"Voices of Faith"
In one of the memorable scenes from the movie, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams who plays English Professor John Keating, encourages his students to listen to the voices of the past. In a room filled with awards and black and white pictures of students from days past, he tells his current students, “If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? . . . carpe diem . . . hear it? . . . carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
Listening to our Scripture today from the book of Hebrews is like hearing voices of faith from the past, godly and wise voices, calling us to “seize the day, to run the race, to make the most of every opportunity, to walk through the open doors, to make our lives extraordinary, to leave an imprint, a lasting legacy of faith in our community and world.” Hebrews 11 is the record of a number of men and women who have walked this path that we walk. They make up this “great cloud of witnesses,” (12:1) they left their imprint on their world, they seized their day, they lived extraordinary lives because they followed our extraordinary God, by faith.
The word “therefore,” that begins chapter 12 ties together what has previously been said about these men and women of faith in chapter 11 and now calls us to listen and to learn from these voices of faith from the past. What do we hear these voices of faith from the past say to us today? If we will draw near and listen closely today, we can hear them say, . . .
“We’ve Got Your Back” (12:1a)
Our text says it like this. “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (v.1). Imagine what it must feel like to play in Tiger Stadium “surrounded” by 100,000 fans cheering you on! What is Death Valley to opponents is the sound of victory to the home team. And what an inspiration to know that former players, some of your heroes are in the stands and they are rooting for you. Their not armchair or Monday morning quarterbacks, they have played the game, they know what’s it’s like, they know the struggles. You are surrounded by fearless supporters and friends encouraging you on every down.
That’s the picture we have in Hebrews 12:1. It’s the picture of being surrounded by fellow people of faith who have walked where we walk, who have struggled as we struggle, who have questioned God at times as we do, who have taken side trips off the path as we do, and yet have followed after the Lord the best way that they knew how, as we do. In effect, they are cheering us on, they have our backs! We do not stand or travel on this journey of faith alone. “We are surrounded [past and present] by such a great cloud of witnesses.” I’m encouraged to know that others have walked this path that we walk. We are on the plus side of several thousand years of church history, millions of saints of God have walked where we walk. We hear their voices in Scripture and in history.
At Hebron Baptist Church we have 178 years of people of faith in our church and community who have stood where we stand, who have walked where we walk. That should greatly encourage us but also humble us. We cannot take credit for all of what God has done. We stand on the shoulders of faithful men and women who served selflessly, who gave sacrificially, who shared “the faith” of the Gospel. We are not the first ones to travel this path. You and I stand in a great chain of grace. The Christian life is like a relay race, and we are but one leg of the race. And what is important is how we run the race and how we hand off the baton of faith to the next generation. Others have come before us, they have passed along the faith of the Gospel and that is why we are here today.
What an amazing privilege we have, but also responsibility to pass along the faith to the next generation. The work is not yet done. However, we are not alone on this journey, we are surrounded, and all heaven is watching, and that great cloud of witnesses is urging us to run our race, to pass along the faith, to make our lives extraordinary for God. In our day, let’s take our place among the faithful “cloud of witnesses.”
For His Glory, By His Grace
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3