All that we say and do and think is being noticed. That should help us to keep on the straight and narrow, and help us run the race with diligence and perseverance. It is too easy to be swayed by what we see and hear in this world, but we must be more conscious of what can be seen and heard in the next.
The Christian is never alone. He is part of the Body of Christ. And what he does is always noticed, certainly by the Triune God. But one interesting passage of Scripture suggests that we are being watched by others as well. Consider what we find in Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a 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, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Now when you find a ‘therefore’ in Scripture, you need to learn what it is there for. And the chapter preceding this one is of course the great hall of fame chapter where so many past men and women of faith are listed and praised. After reminding us of all these amazing believers, the writer of this book urges us to run the Christian race with endurance.
The idea is that we should take strong motivation from knowing about all those who have gone before and finished the race well. And there is a two-tiered witnessing taking place here. We witness what they have done (as we read Scripture or church history or Christian biography, etc), but they may also be witnessing us.
Perhaps the saints who have preceded us into eternity are sitting around and cheering us on. “Go Bill – you can do it! Keep going!” Knowing there are so many great champions of the faith who might be supporting us in this way should give us a renewed passion to keep on keeping on.
It is the same for everyone in this life. If you have practiced and worked hard at something – perhaps as a pianist or a golfer – there is real encouragement in knowing that there is a crowd of onlookers, wishing you well and cheering you on. And if you know that a great pianist or golfer is in the crowd while you do your thing, you will try even harder to impress that champion.
One expository commentator and pastor wrote in his remarks about these verses how in his first year of preaching, he was told that two famous and well-known English evangelical preachers were sitting in the church. That made him nervous, but it also made him want to do the very best he could. R. Kent Hughes said this about that Sunday morning:
Now, I always prepare as thoroughly as possible and have always tried to do my best regardless of the situation, but I do remember consciously crossing and dotting my homiletical “t’s” and “i’s” that morning – though it is to be feared that my sermon was eminently forgettable! But my point is, the presence of notable witnesses is motivating, whatever one’s activity may happen to be.