“Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Preceding Hebrews 12, one walks with the writer as he leads them through God’s Hall of Fame in chapter 11. Here is found a listing of men and women of faith and the testimony of their exploits and tribulations. We are told that they all died in faith of the coming Messiah. We then get a picture suggesting that those who have preceded us in the faith are now part of a heavenly crowd, cheering us on to the end of our journey, encouraging us to lay aside everything that would prevent us from running the race that is set before us. I can imagine them cheering, “Run, run, run, It will be worth it all when you see Jesus.”
This morning, we received the news that one of God’s Champions, Ravi Zacharias, has now joined that great cloud of witnesses, encouraging us, followers of Christ to press on for the prize, of the upward call in Christ Jesus.
During the 43 years of my ministry, many giants of the faith have passed to their eternal reward. And with every passing, I wonder who will pick up the mantle that they left behind. Who will be the Elisha that picks up Elijah’s mantle and cries out, “Where is the God of Elijah?” (II Kings 2).
I have been privileged to have heard, and read, and even met some of these Elijah’s, who left indelible marks on my life and ministry. Giants, Fathers of the Faith, such as, Leonard Ravenhill, Francis Schaefer, Howard Hendricks, Chuck Colson, Billy Graham, and now, Ravi Zacharias.
When the Holy Spirit was out poured on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, filled 120 men and women in a Jerusalem upper room. Before the day was out 3,000 were filled with the Spirit. By the end of the week that number had swelled to 5,000. God’s strategy was to take the Spirit who filled and empowered Jesus during His earthly ministry and place Him in every born-again Christian, from the Day of Pentecost until the Second Coming of Christ.
As our heroes join the great cloud of witnesses, may we, those who have been touched by their lives and ministries, heed the call to faithfully run the race, to faithfully contend for the faith, to proclaim the message they all proclaimed, until each one of us, one day, join them in that heavenly stadium that looks down on faithful Christians, still on the battle field.