What does the cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 12:1 have to say to you and me? What does Scripture tell us is their message to fellow overcomers in the body of Christ? Simply this: “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12).
I don’t believe this great crowd of heavenly witnesses would speak to us about holding to complicated theologies or doctrines. I believe they would speak to us in the simplicity of truth:
· The author of Hebrews witnesses to us that we are to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We are to keep preaching the victory of the cross, endure the accusations of sinners against us, and lay aside our besetting sin, running with patience the race set before us (see Hebrews 12:1-2).
· King David witnesses to us that we can trust in the Lord’s forgiveness, and he won’t remove his Holy Spirit from us. David committed murder and was an adulterer and a liar. But he repented and the Father would not let him go because he had set his heart on David.
· Peter witnesses to us that he sinned against the greatest light a man could ever have. This disciple walked in Jesus’ presence; he touched the Lord and received his calling from Christ personally. This man could have lived in guilt and condemnation, but God set his heart on him.
· Paul would tell us not to fear our afflictions. Jesus suffered every day of his ministry, and he died in suffering. And when Christ called Paul to preach the gospel, he showed him how many great afflictions awaited him.
Throughout his years in ministry, Paul was indeed afflicted. Yet afflictions prove that God has set his heart on you. “That no man should be moved [or shaken] by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (1Thessalonians 3:3).
We also see Job’s witness: “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?” (Job 7:17-18, italics mine).
When God sets his heart on you, you will be tried often. But the fact is, the longer and harder your affliction, the more deeply God has set his heart on you, to show you his love and care. That is the witness of Paul’s life and of Jesus’ life. The enemy may come against you, but our Lord has raised up a standard against him. We find absolute rest in Jesus.