“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, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

At a ripe young age, Carl Brashear enlisted into the Navy. At the bus station, his father pulls him to the side and sends him off with these words, “When it gets hard, and it will, don’t quit on me…ever!”
These words must have been the words he heard in his head when he went to Navy diving school and they spat on him and ridiculed him; when he struggled to pass his tests because he only had a seventh grade education; when he saved the life of another diver and the award was given, instead, to the diver who abandoned him; or when they cut open his bag of tools which he needed to complete his final task. The tools would drop to the bottom of the sea and he would have to pick them up. Finally, nine hours later, he would come up out of the water, shaking from hypothermia but graduating from the diving school. Carl Brashear went on to become a Master Chief Petty Officer, the highest rank in the Navy.

Perseverance is difficult, but it’s always worth it.

The book of Hebrews could be distilled in this phrase: Jesus is better. These Jewish Christians were being persecuted for their faith, and the author is telling them to persevere.So how do you and I persevere? The text compels us to look at the people who went before us.

Hebrews 12:1 begins by telling us that we have a great cloud of witnesses encircled around us. It points back to chapter 11. In this chapter, the author speaks about many of the Old Testament believers who trusted God, even though they were never able to experience the fullness of God’s grace through Christ. It portrays the faith of people like Noah, Abraham, and Joseph.

God told Noah that he was sending a flood that would wipe out all the people on earth. He built an ark for 120 years, waiting on God to send the flood. Abraham left his homeland and received the promise of a son at age 75, through whom the entire world would be blessed. It was 25 years later when his son was born. Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness. Joseph was sold into slavery after sharing a dream and he waited 24 years before the dream was fulfilled.

We get to see the storylines resolved in paragraphs but these people actually lived it. These were real people who had to trust God through the monotony of everyday life. They had the same fears and emotions that you do.

And these are the same Old Testament believers who are beckoning out from the whole of the Old Testament literature, just like Carl Brashear’s father saying, “When it gets hard and it will, don’t quit on us…ever!”

Who are the people who go ahead of you and speak into your life?