Running the Race: Compassed By the Cloud of Witnesses & Coming to the City

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. More specifically today’s passage is found in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament epistle. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endure such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

 

            “Ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thour art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chastenth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if he be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for you feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:4-17).

 

            “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better than than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:18-28).

 

            When you come to the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will come to a chapter that seems to build upon the language that was found in the previous chapter. If you begin reading with and from the first verse you will find the author speaking unto their audience and speaking unto them of their being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. It is actually quite remarkable when considering the words found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here seem to suggest the author is both writing and speaking about all those who were mentioned in the previous chapter. As you read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter you will find the author seeking to convey a legacy and lineage of faith. What’s more is that when the author sought to speak of this legacy and lineage of faith they saw fit to begin almost at the beginning. Upon reading the words found in the eleventh chapter of this epistle you will find the author opening by declaring how faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Furthermore the author goes on to describe how it was by and through faith the elders obtained a good report. It is this concept of a good report that must needs be recognized and understood when reading these words for they call and draw our attention to one of the main and underlying purposes of faith—namely, that we might obtain a good report. Any discussion which is made and had concerning faith must of necessity always have present within it an understanding that it is by and through faith that we obtain a good report. What’s more is that when we think about and consider this reality of a good report we must understand that this report is not only with the living God but also with man.

 

            I sit here this morning thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but think about the words which the author of this epistle wrote concerning Abel and Enoch. Upon reading the words presented here you will find the author almost beginning and opening this section with the declaration that it was by and through faith the elders obtained a good report and then only a few short verses later the author goes on to describe two patriarchs who did in fact obtain a good report in the sight of the living God. What makes this even more interesting is one of these individuals who obtained a good report in the sight of both God and man was murdered by his own brother out of envy, hatred, malice and jealousy while the other individual was translated from this earth that he might not taste death. When you take the time to read these words you will find the author writing concerning Abel how it was by and through faith he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain and was regarded as righteous in the sight of the living God. Not only this but you will also read of how Enoch—before he was translated from this earth and taken by the living God—had the testimony that he pleased God. It is based on this reality of Enoch pleasing the living God the author would go on to declare unto their readers and audience that without faith it is impossible to please God. Thus within the opening six verses of this chapter—not only do we learn that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, not only do we recognize that it was by faith the elders obtained a good report but we also recognize and understand that without faith it is impossible to please God.

 

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth concerning this lineage and heritage of faith. The author clearly sought to show forth the demonstration and manifestation of faith within the lives of countless men and women who lived during the days of the Old Testament and covenant. Beginning with Abel and continuing through the history found in the pages of the Old Testament the author would go on to speak of Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and others. Not only this but when you come to the final section of this chapter you will find the author realizing that time had failed them to write and speak of others such as David, and Samson, and Samuel, and Jephthah and others who through faith also obtained a good report in the sight of the living God. It is this reality concerning obtaining a good report which must needs be recognized and understood for when you seek to understand the language contained in this epistle you must realize that it is through faith we please the living God—and not only please the living God but also obtain a good report in His sight. What’s more is I would dare say that pleasing God and obtaining this good report in His sight are intrinsically linked to each other and cannot be separated. Oh there would be those who would think and even believe they can separate obtaining a good report in the sight of the living God and pleasing God and yet to make such an attempt is both feeble and futile.

 

            In order to understand the words, language and context that is found in this passage of Scripture I am absolutely convinced we must recognize the words which are found in the final section of the eleventh chapter. It is what we find in these final verses that highlights and underscores the powerful demonstration and manifestation of faith within the lives of countless men and women who up until that time had left a lasting legacy and heritage of faith. The author—in writing concerning these who have gone before—would emphatically declare that the world was not worthy of them. These whom the author wrote and spoke of were those who obtained a good report in the sight of God, who pleased God and who died in faith seeing the promises afar off despite not receiving them within their own lifetime. What’s important to note when considering the words found in the eleventh chapter is that faith is more than just something we assent to and more than something we speak of and declare with our mouths. Countless men and women throughout the years have sought to explain, rationalize, reason and define faith while concurrently having absolutely no demonstration or manifestation of faith within their hearts and lives. When writing unto the Thessalonian and Corinthian saints the apostle Paul emphatically declared unto them how the gospel came not with enticing words of man’s wisdom or eloquent speech but with the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. This is something we must needs acknowledge and recognize when considering faith for just as the gospel must needs be accompanied by the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit so also must faith have demonstration and manifestation among the lives of those who profess to have it. In fact, I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints as well as the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints:

 

            “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:17-31).

