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. (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Witnesses from the Past
A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon at a church celebrating its 200th anniversary. The church was founded by traveling preachers who gathered people interested in becoming a congregation, and served those people during the pioneer era. I mentioned how primitive conditions could be at the time: roads were not well marked or were non-existent, fresh water had to be obtained, and daily living was hard work! Traveling preachers faced all kinds of obstacles as they rode many miles in all weather.
Our Own Witnesses
Even if our own lives have fewer hazards, we all live each day with a certain amount of faith. We seek the strength to meet whatever special challenges we face. We have faith in God that God will help us. Where does that faith come from, though?
Often, it was other people who instilled in us faith in the Lord.
The Book of Hebrews was probably written to second generation Christians who came to faith through the preaching of the apostles and their colleagues. We’re all in that same situation: we never met Jesus in the flesh, and so our faith likely originated from preaching and teaching or from someone’s testimony.
The author of Hebrews reminds the congregation that faith is built on many people, people we never met because they came years, even centuries, before us. Go back later and read Hebrews 11, where the author recounts the heroes of faith in earlier times.
A Family Tree of Faith
It’s a great thing when we can trace a kind of genealogy of our faith. For instance, my maternal grandmother was a tremendous influence on my life and faith. She bought me a Bible dictionary when I was young, which I still use regularly. I didn’t realize at the time that Grandma couldn’t really afford it on her limited income but she bought it for me anyway. Grandma in turn received her faith from faithful church people of her younger days, like a relative named Brother Ben Mahon, a noted local preacher who traveled around preaching.
Since I’m a teacher, I’ll give you an assignment—-but it’s voluntary and ungraded! Sometime in the near future, send a note to someone who helped you in your faith, explain how they did so, and thank them. I’ve done that several times over the years, and it’s a wonderful expression of appreciation.