The Cloud of Witnesses

The Cloud of Witnesses

The heroes of faith are in the spiritual grandstands cheering us on. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). 

We are told we are surrounded by these Old Testament saints mentioned in Hebrews 11. To surround means to be close by on every side. I don’t really understand what this fully means, but I know it is a good thing. I imagine them to be like fans in the grandstand of a sports team rooting on their favorite team.  

If we could hear them, what might they be saying? Here is what I imagine some of our favorite Bible characters saying to us if tuned into their voice of encouragement.

Jehoshaphat is saying, “Prioritize praise and worship even when it looks impossible. I did this in a life and death situation by putting the tribe of Judah (praise) ahead of the army. As they sang and praised God for His goodness and faithfulness, our enemies were defeated. As you do the same, you will experience surprising victories without needing to fight the enemy in any way.” (See 2 Chronicles 20)

Abraham is saying, “You don’t need to know where you are going or how God is going to do it. I was told to leave Ur without knowing where I was being led. It was a wild, crazy adventure with many ups and downs, but He was faithful to perform what He promised. If you don’t know why God has told you to leave something, rest assured he will get you to the right place.”

Samson is saying, “It’s never too late to make your life count. Some would say I was the worst decision maker in the Bible when I gave way to a “spirit of stupid” that caused me to lose my strength, my sight, and my freedom. Even so, at the very end of my life, I was given one more chance to bring a massive defeat to God’s enemies, and I found a way to do it. You too can end well, even if you think you wasted it all.”

Philip is saying, “Don’t let your job title limit you. I was appointed a deacon to help the Apostles minister (wait on tables) to a group of wonderful widows. I did that with joy, but then I found myself in Samaria preaching the gospel with power. An explosive revival broke out as a result, and not one apostle was even there! You  are not limited by your current position or title. You will surprise yourself and others with the revival you bring to unsuspecting groups of people.” (See Acts 6 and 8)

Stephen is saying, “Heaven is real. Don’t forget your home is there. I remember when I felt Holy Spirit boldness consume me as I recounted to a group of Jews their history, and then pointed out how it led to the conclusion Jesus is the Messiah. They could not handle the truth and stoned me to death. Just before I died, I looked up and saw the heavens open and Jesus was standing at the right hand of the Father. I soon was with them in this glorious place. It made all my suffering seem like nothing. You too  are going to get greater glimpses of heaven, and it will help make every difficult circumstance worth it.” (See Acts 7)

Gideon is saying, “God loves to use people who battle fear, bitterness, disappointment, and come from a bad family. I was stuck in victim mindsets when an angel told me, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’ Those words seemed hollow at first, but then I took the risk of getting my hopes up. Because of that, I astoundingly saved my nation. If you feel like a victim, bound up in pessimism, and feel you have no future, I want to tell you, ‘You won’t stay there. Believe your prophetic words. You have a nation altering anointing on your life.’”  (See Judges 6-8)

Elijah is saying, “This depression will not last. I remember when I had my most powerful God encounter by calling fire down from heaven to ignite my water soaked sacrifice, but then I got scared when Jezebel said she would kill me. I ended up in a cave and told God I did not want to live anymore. Those feelings did not last. I rested, ate some food, and reconnected with God, and I entered a great season of life and influence. If you are depressed right now, I am telling you, it won’t last. Your greatest assignments are ahead.” (1 Kings 18-19)

They would be joined by:

  • The woman at the well is saying, “God will surprise you in who He chooses to speak to and use.” (John 4)
  • The demoniac of the Gadarenes is saying, “Unexpected and undeserved breakthrough and deliverance is coming.” (Luke 8)
  • Jacob is saying, “The most important thing to spiritually wrestle for is a revelation of who God says you really are.” (Genesis 32)
  • Others who would say, “Don’t quit. You are part of a long-range plan God has. He turns bad things into good. You are significant.”

We cannot afford to have thoughts that don’t lead us toward victory. As we consider this cloud of witnesses surrounding us, we will be propelled toward faith, hope, and love. We can do it. We have what it takes.

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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.

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