Hebrews 12:1,2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Who would have thought that the New Orleans Saints would go to the Super Bowl. This team has always been known for their bad breaks and underachievement, that is until now. This last weekend, everyone was stunned as they fulfilled their motto, Finish Strong. I recently received an email from someone who attended the NFC Championship game last week. They said that at the end of the game, the crowd began to roar “Finish Strong, Finish Strong, Finish Strong.” The sound and power of the crowd of witnesses seemed to carry the team to a great Victory.
In Hebrews, Paul spoke about the crowd of witnesses around us as we run the race of Christianity. Paul was painting the picture of the cheering crowd at the ancient Greek Olympic Games. He said we are athletes, and the believers who have gone before roar their encouragement to us, “Finish strong, finish strong, finish strong.”
As we are running this race we look up into this great cloud of witnesses and see those who have gone before, urging us on. First we see Paul himself. Paul is standing and cheering. “Run the race, run that you may win.” I Corinthians 9:24 Paul believed there was no other option. Less than our best effort is unacceptable. With our imperishable, eternal reward at stake, we have to run the race with winning as our only option. Run this race to win!
Next I see the smiling face of the Apostle Peter. He seems to be crying out, “Come, walk on the water with me.” Matthew 14:29
Our best human efforts in this spiritual event will fall miserably short. We need the supernatural power of God. Peter remembered walking on the water with Jesus, impossible. He also remembers standing and risking his life in Jerusalem, preaching under that great Pentecostal anointing. Peter stands and begins to shout, “Walk on the water, walk on the water, walk on the water with Jesus.”
Then we catch a glimpse of the great church leader, Augustine. He seems to be perfectly at rest, the outcome of the race is secure. How could he be so confident. He seems to be saying, “our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.” Augustine is giving us a powerful tool for our race, the sovereignty of God. The results are guaranteed. The victory is ours. Run the race with confidence. Finish strong, finish strong, finish strong!!!
Suddenly another figure stands up. Confidence and strength seemed to be coming from every pore of his body. It is Martin Luther. He begins to proclaim, “The just shall live by faith.” Wow! What a message. We are not only saved by faith, but every step we take in our great gospel race is a step of faith. We do not only begin the race by faith, we live by faith. This is the work of God, we are being carried to the finish line by the grace that comes by faith.
Now, I see two figures. Standing arm in arm shouting out their encouragement. What a strange sight, John the Baptist and Jonathan Edwards begin to lift their voices up in unison, “Burn and shine, burn and shine, burn and shine.” (John 5:35) their words are filled with joy and revelation. As I look to Jesus I am filled with joy unspeakable. His joy is my strength. In His presence I begin to see revelation. Psalm 36:8, 9. Wow, revelation and joy. Revelation of the glory of God. Joy strengthening me to finish strong!
Next I see John the beloved apostle . God’s love seems to be pouring out of him. John is pointing to the crowd. Suddenly the great crowd takes on a supernatural oneness. The crowd is a beautiful bride, the bride of Christ. The bride is crying out for souls, come to Jesus. The Spirit and the bride say come, let everyone who is thirsty come. The passion for souls begins to burn deeper into our heart. The finish line is just ahead, souls, souls, souls. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Finish Strong.
Finally, I see the greatest witness of all. Standing in the midst of the crowd, He is lifting up His voice. It is Jesus. What is He saying? “Behold, I and the children God has given to me.” Then with a greater intensity, He begins to cry out, “Surely, I come quickly.” The crowd noise begins to intensify, the finish line is within our grasp. “Finish Strong, Finish Strong, Finish Strong.”