Today, I'm thinking about two humongous clouds, both hovering over us. One cloud is a tiny virus engulfing the world in its ominous shadow. We've all paid plenty of attention to that cloud. But how much attention have we paid to the other cloud? It's the cloud that constantly surrounds God's children. Unlike the cloud of dread and chaos inflicted by the virus, this cloud brings hope and purpose. The book of Hebrews mentions it:
Hebrews 12:1 – … we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses … (NIV)
Hebrews chapter 11 portrays this "great cloud" as a composite of past heroes of faith. You may wonder how we benefit by dwelling on the past. I say, it's not merely about the past. It's about our present and our future. Let's read on:
Hebrews 12:1-2a – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (NIV)
That's breath-taking! At this very moment, an enormous cloud of witnesses surrounds us, inspiring us to press on with unwavering endurance and faith. The cloud includes not only the faithful of old, like Noah, Moses, Abraham, and nameless martyrs from biblical times, but also people since then who have joined the great cloud. That's an enormous cloud!
Sadly, culture tends to sever us from our past. Modern church may bypass the great cloud. Yet, by losing connection with the past, we lose connection with our future. We're then more easily sidetracked by a myriad of lesser clouds arising over the horizon. We'll sink just as surely as Peter sank while staring at his threatening cloud. We'll get entangled in murky clouds of unbelief, beset with fears, meaninglessness, loneliness, etc.
Like Peter, we must learn to "fix our eyes on Jesus". We must also pay more careful attention to voices from the past, as Hebrews warns us. Here I'll share advice which, I'd say, comes more recently from the great cloud. This quotation seems especially suited for those experiencing isolation:
- Every day is important for us because it is a day ordained by God. If we are bored with life there is something wrong with our concept of God and His involvement in our daily lives. – Jerry Bridges, 1929-2016
These words remind us that each day is God's project, and God's purposes comprise a much bigger dimension than our living quarters, circumstances, or even local churches. Remember, whether or not we are confined to lonely places, through Christ, we become united with an enormous family, a heavenly kingdom, or as pictured in Hebrews, a great cloud of witnesses.
In conclusion, two clouds surround us. One persistently hovers in our face these days. The other requires the Spirit's enlightenment and guidance. And that's why we can each pray:
Prayer: Lord, today, strengthen my faith by directing me to timely words from the great cloud of witnesses. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" (Lyrics)