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The Great Cloud of Witnesses

A Bible Message by Bayless Conley


Copyright © 2007 Answers with Bayless Conley

Today, I want to speak to you about the great cloud of witnesses.

FAITH HALL OF FAME

Beginning in Hebrews, chapter 11, we have what some have referred to as the faith hall of
fame. It is a list of men and women who kept the faith and accomplished the will of God in the
face of difficulties, in the face of obstacles, and sometimes in the face of seemingly impossible
circumstances and situations. Yet, they trusted God and expressed their faith in God and His
promises in various ways. They finished their race, and they did what God wanted them to do in
their generation. I just want to point out a few of those who are listed here and talk about them
briefly.

Abel

Hebrews 11:4,

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain…

The phrase “more excellent” means “better quality.” By faith Abel offered a better quality
sacrifice to God than his brother Cain did. If you read the account in Genesis 4, you will find
that Cain just brought an offering that was non-descript, just something from the fruit of the
ground. Yet, it specifically says of Abel’s offering that he brought his first and his best to God. It
takes faith to give God your first and your best. Anyone can give God their leftovers, and it
takes no faith to give God leftovers. To offer God your first and your best at the beginning of the
month, before you know how the month is going to roll out and before you know how things are
going to turn out, that is an expression of faith. So it was with Abel.

Enoch

It goes on in verse 5, and it speaks of Enoch.

5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “…and was not
found, because God had taken him”…

In Genesis it says, “and Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” I thought a
lot about Enoch. He did not see God any more than you or I see God; and I am sure he did not
feel God any more than you feel God or I feel God. He did what he did, the Scripture says, by
faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. When Enoch
could not feel or sense God at all, he lifted his hands and worshiped Him. He talked to Him as if
God were there. He listened, anticipating God to speak to him when there were no physical
feelings or sensations to substantiate the fact that God was there.

If I were to consult with my feelings, sometimes I would make the declaration, “God does not
exist.” However, we are not to walk by sight or by how we feel. We walk by faith. Enoch walked
with a God and fellowshipped with a God that he could not see, that he could not feel; but he
believed that God was watching every choice that he made, watching every decision that he

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made, watching every action that he took. He fellowshipped and walked with God, and his faith
pleased God. The Bible says that God took him. He did not see death.

Noah

It goes down, and it talks about Noah in verse 7 (Hebrews 11:7),

7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly
fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household…

Noah’s faith was expressed through his preparation. God told him it was going to rain, so
Noah got busy and started building an ark; and he worked on it for a hundred years. There was
not a drop of rain, not a cloud in the sky, but he patiently obeyed God, believing that what God
told him would happen would eventually happen.

Some of you are right there today. It seems like there is no manifestation in sight of what God
has told you, and you need to be patiently obedient and keep going forward, keep making your
preparation, and keep doing the last thing that God told you to do.

Abraham, Sarah and Isaac

Then he mentions Abraham. Abraham, by faith went out to a land that he would receive as an
inheritance. He went out not know where he was going! God did not give him a map, did not
show him anything, but He just said, “Get moving, and I will guide you.” Some of you need to
hear that because you are saying, “God, guide me, and I will get moving.” God does not always
show you the end of the trail. Very rarely will He do that. He just gives you a little bit of light and
says, “Walk in that, and I will show you more.” Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldeans.
Archeologists have unearthed the area that he lived in: cobblestone streets, underground
sewage systems, two-story houses, a center of world trade. Yet, he left all of that… everything
that was familiar to him… and became a sojourner, not even knowing where he was going
because God said that he should leave.

It talks about his wife, Sarah. By faith she received a miracle to conceive seed when she was
past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Her faith was expressed
through her receiving.

It speaks about Isaac, who by faith blessed his sons, Jacob and Esau, of things that were to
happen in the future. You know, his boys were embroiled in some pretty bad stuff. They were in
high water up to their necks, and there was animosity between them; but their father, Isaac,
spoke some things by faith about their future. Some of you need to do the same thing, because
your children are a bit tangled up in some stuff right now, and it does not look like they are going
the right direction. By faith you just need to make declarations that at the end of the day, things
are going to be all right. It turned out well with those two boys. In fact, they were even restored
in their relationship, one with another, but it had to do with the faith of their father, among other
things.