 

            “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

 

            “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our praters; remembering without easing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in mush assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5).

 

            Oh when we read each of these passages of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing unto two different churches and congregations in what is today modern Greece concerning the preaching of the word of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul emphatically and boldly declared that the word of the gospel did not come unto them nor was it preached unto them in word only but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. What’s more is the apostle Paul would go on to declare that he did not come unto and among them with wise and eloquent speech but in power and in the Holy Ghost. Thus what we find within this passage of Scripture is an incredibly unique and powerful truth concerning the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and its being linked and connected to the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power. It is this particular reality of the word and gospel of Jesus Christ being intrinsically linked and connected to the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power we must recognize and understand—particularly when we consider the reality of faith within the lives of those who profess to have it. There is not a doubt in my mind that just as the gospel must of necessity be accompanied by the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and the demonstration of power so also must faith of necessity be revealed among men and in the sight of God through demonstration and manifestation. We dare not and must not think and believe that merely speaking of faith’s presence within our lives as being enough without also having demonstration and manifestation of it within our lives. It is with this in mind I invite you to turn your attention now to the words which James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus wrote in the second chapter of his epistle unto the saints which were scattered and suffering in the midst of the earth:

 

            “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).

 

            “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also?” (James 2:14-26).

 

            It is of great necessity we pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus writing unto his hearers and audience concerning faith—and not only faith but it’s demonstration and manifestation within their lives. When James wrote unto these saints which were scattering and suffering he wrote unto them concerning faith and how man is not justified by faith alone. James took this opportunity to beautifully and wonderfully declare unto his readers and audience that faith without works is dead abiding alone. Essentially that which James sought to convey to his readers was the undeniable truth that faith must of necessity be accompanied by demonstration and manifestation. James wrote unto his audience and invited them to show him their faith without works and he will show them his faith by his works. This is something we must recognize and understand for the single greatest demonstration of faith is by and through our works. We as the saints of God must needs understand that when we speak of faith’s presence within our own hearts and lives there must needs be demonstration and manifestation. Faith cannot survive within our hearts and lives without and apart from demonstration and manifestation and it must have an outlet and some form of expression within our lives and in the sight of the living God. In fact that which we find in the eleventh chapter of this epistle is a true expression of the demonstration and manifestation of faith within the hearts and lives of all those who were mentioned. The author of this epistle clearly demonstrated and set forth among their readers that faith is best understood when it has demonstration and manifestation within the hearts and lives of those who profess to have it.

 

            Pause for a moment and consider the reality that faith is best understood through demonstration and manifestation within our hearts and lives through action. There would be those who seem to think that faith can in fact be understood and expressed through mere words. Such an idea is nothing more than a farce and is completely and utterly misguided among those who would dare profess such a thing. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews sought to demonstrate unto their readers the manifestation of faith within the hearts and lives of men and women and chose to begin with Abel the second born son to Adam and Eve. When the author of this epistle sought to demonstrate the manifestation of faith within the hearts and lives of men and women they did so through more than just a blanket statement that faith was the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. The author was sure to explain unto their audience that it was by and through faith men and women obtained a good report in the sight of the living God and that without faith it is impossible to please Him. This is something we have great need to acknowledge within our own hearts and lives for those who wish to please the living God must of necessity do so through the expression and manifestation of faith. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with something that is critical within our own hearts and lives—namely the expression, the demonstration and manifestation of faith. We cannot truly understand faith—its movement, its operation and its impact within our lives and even within the generation in which we live—without and apart from demonstration through works. What’s more is that as you read the words found in the eleventh chapter you will find these works were different in the lives of those mentioned. Although faith was manifested within each of their hearts and souls the demonstration and manifestation of that faith would be entirely and altogether different.

