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Can I Have a Witness?
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding
us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily
entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before
us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who
for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and
has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him
who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you
will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NASB)
Mickey Spillane says, “The most important part of a story is the ending.
No one reads a book to get to the middle.” http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html
The ending is the context for everything that precedes it. Without a
strong ending, the value of our lives is cheapened and the potential of
our influence is diminished. Our faithfulness must be for a lifetime. We
must finish well.
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul wrote, “For I am already being poured out as
a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought
the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 
in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which
the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only
to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (NASB)
Paul finished well, but according to Professor Howard Hendricks of Dallas
Theological Seminary, there are 100 or so leaders in the Bible, two-thirds
of whom did not finish well. (Go
the Distance) http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html
Leaders like King David. When King David fell, he brought shame
to his entire house and his kingdom. His son Solomon, the wisest man who
ever lived, squandered Israel's future on foreign wives who introduced
their gods to the culture. If Dr. Hendricks is right, if 2/3rds of Biblical
leaders did not finish well, then Paul's statement "I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;" takes on greater
significance. He was one of the elite of the faith.
Why was Paul able to finish well? For one thing, he didn't take
the finish line for granted. Paul knew his frailties, he said, "This
is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. 1:15
KJV) Paul knew he was a sinner and he waged a constant battle against the
flesh. In Romans 7:15-19 he wrote, "For that which I do I allow not: for
what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I
do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for
to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find
not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would
not, that I do." (KJV)
Can't we all relate to Paul's words here? Don't we all
struggle with the power of sin in our lives? To finish the race, we have
to lay aside habitual sin. In Hebrews 12:1 the writer of Hebrews said,
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles
us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," Look
at the phrase "the sin which doth so easily entangles us." That phrase
is referring to habitual sin. We cannot finish the race unless we
lay aside every weight, including habitual sin.
Do you have a signature sin—a sin that defines you? It might
be a critical spirit, a lustful eye or uncontrolled anger. The writer
of Hebrews tells us we must lay aside that weight if we plan on finishing
the race. You can run a sprint with weights on, but you can’t run
a marathon carrying excessive weight. If you don’t deal
with that sinfulness, it will weigh you down and keep you from finishing
well. You may be able to fake it for a short time period, but you
cannot fake an entire life. 1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our
sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from
every wrong.” (NLT) Please confess your sin to the Lord today,
and lay it aside so you can run your race.
In his book Confronting
Powerless Christianity, Charles Kraft writes about his son Rick, who
at the time had run in eighteen full marathons. Rick says, “I never
hope to win a marathon. I just want to finish.”
On one occasion, Rick’s Mom & Dad came to the race to watch
him compete and encourage him as he ran. They were his support system,
cheering him on and providing him with water when he needed it. He
did manage to cross the finish line, but his time was not what he’d hoped
for, his legs were stiff and it took him a few days to recuperate, but
he’d met his goal, he’d finished.
The hardest part of the race, according to Rick, is the middle where
few fans cheer and the runner is acutely aware of how tired his body is.
For Rick, he knows that his wife will be waiting for him at the finish
line and there are always fans cheering at the beginning, but the middle
is lonely and hard. Spillane may be right, no one reads a book to
get to the middle, but to get to the end, everyone must go through the
Our eyes are fixed on Jesus at the finish line, just as the author
of Hebrews says, but where do we get the encouragement for the middle of
the race? The writer of Hebrews says, “We have so great a cloud of
witnesses surrounding us.” Actually, what it says is, “Therefore,
since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us. . .”
This verse is referring back to Chapter eleven and the people mentioned
in the roll call of the faithful.
Listen carefully, and you’ll hear them cheering you on.
Today, when you feel like giving up because you don’t have all the facts,
look up, because Abraham, one of the great cloud of witnesses is cheering
you on. He’s saying you can do it! You don’t have to know all
of the plans of the Lord to follow Him, you just have to know that He is
Lord of the plans. When you say, I can’t finish because I need to
see it to believe it, Listen as Abraham tells you, no, just believe it
and you’ll see it.
When you don’t think you can go on because you are afraid of failure
or to take a risk, listen to Moses cheer you on. He’ll tell you about
his mother who wove a basket and risked the life of her son and placed
him in the river so Pharaoh’s daughter could take him to safety.
He’ll tell you how he risked everything, even his own life to return to
Egypt to demand that Pharaoh let God’s people go, and he’ll tell you to
trust in God too. He’ll tell you that God will not leave you or forsake
you. Moses will tell you how he stood before the Red Sea with the
armies of Pharaoh in hot pursuit and held his staff over the waters.
He’ll cheer you on and tell you to risk—to trust in God, and that God will
part the sea in front of you too!
When you think you are giving up too much to follow God and that
it isn’t worth the sacrifice. Other men and women of faith will rise
from the great cloud of witnesses and tell you that they died for their
faith, and it was worth it. They’ll tell you how God shut the mouths
of the lions in some cases, others will tell you that they lost everything
to follow Him and gave everything, even their own lives, but that it was
Listen my friends, listen, and open your spiritual ears.
You think you are alone, you’re not. There is a great crowd of witnesses
surrounding us, and they are telling you that you can make it.
Keep your eyes on the finish line, and listen for encouragement
as you run the race. But before you finish, or even run, you
first have to start. Are you in the race?
If not, come join us. We’re running. We’re running where
great men and women have run before us. We’re running for a lofty
goal. Come run with us. We want to run with you.