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Moses

And then I like Moses. It says in verse 24,

24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of


Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the
passing pleasures of sin,

Then look in verse 27,

27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as
seeing Him who is invisible.

Moses’ faith was expressed through the choices he made, by that which he refused and
forsook. Faith will cause you to make some choices sometimes and to cut some things loose. I
imagine that Pharaoh thought, “Moses, you are a fool. You are a fool. You have the empire at
your fingertips. Your name can be inscribed on every building in the land of Egypt. Wealth,
power, any woman in the empire you wanted, you could have her. You could have a whole
harem! Yet, you are trading that off. You are forsaking all of this to go with this rag-tag bunch of
Israelites out into the desert. Moses, you are a fool!”

Let me ask you a question: For three thousand years, pharaoh has been burning in the fires of
hell, and Moses is with God. You tell me who the fool was. By faith, though, Moses had to make
his choices. By faith Moses forsook certain things.

The story goes on and on. In fact, just pick it up in verse 31. It says,

31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when
she had received the spies with peace.
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and
Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained
promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of
weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies
of the aliens.

From here he talks about people who were persecuted for their faith, even martyred, and yet
they did not let go of the purposes of God for their life. They held true to their testimony, and
they held fast to God, even in the face of persecution and sometimes death. He makes it quite
clear that the list would go on and on, but time and space did not permit him to go into more
detail.

CLOUD OF WITNESSES

Then we come into Hebrews 12:1,

12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of


witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus,

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the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of
the throne of God.

He talks about being surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, obviously making reference to
all those he mentioned and those he did not mention in the previous chapter. All of these heroes
and heroines of faith in their day had to lay aside the weights and the sins in their life, though
they had their faults, they had their drawbacks, they made their mistakes; but they finished their
race. They finished their course for God, and Paul said, “Now it’s your turn.” He said, “We are
surrounded.” That word “surrounded” is actually a compound word in the Greek language. The
first part of the word means “to be completely encircled by something,” and the second word
means to “lay down.” When they are put together in one word, it means to be completely
encircled by something that is piled high or stacked high on every side. Paul is referring to the
examples of these men and women who held true and ran their race, and we have their
examples stacked up high on every side. He is also actually making a reference to the ancient
Olympic games, as if we are in some grand stadium, and there in the seats, stacked up high on
every side around us, they are witnessing us running our race. They are looking at us; they are
cheering us on.

Paul called them a great cloud of witnesses. Even in the word “cloud” there is a reference to the
same thing. In ancient classical Greek, “clouds” was a term used to describe the highest seats
in a stadium. The same way we would say the nosebleed section. If you would go into the
stadium for some event, and you would show the usher your tickets, and it was way up in the
top seats, he would say, “Hey, you are sitting in the clouds today.” That was what that referred
to. Paul is saying, “We have people piled high up even to the clouds, to the top of the stadium of
those who did their part. Now they are watching and cheering you on.

Some years back, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. We were over here in Long Beach to
watch the volleyball. I will never forget as the U. S. played the Brazilians in volleyball. It was
really something to see. A great match, but those Brazilians in that indoor stadium out-shouted
us. There were a hundred times more Americans there, but the Brazilians shouted louder,
waving big Brazilian flags. They were noisier than we were. I will never forget it! It is etched
upon my memory, and that is the picture I have of these great grandstands with all of the saints
of generations gone by. They are up there shouting. David is saying, “You are facing some
giants in your life? Does it look like you can never get through the obstacles? You just go
forward with the word of God in your hand, and your giants will fall!” Noah is saying, “Be patient!
Sometimes it takes a while for the will of God to come to pass in your life.” Peter is up there
shouting, “I see you falling down. You feel pretty crummy about yourself right now. You have
made some mistakes. Been there, done that. I denied Him, but I got back up, and I ran. His
mercy endures forever, so get up and run, run, run!” Abraham is up there shouting, “Hey, are
you a bit confused right now? You don’t know what is coming next in your life? Just walk in the
light that God has given you, and He will direct your paths. Just keep going. Just keep running.”
They are up there shouting and “high-fiving” each other and rejoicing as they watch us run our
race.