 

            When we come to the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find the author writing and speaking of our being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. This great cloud of witnesses which was mentioned by the author should be assumed as all those they wrote about in the previous chapters—both those whose names were indeed mentioned and those whose names weren’t mentioned. With this being said we must needs understand that whether your name is known and mentioned or whether it is not the true and underlying necessity within your life is that you move and operate in faith. There were those whose names were indeed mentioned in this passage of Scripture and there were others whose names were not mentioned or spoken of. In fact the author declared and spoke of how time would fail them to speak of others such as David, and Samuel, and Samson, and Jephthah and others who not only died in faith but who also lived by faith. The scripture makes it perfectly and abundantly clear that the just shall live by faith and that we walk by faith and not by sight. If there is one thing the testimony and witness of these whose names were mentioned in this passage of Scripture—and those whose names were not mentioned—it’s that they both lived in faith and died in faith. Those whom the author mentioned and spoke of moved and operated in faith—despite the fact that the demonstration and manifestation of faith within their lives was entirely and altogether different from others. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for the demonstration of faith expressed in the life of Abel was not the same demonstration of faith expressed in the life of Abraham.

 

            The more I consider this reality and concept of faith the more I come face to face with the fact that faith demands different things of different individuals at different times. Not only this but the demonstration of faith within your life might not look like the demonstration of faith within my own life. The demonstration of faith which you are called to might be entirely and altogether different from that which I am called to and yet the truth of the matter is that we have all been called to walk by faith and not by sight. Perhaps one of the most beautiful truths found within the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews is that while faith was indeed present within the hearts and lives of all those who were mentioned that faith would not be expressed the same way. Although faith would indeed be constant throughout the generations it would look entirely different and would be expressed entirely different within the life of that one who laid hold of it. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not clearly see the wonderful truth that faith is indeed how we obtain a good report in the sight of the living God and yet the demonstration and manifestation of that faith is entirely and altogether different among the saints of God. Faith does in fact require demonstration and manifestation within our hearts and lives and yet the demonstration of faith within your life and the demonstration of faith within my life might be altogether different. Not only this but we dare not expect one another’s expression of faith to be mirror images and copies of each other. The living God desires and expects us to walk by faith and not by sight, however, what He does not expect us to do is to demonstrate our faith the same way. The living God has never and will never demand or require your faith to be demonstrated the same way He requires my faith to be demonstrated and vice versa.

 

            As you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary and imperative to recognize that the expression of faith within the lives of the saints can indeed be entirely and altogether different. The author clearly and emphatically declared concerning those who were mentioned in this chapter that they all died with faith having one thing in common—they obtained a good report in the sight of the living God and that they pleased Him. You cannot read the words presented in this chapter and not encounter the truly awesome and powerful truth that those whose names were mentioned and those whose names were not mentioned did not bear the testimony in the earth and in the sight of God that they pleased Him. The words which we find here in the eleventh chapter clearly and wonderfully state that all those whose names were mentioned—and even those whose names were not mentioned—lived by faith and died in faith. Please don’t miss just how incredibly important this truly is for it is not only necessary that we live by faith and that we walk by faith but also that we die in faith. Faith must needs be present, evidenced and manifested within our hearts and lives throughout the course of our lives and must needs be present up to the time of the end. Remember the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in his second epistle and how he declared unto him that he had fought the good fight of faith. These words clearly demonstrate the reality that the apostle Paul had indeed lived by faith, had indeed walked by faith but also fought in faith and fought by faith during his time upon the earth. There is absolutely no denying the fact that when we come to this epistle the apostle Paul recognized that faith was indeed a fight which we fought—and not only a fight which we fought but a fight we engage ourselves in unto the end.

