"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)
October brings the Fall season, cooler weather (for most), and Halloween – “All Hallow’s Eve.” Though Halloween is often is clouded by images of witches and goblins, the Church has conventionally set aside the evening of October 31st as the preparation for “All Saints Day” (November 1st).
Traditionally, the Church has honored those who comprise the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 through feasts and other acts of remembrance. We celebrate those who have lived their lives for the Gospel. Many of those remembered have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel. They are martyrs.
The Greek word from which martyr derives is the word actually translated as witness. Whether or not one is put to death for proclaiming and living out the Christian faith, we honor those whose lives reflect the Gospel.
God places people in our lives and in the overall witness of the Church whose consistent faith and dedication to the cause of Christ above all else gives us strength and hope in our roughest times.
Of course, for Protestants, October 31st marks another significant event: the commemoration of the Reformation. As our most recent issue of Holiness Today notes, there are a wide range of voices within the Church who endured hardships in order to call the Church to a clearer witness of God’s grace.
Are there heroes of the faith that we can spend more time remembering and interacting with this month? Perhaps there are exemplary men and women of God in your local church whose stories haven’t been told in a while, or maybe ever.
We can also rediscover, through books and other means, the stories of those whose witness has paved the way for the Kingdom of God to expand. I find that reminding myself of these stories can, as Scripture states, help me not to “grow weary and lose heart.” Listen to and read some of these stories this month as we celebrate the gift of one another – of the “great cloud of witnesses” – that God has given us.
Prayer for the Week:
We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints who ever worshiped you
Whether in brush arbors or cathedrals,
Weathered wooden churches or crumbling cement meeting houses
Where your name was lifted and adored.
We give you thanks, O God, for hands lifted in praise:
Manicured hands and hands stained with grease or soil,
Strong hands and those gnarled with age
Used as wave offerings across the land.
We thank you, God, for hardworking saints;
Whether hard-hatted or steel-booted,
Head ragged or aproned,
Blue-collared or three-piece-suited
They left their mark on the earth for you, for us, for our children to come.
Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us.
Bless the memories of your saints, God.
May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.
(Prayer composed by Safiyah Fosua)
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.