Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great cloud a 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. Heb. 12:1–2
Lord Jesus, over the course of the next 24 hours, many people in the world, mostly Roman Catholic and Anglican, will be celebrating All Saints Day—a day for remembering commendable examples of spirituality, departed men and women worthy of the title “saint”. It’s also Halloween—a celebration of strange attire, doorbell ringing, and tooth decay. I can now see how much these seemingly antithetical celebrations have in common.
For a good part of my life I thought the “cloud of witnesses” referred to in this passage in Hebrews was a select company of spiritual giants, peering down from heaven onto the earthly playing field of Christianity, cheering us on in the righteousness race—pulling for us to make it across the finish line. Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, the apostle Paul—all winners and worthy saints, charging us to do well, persevere with sweat, and finish strong. What a burden to wear. What an utter distortion of the gospel and a colossal misrepresentation of you.
That version of spirituality fueled my pride, when I did well; and stoked my fear, when I did poorly. Actually, it was a “trick or treat spirituality.” I got the “treat” if I performed well. I got the “trick” if I performed poorly. What a mockery of your cross, Jesus. I now realize there’s no more ghoulish or ghastly costume to wear than my own attempts to appease and please you. The one thing Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul all had in common was their abject brokenness and consuming need of your grace. They’re in a “hall of fame” of faith, not of works (Hebrews 11).
So today I remember the heroes of grace you’ve sent into my life—the men and women who preached and still preach the gospel of grace to my heart. I don’t fix my gaze on them, but on you, Jesus, for you are the author and finisher of our faith. The only reason I’m a saint is because the Father has hidden my life in yours. My only “dress” is your perfection plus nothing; for you are our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor.1:30).
I will run and finish the race because in you, Jesus, I live, move, and have my being. Nothing can separate us from your love. I will make it to heaven not because of my efforts but because of yours. There are no tricks nor treats, there’s just you; and everything that is yours, you have made to be ours. What wondrous love and eternal inheritance is this, indeed! So very Amen we pray, in your holy and worthy name.
It's good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace Hebrews 13:9