 

            Having said all of this I am absolutely convinced that before we continue on in the twelfth chapter of this epistle we must needs acknowledge the words which the author wrote concerning faith. The author clearly set forth the truth that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen as well as the understanding that it was by faith the elders obtained a good report within their generation. Moreover the other would go on to write and declare that without faith it is impossible to please God for those who come to Him must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Thus faith also has at its very core a belief in the existence of God, an understanding that God rewards those who seek Him, and that men come to God by and through faith. We must needs understand that we can indeed only come to the living God by and through the Lord Jesus—“no man cometh unto the Father but by me”—and through faith within our hearts and souls. Those who would please God would not only possess faith within their hearts and lives but would also walk by faith, would live in faith and would die in faith. Oh there is something to be said about walking in faith and dying in faith for it speaks to the absolute necessity that faith must needs be evidenced and manifested within our lives until the time of the end. It is absolutely necessary that we walk by faith and that we live by faith—“the just shall live by faith”—however, it is also entirely and altogether true that we must die in faith. Thus when we speak of faith we have to recognize that it is something which is required within and throughout the course of our lives up to the time of our passing from this world to the next. It is having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this chapter beginning with the thirteenth verse as well as those words which are found in the final section:

 

            “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had oppoprtunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

 

            “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Ssamson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed vailiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the alients. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40).

 

            HAVING OBTAINED A GOOD REPORT THROUGH FAITH! RECEIVED NOT THE PROMISE! GOD HAVING PROVIDED SOME BETTER THING FOR US! THEY WITHOUT US SHOULD NOT BE MADE PERFECT! Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to the final verse of the eleventh chapter for the words we find here seem to indicate and call our attention to the awesome and powerful link between those who have gone before us and we who are alive and remain upon the earth. The author writes in the twelfth chapter of a great cloud of witnesses which we are compassed round about by and in the final verse of the eleventh chapter we discover the living God providing something better for us who are in the New Covenant that those who died in faith should not be perfect without us. When we read the words which are found in the twelfth chapter we clearly recognize that not only are we compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses but it is because of this we are to lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset us. Moreover we who are present in this generation must run with patience the race which is set before us as we look unto Jesus the author fan finisher of our faith. Pause for a moment and consider that which is found in this passage of Scripture for not only do we learn that there is a race which is set before us just as there was before those who have gone before but we must also recognize and understand that Jesus is the author and finisher (perfecter) of our faith. There is a great need within our hearts and lives to understand that there is indeed a race that is set before us—and not only a race that is set before us but also a fight that is set before us. In order for us to run this race we must lay aside every weight, we must lay aside the sin which does so easily beset us and we must run the race with patience. Consider if you will the following words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints as well as the words which he wrote unto Timothy in the first epistle delivered unto him:

 

            “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

 

            “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follower after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, the Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:11-16).

 

            Consider also the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in the second epistle which was delivered unto him concerning his own race and his own faith of faith:

 

            “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

 

            Pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul writes concerning those who run a race that they might obtain a prize and a crown. When writing unto Timothy in the first epistle delivered unto him the apostle Paul besought him to fight the good fight of faith and to lay hold on to eternal life. This would come directly on the heels of instruction and admonition given unto Timothy to flee earthly things that would distract, destroy and subdue him and to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness. When writing his last and final epistle—the epistle that was written unto Timothy—the apostle Paul spoke of himself and declared that he was ready to be offered and the time of his departure was at hand. Not only this but the apostle Paul spoke of and declared concerning himself that he fought the good fight of faith, that he finished his course and that he kept the faith. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality for in his final epistle the apostle Paul clearly linked fighting a good fight, finishing the course and keeping the faith to each other. When we come to the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find the author not only describing how they were compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses—those who died in faith not having received the promises but having obtained a good report. It was in light of this the author admonished them to lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset and had so easily beset them.

 

            There is something absolutely astounding and remarkable about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it the author invites their audience to run the race that was set before them with patience. What’s more is the author—when writing unto them—admonished them using the word “us.” This is something we have great need of recognizing and understanding for within and throughout the epistle you will find the author admonishing and instructing the Hebrews in the context of a joint venture before and in the sight of the living God. With these words the author clearly demonstrates that there is a race that was set before them and that they were to run that race with a patience. This great cloud of witnesses which went before them and died in faith having not received the promises but having obtained a good report had run their race, had fought their fight and had finished their course. It is this reality and concept of fighting one’s fight, finishing one’s course and running one’s race that up until recently never really touched home within my own personal life. I have in previous writings written of the death of my father due to COVID pneumonia and how he was admitted into the hospital on September 28th and never made it out of the hospital. On October 15th at 12:25 PM EST my father passed away of COVID pneumonia at the age of sixty less than two weeks after being admitted. It is still incredibly surreal to think about and consider the fact that my father has passed from this life to the next and is no longer with us, however, with that being said I have found myself coming face to face with this race, this course and this fight which is set before us and which was set before him.