I am convinced it is not just these Bible saints, but a whole lot more. I think some of you have an
old grandpa or a great-grandpa or grandma that prayed you into the kingdom. They are up there
shouting their lungs out right now because you have gotten saved, and you are walking the
straight and the narrow.

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I found out years after I was saved, that my great-grandfather was a Methodist pastor. I found
out that there were some circuit-riding Methodist preachers in my family. Now we had quite a
few outlaws, as well, but there were some preachers there. In my mind’s eye, I see one of those
circuit-riding preachers from about 150 years ago, got his horse tied up under some walnut tree
somewhere, and he is on his knees and his face is wet with tears, and he is praying for his
children and his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren and his great-great grandchildren,
saying, “God, let a thread of the gospel run through my family. Reach my children. Reach their
children. Reach their children. Raise up preachers! Raise up those who will speak the words of
truth in their generation. I think they are up there shouting along with your great-grandparents,
waving banners with your name on it, and watching you run your race. There are myriads of
folks in those stands that faced the impossible and accomplished the unthinkable, because they
saw the invisible and believed in the intangible. Every one of them is rooting for you, saying,
“Don’t give up your faith. Keep running your race!”

THE RACE

That race is two-fold. First, it is just the race that all Christians must run as we live for God
and witness for Him that must be done publicly and privately. Frankly, the private part is
harder than the public part. It is pretty easy to tow the line when eyes are upon you and you
know somebody is watching; but our real character, who we really are, our real relationship with
God, is revealed by what we do in private when the eyes of the world are not watching us and
God alone can see it. We are all called to run that race and to live upright and to live for God
publicly and privately.

Then the second facet of that race is our individual role in God’s great end-time plan.
Notice in verse 1 of chapter 12 at the end of the verse, he said, “Let us run with endurance the
race that is set before us.” That phrase “set before us” means that it is marked out. Each of us
has a marked out route to run, and we need to run for the glory of God and trust in His power to
sustain us. We need to remain in our lane. There are some things with my individual calling that
you would not be gifted or called to do. Yet there are things that you are wired up to do and
called by God, and you have a route marked out by God that I would not necessarily need to
run. As well as our lives that we live before the world and in private as Christians, we each have
specific assignments to do. None of us are here in this generation by accident. All of us have
things that we are going to be held accountable for when we stand before God, and we need to
run that race, as well. I just want to encourage you: As you run your race, determine not to get
faded, jaded, dissuaded, or paraded.

Don’t get faded: I have known many Christians who, at one time, were on fire for God, but now
they have faded. At one time they could be seen running with all of their heart and all of their
soul, with their eye on the goal, but they have gotten distracted. Now they are just sort of
wandering.

In fact, I remember when our boys were small. Before Little League, they played Tee-Ball.
Maybe some grandpas and grandmas and parents know a little bit about Tee-Ball. They did not
have that when I was a boy. They would pitch the ball to the children, underhanded; and if they
could not hit it, they would set it on a tee, and the children get to whack it off of a tee. I
remember my first tee-ball game I saw, and one of my boys was there. One of the little boys on
his team was out in centerfield, and he was yelling, “Hey, batter, batter, batter! Hey, batter,
batter…” about 90 seconds until he noticed a ladybug on the ground. He dropped his glove, got
on his hands and knees, and he was out in centerfield playing with this ladybug! Meanwhile, this
little boy ripped one off the tee. It went up and rolled right behind his feet out to the centerfield

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fence. This whole team was yelling at him. He was completely distracted. He couldn’t hear
them. He had this ladybug. The funny thing was that these children were learning to play ball.
The first baseman, the second baseman, the shortstop, the third baseman, and the pitcher all
ran out to the centerfield fence, jumped in a pile on the ball and fought over it. Meanwhile, the
other little boy hit a homerun. He got around all the bases.

