Behold! how great a cloud of witnesses surrounds us!
Behold what God accomplished through the faith and faithfulness of these saints and heroes and martyrs!
On the one hand, through the faith of these saints, God worked mighty miracles so that kingdoms were subdued, righteousness was worked, the mouths of lions were stopped, the violence of fire was quenched, the edge of the sword was escaped, women received their dead raised to life again, and the weak were made strong so that they could become valiant in battle and turn to flight the armies of the enemy.
On the other hand, through the faith of these saints, they were enabled to endure great suffering and persecution, and thereby become martyrs or witnesses to God and His power in their lives.
Even though they had not yet received the reward which was promised, which I believe was Jesus Christ and all His glory, surely His words on the Sermon on the Mount applied to not only us but also to them: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
What is absolutely amazing to consider is the great faith these saints had – even before Christ came and before He sent the fullness of the Holy Spirit upon His people! They had no New Testament (or even the fullness of the Old Testament!) to guide them and more fully reveal God. They did not know the name of the Messiah or even have a clear idea of who He would be. They had no Christmas, Epiphany, or Easter, no Incarnation, no public ministry of Christ, no Passion or Crucifixion, no Resurrection of Christ, and no Ascension or Session or Pentecost.
And yet, even without this fullness of Christ in their lives, they believed and obeyed under circumstances that were more difficult than most of us face. Of these John Calvin said, “If those on whom the great light of grace had not yet shone showed such surpassing constancy in bearing their ills, what effect ought the full glory of the gospel to have on us? A tiny spark of light led them to heaven, but now that the Sun of righteousness shines on us what excuse shall we offer if we still cling to the earth?”
What about us? What about those who have been enlightened by the revelation of Jesus Christ, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have become partakers of the Holy Spirit and partakers of Jesus Christ Himself, who have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the new heavens and new earth (Hebrews 6:4-5) and are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) and are raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1)? What is the condition of our faith?
What is the condition of your faith?
Your faith is a faith in Jesus Christ and is the faith of Jesus Christ, who perfectly obeyed the will of the Father and was found perfectly faithful in all He was called to do, so that you could have faith and faithfulness too. Your faith has the power to do greater things than all of those listed in Hebrews 11. But do you see your faith in this way?
If you’re like me, you may not always give a lot of thought to your faith. It might have become, as I mentioned a few days ago, your natural habitat or environment that you scarcely notice anymore.
But your faith has the power to do greater things than Jesus Christ Himself did: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13). These are the words of Jesus Christ Himself to you. There is no escaping their meaning or power.
But how can I, the smallest of a small clan, do such great works? By faith. By faith in Jesus Christ, through whom I can do all things because He strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). You and I have the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of God’s presence and blessing and power in our lives. And yet I act as if nothing unusual or extraordinary has happened. I act like I’m just a member of the species Homo sapiens, just another animal on just another planet.
What would the world look like if every Christian really understood the book of Hebrews and the nature of faith and of Christ, our High Priest, in us? We would turn the world upside down in the 21st century, as His disciples did in the 1st century!
So why don’t we? Speaking for myself, I have made too little of Jesus Christ and His promises to me. I have not listened as faithfully as I should have nor responded as obediently or with as much strong and courageous faith as I should have.
So what am I going to do about it?
This: I am going to practice listening more faithfully to what I know God is asking me to do. I am going to practice obeying immediately, completely, passionately and cheerfully, and to the best of my ability.
I am going to start by writing down what I know He has been calling me to do and to find one way of better obeying this very day.
What will you do about it?
Prayer: Here I am Lord, send me. My heart is open and willing before You. Speak, and Your servant will answer; command and Your servant will obey. Show me Yourself, and show Me Your will, and then give me the grace and strength to obey, through Jesus Christ, Your Son and my Lord, Amen.
Point for meditation:
1. If you know the hymn, sing “Lo! What a Cloud of Witnesses” (hymn #569 in the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal – the tune is St. Flavian, the same as “Lord, Who throughout These 40 Days”). Or sing “For All the Saints (#126, 1940 Hymnal), or “Who are These Like Stars Appearing (#130, 1940 Hymnal). To find some of these hymns if you don’t know them, consult the Cyberhymnal – a glorious internet resource! http://www.cyberhymnal.org. Sometimes you can find the right tune, even if you can’t find the precise words you’re looking for. If you can find the tune, the computer will play it for you, and you can sing along, even if (like me) you can’t read music!
2. Keep your To Do List from God before you each day and consult it.
Resolution: I resolve to take the time today to make a To Do List of the things I believe God is asking me to do. I resolve to find the one thing on this list that God has most urgently been asking me to do, and to make a way to begin obeying God in terms of that one thing.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day