 

            As recently as two nights ago my mom read a text message to me which she had sent to my dad while he was in the hospital. The text message simply asked my dad—and I guess not even asking my dad but trying to plead with my dad—to fight like he has never fought before. Over the past month my mom has repeatedly questioned why my dad didn’t fight harder while he was in the hospital. If you knew anything about my father you would know that he had battled with diabetes for several years since I was in college. Not only this but my father experienced repeated surgeries on both of his feet due to constant pain, infection and discomfort over the years. There were countless times my father expressed to my mother, my brother and I that he wasn’t sure how much longer he could take the pain, the agony, and the suffering he was experiencing in his flesh. My mom informed me there were countless times she would find my dad collapsed and passed out on the floor in the house I am sitting in right now with his blood sugar incredibly low and had to force feed him ice cream and other sugary foods to get his levels back up. My mom told me towards the end of his life his bodily functions were beginning to shut down and even something that happened in the house while he was still present within it. She told me how she would constantly “talk my father of the ledges” he was on telling him not to talk or speak about giving up. What makes this all the more difficult is that after my father passed away my mom asked why he didn’t fight harder and even thought she had to apologize to my brother and I that she couldn’t save him this time.

            I have to admit that one of the hardest things I’ve ever heard in my entire life was my own mother feeling she needed to apologize to my brother and I for being unable to save our father. It was incredibly hard hearing my mom express sorrow, sadness, and anguish over my dad’s passing and asking why he didn’t fight harder in the hospital. In all reality I have had to assure and reassure my mother that there was absolutely nothing she could have done to save our father. I have had to personally assure my mother that although it might not have seemed like our father did not fight as hard she or anyone else might have felt he should have that was the last battle he had to face in this life. I personally believe with everything inside of me that my dad’s entering into the hospital and battling with COVID pneumonia was indeed the last battle and last fight he needed to engage in. I don’t know if while he was in the hospital he viewed this as his last fight and last struggle in this life but there is not a single soul on this planet who can convinced me that this wasn’t the last struggle he would ever have to face. THE LAST STRUGGLE! THE FINAL BATTLE! I am absolutely and completely convinced that throughout the years my father wrestled and struggled with the diabetes and all the side effects and impacts it had upon his physical body—and not only his physical body but also his emotions, his thoughts, etc. There were countless times my father would be in so much pain within his physical body and no one would ever know just what he was suffering and going through. I didn’t learn how much pain my father was truly in and how much he masked and covered it up and continued to show up with a smile on his face until after his death.

 

            As I write this words I am fighting to keep myself from literally sobbing and weeping in the last house my father would ever live in with my mom. I am absolutely and completely convinced that my father did indeed and did in fact fight his last battle and fight his last conflict and struggle while he was in the hospital. I firmly believe that what he faced in the hospital was the final struggle he needed to endure and engage in before he passed from this life to the next. You cannot convinced me that while my dad was in the hospital that he did not fight but also that he knew that his time was drawing to a close. I have pictures in my cell phone and images in my head from our face time calls that show a certain sadness and a certain realization within my father’s heart and mind that he might have known that his time was drawing to a close. When I read the words found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews I can’t help but think about the fact that my father is now part of that great cloud of witnesses which we are compassed about. My father is part of those who walked by faith and who died in faith—something that still seems so surreal within my own heart and mind. I still cannot believe that he is gone but I know that his struggles are over, his conflicts are over, his race has been run and his fight has been fought. I believe with everything inside of me that my father faced the last and final battle there in that hospital room and I will never know just what it was like for him being in that room. My brother and I were only allowed in the room during the final moments of his life and to this day I wonder what it was like for him during those nearly two weeks in the hospital. In all reality I find myself wanting to ask God to show me and allow me to see just what it was like for my dad being in that hospital room only being able to see my mother and brother through a window or talk to us through facetime.

