We are told about Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Moses and Rahab—the list goes on and on. Giants of faith they were, people who gave up position and privilege and possessions and sometimes even life because they were sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they did not see.
They had what the Heidelberg Catechism so memorably calls “not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true” but “also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation” (Q&A 21).
They are those we admire and whose faith we try to emulate. So are we really ready for Hebrews 12:1? Suddenly we are no longer watching and admiring them; we are surrounded by them, and they are watching us. The stars are in the stands, so to speak, and we are on the track!
But they are not there to critique our race. They are there to cheer us on and, in some amazing way, also to whisper into our ears, “You can do it! Keep running! Don’t give up!”
We are even offered encouraging suggestions: Get rid of what gets in your way. Don’t be tripped up by insignificant things. Don’t be distracted. Keep the eyes of your minds and hearts on Jesus, and don’t lose heart.
Think about it. The stories we know so well and have heard so often about these faith giants are not there to make us feel little but to help us think big. Our heroes are not in the stands to look down on us but to encourage us to look up.
Imagine that! A good word from Moses. A shout-out from Enoch. Three cheers from Gideon. A “Way to go!” from David. A pat on the back from none other than Jesus.
And when I come down from the heights to which those can lift me, I see that I have not only the biblical hall of fame to cheer me on but also those closer in time and space. The godly parents. The faith-full spouse. The believing children. The model friends.
They are there too, not only figuratively but sometimes quite literally cheering me on. They spur me on toward the finish line! And I thank God for them.
But simultaneously and paradoxically, I must also see myself in the stands. I must live and behave and speak and commend and correct and respond in ways that have a positive, encouraging, God-glorifying impact on those around me—the very ones who cheer me on cheered on by me. And others too who see and know me or simply observe me may be spurred on toward God by that acquaintance.
That is a picture of what church is. We are a fellowship, a communion of those who are encouraged by and encouraging one another.
When I go to church or see my friends during the week or sit with family and friends, I am both in the stands and on the track. I am cheered on and I am cheering. The saints of Scripture and the saints of today keep me running—and I help keep them running too.
I spoke with someone not long ago who was an unbeliever until his best friend from high school became a Christian. He noticed the difference in that young man’s life and attitude, and it showed him the emptiness of his own life.
He asked what had happened and his friend introduced him to Jesus. Now the once-empty boy is a young man full of the love and joy of the Lord. It is contagious; it is uplifting.
Enoch and Abraham and Moses and my friend and I are cheering you on to do likewise.