Be Inspired: Studying the “Great Cloud of Witnesses”

Feb 9, 2021 | Perspectives

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I haven’t figured out whether it’s acceptable or not to have a favorite book in the Bible. I mean, it’s God’s Word, and every word is a gift! But let’s face it, there are books we tend to gravitate toward over and over again.

The book of Hebrews is one for me and, more specifically, I draw great comfort from the lives of those featured in Hebrews 11 who have gone before me. These Old Testament saints are known as the “great cloud of witnesses,” as referenced in Hebrews 12:1, and often called the “Hall of Faith.” Be inspired and encouraged as you read about the lives of those highlighted in the great cloud of witnesses.

I love books. I love reading books, collecting books that I hope to read, and, except for the occasional agony over words to say, writing books. When I read a book, I typically read it from beginning to end (okay, sometimes I don’t finish my books!). I don’t read one sentence here and one sentence there. I’ll read the entire paragraph or chapter. I think most people read books that way. There’s nothing unique or even earth-shattering about that statement. Yet, when it comes to Bible reading, we often approach the greatest book of all differently.

The Bible is a book with many authors, all inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is filled with narratives, poetry, letters, and history. The Bible should be read and studied. Studying God’s Word isn’t meant to be drudgery. It’s exhilarating.

The late R. C. Sproul reflected on a conversation he had when he was hired to teach at a school. The school wanted someone young who could make the text come alive. He wrote:

I had to force myself to swallow my words. I wanted to say, “You want me to make the Bible come alive? I didn’t know that it had died. In fact, I never even heard that it was ill. Who was the attending physician at the Bible’s demise?” No, I can’t make the Bible come alive for anyone. The Bible is already alive. It makes me come alive.1

Yes! The Word is living and active. The Word makes us come alive. But the question we must ask ourselves is: are we willing to read it beyond the quick Bible fixes? The Bible is alive, and for so many of us, we’ve only tasted a minuscule portion of it because we don’t read it.

Our entire Christian walk is a “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). God has graciously made it clear to us that He knows this to be true, and, in His kindness, has given us examples in the Scriptures of those who have gone before us. Understanding faith, growing in it, and living by it are key elements to finishing our race (Heb. 12:1–2). Understanding the basis of our faith is of utmost importance. And setting our eyes on the object of our faith is the only way we’ll endure.

Every day we are operating by faith, whether we realize it or not. Our faith is tested; our faith is stretched. Our faith can falter. Life is a fight for faith to believe and trust God.

Scripture tells us to look at this “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) and remember their stories as motivation to run the race set before us. Stories are powerful tools the Lord uses to inspire, challenge, and encourage us in the faith. My hope is that you will be eager to stay the course, knowing those who went before us, as we fix our eyes on the One who sustains and keeps us.

Adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A Study of Those Who Live by Faith (A Study in Hebrews 11) by Trillia Newbell (©2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.

1. R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1977), 15.

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