I’ve been mulling on this passage in Hebrews for the past couple of weeks;
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Heb. 12:1-2a)
Of course the cloud of witnesses referred to here are the heroes of the faith in the Old Testament listed in Hebrews 11. I interpret this to mean those whose lives have testified to their belief in the promises of God and demonstrate what faithfulness to those promises mean in how they have lived their lives.
I’ve been thinking about my own cloud of witnesses, those who for me model what Heb. 12:1-2 talks about in their witness and ministry commitment. In leveraging the title of that popular book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I’m thinking about common traits these folks possess that not only invoke an admiration for them but also an inspiration for me for any ministry God has placed in my hand to be faithful to Scripture and glorify him. And while I can include a whole swatch of Christians who have encouraged me in my walk with Christ, I’m particularly thinking of those who are more subject to scrutiny and criticism because they pastors, seminary professors and/or have more visible ministries.
1) They seek to honor Christ in all they do; its not a show. Though some have denominational commitments, they are far less interested in secretarian identities than on whether they are loving Jesus and his bride. Even when others are indicting them, their eyes are fixed on Jesus. In fact, I’ve seen where they’ll talk about Jesus more than their detractors.
2) They are humble learners. They don’t let the fact that they’ve had a seminary education, doctoral degree, or other advanced learning keep them from exploring where they possibly might have missed something. They know what they don’t know and are not afraid to say they don’t know and might need to investigate further.
3) They lead a quiet life. They really aren’t concerned with performing for others. Their main focus is their ministry at hand and they don’t have much room to show off or be busy bodies about what others are doing. They use social media very thoughtfully, sparingly or not at all.
4) They lack pettiness and demonstrate maturity. Not just in mere words, but behavior that demonstrates they won’t engage in bickering, hot takes, take downs, and persistent indictments of others. They won’t allow themselves to get sucked into drama and know how to take the higher road.
5) They know that God is their vindicator. They receive hostile emails and public criticisms that distort their beliefs, work, and character. They might provide clarification but realize that some people are just going to take a stand against them. They keep their eye on the prize and let God fight their battles.
6) They have consistent character in-person and online. That some I’m thinking about here aren’t even on social media I think speaks highly of this character.
7) They bring a wise balance to their ministry and evaluation. They have a deep commitment to Christ and his truth in the whole counsel of Scripture and an equal commitment to love others well. They aim to demonstrate convictions and speak truth in love. They show patience and willingness to listen to what others have to say.
I’m challenged in some of these areas, to be honest. But I’m thankful for those who stand before me to show me what is worth striving for.