That is the way some Christians are. They have gotten distracted… distracted by the world,
distracted by other pursuits… and they are no longer running with all of their heart and all of
their soul for Jesus. They faded.

Secondly, do not allow yourself to get jaded: There is nothing worse than a cynical Christian.

I was at a meeting one time. In fact, it was a preachers’ meeting. As I was in the chair,
somebody pushed me forward and then started patting up and down on my back. I asked,
“What are you doing?” I looked up. It was a preacher I knew. He said, “I am just checking for
knife wounds.” He said, “Sooner or later, your people will stab you in the back.” I thought, “This
guy has a problem.” Some deacon or something did him wrong. I don’t know what the story
was, but I remember thinking to myself, “He is not going to last long in the ministry.” Before the
year was out, he was no longer in ministry.

Do not get jaded and cynical. For every one phony you find in the church, there are 99 righteous
people. For every one hypocrite you find, you are going to find 99 people who, from the bottom
of their heart, are doing all they can to live an upright life and to live a Christian life. They are the
real thing. Do not judge the whole parade by a couple of clowns. I mean, cynical and Christian
should not even be together. There is so much good in the church. The body of Christ is so
wonderful, and there are so many incredible people who would lay their life down for their
brother or for their sister. You need to focus on them and not the one who is playing around. Do
not get jaded. Those who get jaded and become cynical do not finish their race. They always
have a reason for not coming to church or not really living for God. It is always somebody else’s
fault or the church is full of phonies. Their excuse just does not hold water.

Thirdly, do not become dissuaded: Do not let anyone or anything persuade you to quit. Do
not get discouraged and quit. The storms of life come to us all. Some of you may feel like you
are in the mother of all storms right now. Do not stop running your race. Do not let the doubt
peddlers persuade you to stop running.

Finally, do not allow yourself to be paraded: Do not get inflated with pride and start thinking
you are something really hot. Pride goes before a fall. If you want to keep running instead of
falling, close the door to pride in your life. I think we need to be aware that all of us are
susceptible to it. It is the strangest thing: pride is like bad breath. Everyone else in the room
knows you have it except you.

I read in a book recently… in fact, I had read the same story in another book some years ago
about one of our nations most famous boxers. He was either going to or coming back from
having boxed in another country, and he was on the plane. There was some turbulence. The
stewardess came over the intercom and told everyone to put their seatbelts on. He refused to
put his seatbelt on. She went up to him very nicely and said, “Sir, the captain has asked all the
passengers to fasten their seatbelts as we are going through turbulence.”
And he said, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.”
She looked at him, said, “Superman don’t need no plane, either.”

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It is good to remember just how dependent we are upon God and upon His power and upon His
Spirit.

HOW TO RUN AND FINISH THE RACE

How do we run our race? How can we finish it? He gives us three things here.

Number one is in Hebrews 12:1, “We must lay aside every weight,” again making an
analogy to the runner.

I had a cousin who was a football player, and sometimes I would go over to his place, and he
would have ankle weights on and other weights. He would be running in his yard, and I’d say,
“What are you doing, Cuz?” He would say, “Yep, just working out.” He said, “When I take these
weights off, I can fly!”

Now a weight is different than a sin. He said, “Lay aside every weight and the sin.” You see, a
weight is something that you could argue is justifiable, but it still impedes your progress. It may
not be in the category of sin. You may be able to argue your case that it is allowable, but in your
heart of hearts, you know it is still weighing you down and slowing you down. It may be a
relationship. Maybe you can argue your case, “Well, he is a Christian boy.” Yeah, but you know
that when you are with him, you are being pulled away from your destiny in God and not helped
along the right route. You might be able to argue, “Well, he is a Christian guy and he goes to
church.” But you know whether that is a weight or not.

It might be too much TV. “Well, I just need to chill out. I’ve had along hard day, you know. I just
need to relax.” All right, that’s cool. But for four hours? A weight.