 

 

            I am writing these words and I am not sure if it’s even sound doctrine or theologically correct to ask the living God to show me what those final days and moments were like for my father but nonetheless it is a desire of my heart. I would love to know what he thought while he was in that hospital room and lying on that bed. I would love what emotions and feelings he experienced while he was laying on the hospital bed struggling to breathe without a mask over his face and even a chest tube my mom authorized to have put in him. Oh Jesus what was it like for my dad during those final moments of his life? What did he think? Was he scared? Was he nervous? Was he sad? Was he afraid? Was he nervous? Did he have hope within his heart of a future with you? Did he call upon your name during the midnight hours? Did he worship within his heart and soul? Did he cry out to Jesus in his moments of weakness? Did he want to get up out of that hospital bed and want to walk out of the hospital? Oh Jesus what was it like for my dad during those final moments of his life? What types of struggles did he have? What types of conflicts and battles did he face? Jesus you are not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities and I really don’t know if this is sound thinking or not but would you show me and help me to understand what it was like for my father during those final moments of his life? Would you allow me to have a glimpse of whether or not he felt strong or whether he felt weak? Jesus I don’t know if this is something you can answer or even provide for me but if you can I am asking you to show me. Jesus did he at all doubt during those final moments and days? Did he have assurance within his heart that you had everything under control?

 

            In the Scripture there are various different instances where we catch a glimpse of what it was like during those final moments for certain of the saints and patriarchs of the faith—from Jacob, to David, to Moses, to the apostle Paul. There are certain instances within Scripture when we encounter the final words which were spoken by those who knew their time on this earth was drawing to a close. With this being said I am finding myself coming face to face with truly wondering what it was like in that hospital room for my dad during those final moments of his life. There is a part of me that would have loved to have been a fly on the wall and to have been able to seen and heard everything that was going on during those final days of his life. The author of this epistle clearly demonstrates and sets forth the tremendous truth that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses and uses this to admonish and invite us to lay aside every weight, to lay aside the sin which does so easily beset us and to run with patience the race that is set before us. Not only this but as we run this race we are to look unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith and who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and is not set down at the right hand of God. Furthermore the author of this epistle called and invited us to consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself lest we be wearied and faint within our minds. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for we who are alive and remain upon the earth have a race that is still set before us. Although those who are part of this great cloud of witnesses have fought their fight, have finished their course and run their race and are no longer with us we are still required to and responsible for fighting our fight, finishing our course and running our face.

 

            As I bring this writing to a close I find great hope in the words which are presented in the final portion of this chapter. Beginning with the eighteenth verse the author declares that we are not come unto the mount that might be touched and that burned with fire. We have not come unto blackness, and darkness and temptest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words which voice they heard in the wilderness of Sinai. Instead we have come unto mount Sion and unto the city of the living God—the heavenly Jerusalem—and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. Since we have received and are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved we are to have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire. How absolutely incredible it is to not only know that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses but we are also come unto mount Sion and to the city of the living God. COMPASSED WITH A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES, COMING UNTO THE CITY OF THE LIVING GOD! Oh what I wouldn’t give to know and understand what it was like for my dad when he breathed his last and when his spirit departed from this world and entered into the realm of eternity. What was it like for my dad as he entered into the realm of eternity and saw the holy city and saw the angels, and saw the general assembly, and saw the church of the firstborn, and saw those whose names were written in heaven, and saw God who is the Judge of all and saw Jesus who is the mediator of the new covenant. Beloved this is what we run the race to obtain and lay hold of—coming unto the city of God, coming to an innumerable company of angels, coming to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, coming unto God the Judge of all, coming to the spirits of just men made perfect and coming unto Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. It is with this being said I leave you with the following words which are found in the prophetic book of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

 

            “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Wire: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:1-8).

 

            “And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; and had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, and amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve ; ever several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the LORD God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:9-27).

 

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