Circling the Wagons

Hebrews 12:1 “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” (NIV).

Observation: Paul used the previous chapter to remind us of our heritage in the faith, recounting the pantheon of such giants as Noah, Abraham, and Moses. The testimony of their faith, Paul said, surrounds us with an encouraging cloud of witnesses. The example of their lives presents a model for our own response to hindrances and entanglements in our personal lives.

Application: Perhaps the best thing about having human examples to admire is that they are, indeed, human. We can walk around the pedestals upon which Paul mounted these specimens of great faith, reading God’s testimony of their accomplishments for the kingdom.

When I seriously consider their examples, awe strikes my heart akin to what I feel as I gaze from all angles at statues of Jefferson or Lincoln in Washington, DC. There, memorialized in bronze, are words that generations later continue to stir consideration of their greatness and beckon me to join them in living for profound impact.

Yet in the back of my mind I remember that those bronze replicas under marble rotundas represent men who had feet of clay. Wasn’t Jefferson a slaveholder? Didn’t Lincoln famously struggle with a dark side? And what of Paul’s list of heroes? Didn’t Abraham lie about Sarah being his wife? Wasn’t Moses a murderer and Noah a drunkard?

All too often when I think of being surrounded, the image is less that of a protective cloud than of a beleaguered wagon train circled for protection. In those moments, I should remember that Washington monuments are no more designed to present a complete picture of the individual than is Paul’s list of great men and women of the faith. But the legacy Paul recounted is both stellar and lasting precisely because in their humanness they gave themselves to God as wholly as they knew how. Their feet of clay became material yielded to His craftsmanship. Their fallenness and brokenness became grist from which God molded instruments of profound usefulness.

This then is my calling: to so yield to the One who made me and loves me that He might remake my life into a component of someone else’s cloud of witnesses.

Prayer: Father, Your ability to redeem and transform a life fully yielded to You is simply astounding. I give You my life afresh today, that I might reflect Your workmanship to others.

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