Jesus spoke in Luke 21:34 about being weighed down with the cares of life. We need to identify
and consciously lay down every weight. Maybe you can justify it, but listen: if it is impeding your
progress, cut it loose.

The second thing he said: Not only lay aside every weight, but lay aside the sin that so
easily ensnares us.

Paul was speaking about a familiar sin that we fall into often; and that familiar sin may be fallen
into due to circumstance, constitution, or company. Circumstance: Well, you are a student, and
you have this habit of not really studying like you should. So you come to class. You are not
prepared. It may be exam day, and you are not really ready for the test. It just happens that the
smartest gal in the class is sitting right there, and it just happens you can see her paper as she
is marking the answers on the test. All right, circumstance is there, but it is still not an excuse for
falling into that sin. Yet, it is something that happens because of certain things that you do or do
not do in your life.

Then there is sometimes sin by constitution. We have this treasure in earthen vessels. Our spirit
has been born again, but we still have the nature of sin in our bodies. We have a new body laid
to our account like his glorious body. One day we will exchange these bodies. Mortality will put
on immortality, but in the meantime, like the Apostle Paul said, “I delight in the law of God after
the inward man, but I see another law working in my members that wants to drag me into sin.”

All of us have certain propensities toward particular sins in our life. In fact, in the Bible it talks
about sin and iniquity together quite a bit. The Hebrew word for “iniquity” comes from a root

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word meaning “to bend,” like a branch would bend away from the main trunk of the tree, or a
side road would bend away from the main thoroughfare. All of us in our flesh have a certain
bent toward particular sins. For you, it may be gossip. You can sit in the living room and lick a
spoon in the kitchen. It’s almost second nature to you that without even thinking about it, you
are running somebody down, repeating some juicy story, and it is just the easiest thing in the
world for you to just talk and talk and talk. It does not matter whether it was investigated or not,
it does not matter whether it is true or not, it does not matter if somebody is going to be hurt by
your repeating it or not, it is just very easy for you to slip into that sin if you do not guard
yourself. With others, there is a bent toward sexual sins, and if you do not guard yourself, you
can very easily slip into certain forms of sexual immorality. With others, there may be a
particular bent or propensity towards anger. It does not take much for you to blow your stack or
to fly off the handle, and you have to guard yourself. Or someone else, it might be lying or some
other area. Even if it is by constitution, Scripture says we need to lay it aside.

Then sometimes we fall into that familiar sin by company. The environment that you allow
yourself to be in can influence you in a big way. The Scripture says, “Make no friendship with an
angry man, and with a furious man you shall not go lest you learn his ways and get a snare to
your soul.” Proverbs 13, “Walk with wise men, you will be wise; be a companion of fools, you will
be destroyed.” Environment.

A gentleman in our church was raised in a Pentecostal church. He spoke in tongues and
genuinely loved Jesus. He was a magician, a slight-of-hand magician, and one of the best in the
business. He worked all the biggest hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. When he came, they
treated him like a prince. They gave him the penthouse suite and everything that he wanted. It
was all on the house. He confessed to me, “Pastor, I have struggled for the longest time with
alcohol because with what I do with my job, I am continually surrounded by it. They give me the
most expensive alcohol. I will get a $250 bottle of whiskey on the house. They will give it to me,
and all of the people who I am around all the time, and hard liquor just flows like a river.” He
said, “And I fall, and I repent, and then I slip back again, and I repent, and I slip back again, and
I repent.” He said, “I love the Lord, but I just struggle with it.” It had to do with company. I am
happy to tell you that he overcame it. He found out Jesus was bigger, and he did get delivered
from that, and it was a happy day when he did. He came to me, and we rejoiced together, and
he stayed free from that, as well. Whether it is by circumstance, constitution, or company, we
need to lay aside that familiar sin.

The third thing he tells us to do is to look unto Jesus. In verse 2, “looking unto Jesus,” and
in the beginning of verse 3 he said, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners
against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Look to Jesus, the
author, the finisher, the developer, and the rewarder of our faith.

