complete attention.

And that can make you feel all alone.

In truth, one of the toughest parts of trying to live as a follower of Jesus Christ is the realization that you’re not perfect in the performance of living your life, either in front of the people around you or, more critically, in His eyes.

And THAT can make you feel really alone.

Hebrews 12:3 is great news for followers of Christ for TWO reasons.

First, you’re never really alone.  The writer of To The Hebrews reminds us here that we are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses.  In the context of this Scripture, following Hebrews 12, the recounting of the great heroes of the faith throughout the Old Testament, this would seem to refer only to those Scriptural giants.  But, of course, centuries have since past and there’s an even greater cloud of witnesses around us.

And, it doesn’t only apply to the Biblical figures.  It includes those personal giants of the faith that have made a contribution in our lives.

For me, that includes my dad, my first hero of the faith.  But, it also includes all those individuals whose lives have changed mine.  And, that includes more recent heroes like Rev. Ed Bass, Rev. Tom Betzer, Rachel Ruth, Nyla Wagoner and, most recently, Carole Biggs.  Their lives affected me while they were here and, according to this Scripture, their spiritual presence continues to be with me.

OK, maybe that scares you even more, as if you were being examined by even more people judging your actions.  But, there’s even more.

The writer also reminds us that Jesus is not only with us, He is our model to follow.  I know; you’re feeling here like that’s just one more example to which you can’t aspire.  But, there’s one more reminder here.

He knows exactly how you feel.  He experienced life just like you.  He knows how it feels.

And, as a matter of fact, so does that great cloud of witnesses.  Their example is not just a reminder that you’re not as good as them.  It’s a reminder that many before you have overcome everything you’re experiencing right now.

Don’t give up.  Don’t lose hope.  You’re not alone.

There is reason here for great hope.

Continue on.

Always praying for you,

Your Older Brother,

Pastor Joe

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