We have a Great Cloud of Witnesses who have gone before us; Introduction to the less-known people of the Bible (Hebrews 11 and Hebrews 12:1-2)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Who do you think would win a Sidney to Melbourne Ultramarathon? An ultramarathon is a race that is longer than a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles.

How about cliff Young? In 1983, the 61-year-old potato farmer won the inaugural Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon, a distance of 875 kilometres (544 mi). The race was run between what were then Australia’s two largest Westfield shopping centres: Westfield Parramatta, in Sydney, and Westfield Doncaster, in Melbourne.[4] He ran at a slow loping pace and trailed the leaders for most of the first day, but by running while the others slept, he took the lead the first night and maintained it for the remainder of the race, eventually winning by ten hours.

Before running the race, he told the press that he had previously run for two to three days straight rounding up sheep in gumboots.[5] [these are like mud-boots.] He claimed afterwards that during the race, he imagined that he was running after sheep and trying to outrun a storm. The Westfield run took him five days, 15 hours and four minutes,[1] almost two days faster than the previous record for any run between Sydney and Melbourne. All six competitors who finished the race broke the previous record. Despite attempting the event again in later years, Young was unable to repeat this performance or claim victory again.[1]

Imagine that? Wow?

Generally, when we are running it gets harder if we have more weight holding us down. In the early Olympic games they would train with weight and then run naked.

Who here as seen someone run a marathon in a suit and tie?

I once tried running with ankle weights, those make running difficult.

Over the last 7 years in many of my runs I am pushing Mercedes and Abigail and so I have extra weight to push while running.

Okay, enough about that. My point is in running we must get rid of extra stuff.

Today’s passage pictures the Christian life that way. We must get rid of the extra weight holding us back from serving the Lord.

My theme today:

We can trust God just like the Old Testament Saints trusted the Lord.

So, Eyes on Jesus, God is Faithful we can trust Him.

Let’s read: Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

  1. First, this passage says we have a great cloud of witnesses.
    1. Now, why am I on this passage? I am glad you asked. Today, I am beginning a sermon series on the less known people of the Bible. Some of these people you may know by name and that is all. Some of the people you won’t even know by name. For example, who can tell me about Rehoboam? Who can tell me about Gehazi? What about Uzziah? After this sermon series is over you will know a few things about those men. I’ll also be preaching on people like Samuel and Abigail in the Old Testament. These people set great examples for us.
    2. This brings us to Hebrews 12. Hebrews 12 follows Hebrews 11 and Hebrews 11 lists many of the heroes of the Old Testament.
    3. In Hebrews 12:1 the author talks about the great cloud of witnesses but then in verse 2 he tells them to set their eyes on Jesus.
    4. This great cloud of witnesses are the people that have gone before us, mainly, and specifically, these heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
    5. Listen, this great cloud of witnesses are NOT people in Heaven looking down on us. No, not at all. The great cloud of witnesses are the heroes of faith. If you look right here it says Hebrews 12:1, but in reality the chapters and verse numbers were added later and let me tell you, I am glad they were added because it would be quite difficult for me to stand up here and say, “Turn three fourths of the way through Hebrews and join me where it says, ‘Therefore.”’ That would be difficult. Chapters were added in the middle ages while a man on horseback rode to Paris. I am very thankful for these divisions, but sometimes they are at the wrong place. This is one of those times.
    6. Chapter 12 goes along with chapter 11.
    7. I believe we can make the case that each one of these people from the Old Testament heroes of faith would say, “God is faithful, we can trust Him.”
    8. Let’s think about the people listed in Hebrews 11. With a few exceptions (Abraham and maybe Abel) these are not the people we will be studying, but let’s think about them.
    9. Abel would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb 11:4).
    10. Enoch would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:5).
    11. Noah, who built the ark when people had never seen rain, would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:7).
    12. Abraham, father of our faith, would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:8-19).
    13. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb 11:20-22).
    14. Moses would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:23-29).
    15. Rahab would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:31).
    16. Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:32 and the following verses).
    17. The prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah and the rest would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:32 and the following verses).
    18. These are all the witnesses that went before us. They were imperfect, they had flaws, but the pattern was that they trusted God in what God had called them to do.
    19. In context, the people that Hebrews was written to struggled with staying true to Christ. They were Jewish Christians considering backsliding. The author is reminding them by the examples of these Old Testament heroes to stay true to the faith. God is faithful.
  2. Second, get rid of the distractions. This is the second major purpose in this passage.
    1. He says to throw off everything that hinders us. Remember the opening of my sermon about weight? Who runs with a bunch of weight? No, we lighten our load. Likewise, as a Christian we get rid of the weight keeping us from serving the Lord. This weight may be sin or just things keeping us from following Jesus fully.
    2. We could be dealing with two types of sins:
      1. Sins of commission: these are things we do that we should not do.
        1. Pride
        2. Envy
        3. Lust
        4. Lying
        5. Cheating
        6. Stealing
        7. Hate
        8. Jealousy
        9. Gossip
  • Idolatry
  • Adultery
  1. Then there are sins of omission. These are things that you don’t do that you should do.
    1. Not loving God
    2. Not loving people
    3. Not spending time in the Word
    4. Not learning
  2. Other things: there are other things that weight us down.
    1. These could be things that are not sins at all but are just weighting us down.
      1. This may be not serving our church.
      2. This could be not studying but watching TV too much.
  • This could be some relationship that we are in that brings us down.
  1. The race of the Christian life is marked out for us. We must run with aim, looking towards the finish line (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
  2. The Christian life is marked out in God’s Word.
  • Verse 2 tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus.
    1. All of those people in the Hall of Faith section failed. They all messed up, but One did not mess up and that is Jesus.
    2. We have our model; Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.
    3. He endured the cross and the shame of the cross and then sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    4. We must run the Christian life as with aim. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus did it right. We must persevere and stay the course.
    5. We must get rid of things that are holding us back and stay focused.
    6. God wants to use all of us, but we have weights in our Christian life and we must release the weights and look at Jesus.


John Piper shares the following (Devotional excerpted from Future Grace, page 256):

What faith performs is sometimes unspeakably hard.

In his book Miracle on the River Kwai, Ernest Gordon tells the true story of a group of POWs working on the Burma Railway during World War II.

At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing.

What can sustain the will to die for others, when you are innocent? Jesus was carried and sustained in his love for us by “the joy that was set before him.” He banked on a glorious future blessing and joy, and that carried and sustained him in love through his suffering.

Woe to us if we think we should or can be motivated and strengthened for radical, costly obedience by some higher motive than the joy that is set before us. When Jesus called for costly obedience that would require sacrifice in this life, he said in Luke 14:14, “You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” In other words, be strengthened now in all your losses for Christ’s sake, because of the joy set before you.

Peter said that, when Jesus suffered without retaliating, he was leaving us an example to follow — and that includes Jesus’s confidence in the joy set before him. He handed his cause over to God (1 Peter 2:21) and did not try to settle accounts with retaliation. He banked his hope on the resurrection and all the joys of reunion with his Father and the redemption of his people. So should we.[2]





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