I honestly do not think that a human heart will ever be able to take in the fullness of what Jesus
has done for us. I do not think eternity will be long enough to really understand the depth of His
sacrifice. Yet we need to look to Him. Isaiah 53 says that His very soul became an offering for
sin. Second Corinthians 5:21, “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us.” Something so
dark and so terrible took place through Calvary. I don’t think we will ever know what our sin cost
Him. It was just prior to His arrest and crucifixion, and Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane,
and He was agonizing, and He was pleading with the Father, “Father, if there is any way this
cup can pass from Me, please let it pass. I don’t want to do this! But nevertheless, not My will
but Your will be done.” As He considered being separated from the bright presence of the
Father… even as He was on the cross He cried out, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken
Me?” as the full wrath of God against our sins was poured upon Him. And He painted that cross

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red with His blood, and the ground was soaked with His blood. I just don’t think we will ever
know the depths that He went to.

Why did He endure the cross? The Bible says that He endured the cross, despising the shame,
and was sat down at the right hand of God, because He looked for the joy that was set before
Him. He looked through the cross, He looked through the shame, He looked through the agony,
through the depth of Him identifying with our sin to the other side. There was some joy that was
set before Him. The joy was not sitting down at the right hand of God. He had that before, when
He was in heaven. The joy that was set before Him was you. He looked through that, and He
saw you on the other side redeemed and delivered from sin and having a future. He looked
through, and He saw Bayless who was messed up on drugs and tormented in his mind, and He
saw me happy and free and having a purpose in my life. That is what kept Him going. He
endured because He saw us. I want to tell you: There is a reward for finishing. Now His
reward was seeing us. Our reward will be seeing Him.

Hopefully, we will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As I think about that
day, I will be frank with you, if He allows it, I will fall on my face and kiss those nail-scarred feet.
But I am not really sure I want to look into His eyes. When I think about it, I would almost rather
run. I am not sure I can cope with that when I think about what I cost Him. When I think about
how holy and pure and lovely He is, I am just not quite sure that I would be ready to even glance
into those eyes. I would almost be afraid of what He might see.

I think maybe if you listen, you can hear the voices of this great cloud of witnesses that is
cheering us on. You can hear David. You can hear Rahab. I think she is loud. Maybe hear
Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, Wesley Brunners, Tom Seymour, Maria Woodworth Edder,
my great grandpa, all the saints that have gone before and those who prayed you into the
kingdom. Maybe if you just listen, you could hear them cheering you on and shouting. I have a
question for you: Why are they so interested in our race? Why would they be so concerned? I
mean, they finished what they were supposed to do. They finished their race. Why the concern?
Why would they be in the grandstands watching us?

I am going to show you why. Look in verse 39 of chapter 11 (Hebrews 11:39),

39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive
the promise,
40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made
perfect (or complete) apart from us.

The New Living Translation says, “For they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race
until we finish the race.” Because, friend, it is a relay race that he is talking about. It is not
done, and the baton has been passed to us. That is why they are shouting. We are running the
same race that they did. They passed the baton to the next generation who passed it to the
next generation who passed it to the next generation, and it just might be we are the
anchor runner! Usually you put the fastest runner for last to run anchor; and if the team falls
behind, they can catch up. I see them on their feet shouting and clapping and throwing stuff and
shouting, “Run! Run! Reach the nations! Go! Go! Don’t get distracted! Don’t get cynical! Do you
realize what is at stake? Run! Run! Run!” We just might be the last generation. There might not
be another generation to pass the baton to. We may be the anchor in the relay. That is why
they are so excited because the prize does not come and Christ does not return until the
race is finished.

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Look at Second Timothy 4:6 as I finish this up. Paul writes these words. He says,

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my
departure is at hand.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race (that is, he finished his leg.
He finished his lap), I have kept the faith.
8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness (one translation says
the victor’s crown), which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that
Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

There is a day coming, friend. It has not happened yet. The victor’s crown has not been passed
out yet. Paul speaks of a specific day. On that day Abraham is going to be there; Moses is going
to be there; and Elijah and Elisha are going to be there; and Ruth, Rebekah, Sarah, Naomi, all
of the saints and all of the generations up until today are going to be there. The rewards are
going to be passed out in that day. I believe authority and position will be set throughout eternity
based on how we ran our race. Do not ever forget about the brevity and the shortness of this
earthly life compared to the vastness of eternity, friend. What a day that is going to be! I do not
want to get distracted; I do not want to get cynical; I do not want to get discouraged and quit. I
want to finish my race.

Paul said, “I finished my race.” He passed the baton to Timothy and to Titus and Onesimus and
his other sons and daughters in the faith and said, “Now run.” And the baton has been passed
to us. We have a job to do. We are called to live for Christ, and we have individual assignments.
It just may be soon and very soon Jesus will return, and that Day will be upon us.

Perhaps as you sit here today, you look at yourself and could not honestly say you are running
with all of your heart for Jesus. You have gotten distracted by other things and faded. Friend, do
not forfeit your eternity. There is no other way to live for Him except full out. Paul in another
place, again using an illustration from the Olympic games, said, “Hey, the runners in those
games discipline their bodies, and they bring their own bodies under subjection, and they work
hard, and they do it to obtain a perishable crown.” He said, “But we do what we do for an
imperishable crown, a victor’s crown that will not fade away.” If you have not been running with
all of your heart, friend, you need to make a decision to get back in the race and start running
hard.

If you have never been enlisted in the race, I want to give you an opportunity to do that today.
But I will tell you, it is not for sissies; and it is not some casual commitment you make to
somehow satisfy God and then you go about your daily business. The Bible says if you
believe in your heart God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Him with your mouth
as Lord, you will be saved. Lord means a total abandonment of your personal rights. It means
you are willing to die to your rights of independent living and make Jesus the boss of your life. It
is a complete commitment. It affects every arena of your life. It means that there are no closed
doors to him in your life, that He has access to all areas. That is the kind of commitment that
Jesus is looking for. It will affect you, friend. It will affect your relationships; it will affect
everything about you.

But the reward is immeasurable. It brings you into fellowship and a relationship with God. That
gaping hole in your heart that cries out to be filled, that you cannot fill with drugs or sex
or relationships with people or religious ritual or money or things, is filled by walking and
talking with God. You are meant to fellowship with Him, and to know Him. There is the reward
of God’s abiding presence with you throughout this life. Though you go through storms, He

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never leaves you nor forsakes you. Then there is the reward when your lungs expel their
last breath of air that He takes you to heaven and be able to spend an eternity. I will
guarantee you, it will not be boring. If you could roll up every exciting moment, every time you
have laughed until you thought you were going to break something inside, every experience of
joy, every exhilaration you have had… if you could roll all those up into one experience, that
would be far less than your most boring moment in eternity. The Book of Ephesians indicates
that God, throughout eternity, is basically going to show off His stuff to us. What an amazing
thought!

If you have never committed your life to Christ, and you are willing to make that kind of a
commitment today to let go of your way of living and truly commit your life to Jesus, I want to
invite you to pray with me. Or if you are backslidden,and I think all of us with a message like
today, we could probably examine our lives and say, “You know what? I can press in a bit
more.” I am not talking about that right now, but I mean you are out there. You have known the
truth, but you are just not living for Jesus. You are a prodigal son, or a prodigal daughter. It is
time for you to come home.

Just put one hand on your heart and say this after me. Tie your heart around it. Say,

Oh, God, thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die for my sins. Jesus, thank
you for going to the cross and paying that terrible price, a price that I should have
paid, but You took my place. I am so grateful! And I believe You’ve been raised
from the dead, and I submit my life to you right now, spirit and soul. I give my all
to You. I confess You as my Lord. Jesus, wherever You lead me, I will follow You. I
will not be ashamed of You. From this moment forward, my life is Yours. In Your
name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2007 Answers with Bayless Conley

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