In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11 contains a catalog of people from the Old Testament who obeyed God because of their faith, the people we call saints. The list concludes,
“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, 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12: 1-3)
Therefore: We have countless examples of individuals whose faith in God led them to accomplish great things.
I grew up in a church in a holiness denomination. Every summer all the churches in our area gathered for a camp meeting. It is a memory that sticks out in my mind as a special time. It was held in a circus tent erected for the camp meeting. The ground was covered with wood shavings, giving the tent a wonderful woodsy smell. Huge poles like telephone poles held up the tent, and you always had to check when you sat down that there wasn’t a pole blocking your view. In the front they built a platform with room for the preachers, the piano and a huge choir. The revival meetings lasted all week, but the big day was the final Sunday.
One year we stayed the whole week in a rustic cabin (later used for the summer children’s camps), but I think mostly we would just drive down to the Sunday services. My parents were my first witnesses to the faithfulness of God. They took seriously their promise at our baptisms to teach us God’s word and bring us to church.
I can remember playing in the sawdust when I was very young, but as I grew older, I started paying attention in those amazing services. The congregation sang joyful songs in exuberant, heartfelt harmony, witnessing to the joy of serving God. The choir, containing singers from all across our district, sang victorious music that inspired and declared the peace of God. The ministers were always the best you ever heard; I learned to take notes from writing down what I absorbed in those sermons. They testified to the love of God and the marvelous gift of God’s grace. It was all glorious, like Isaiah in the temple: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). That is what I remember most, what sticks with me to this day: the awe-inspiring presence of God you could feel in those services. Sometimes the Spirit of God was so close it seemed to me that the roof of that tent was pressed right up and touching Heaven. It sealed me with the Holy Spirit and marked me with the Cross of Christ forever.
When I think of the great crowd of witnesses who have gone before us, that is what I envision. Not just Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, but all those witnesses, known and unknown, who proved God’s power and dwelt in God’s presence: my family, the many teachers who impacted my spiritual life, and every one of those who have guided us through history, all singing at a splendid camp meeting in the sky.
Behold the Host Arrayed in White
Behold the host arrayed in white
like thousand snow-clad mountains bright,
that stands with palms and sings its psalms
before the throne of light!
These are the saints who kept God’s word;
they are the honored of the Lord.
He is their prince who drowned their sins,
so they were cleansed, restored.
They now serve God both day and night;
they sing their songs in endless light.
Their anthems ring when they all sing
with angels shining bright.
On earth their work was not thought wise,
but see them now in heaven’s eyes;
before God’s throne of precious stone
they shout their vict’ry cries.
On earth they wept through bitter years;
now God has wiped away their tears,
transformed their strife to heav’nly life,
and freed them from their fears.
For now they have the best at last;
they keep their sweet eternal feast.
At God’s right hand our Lord commands;
he is both host and guest.
O blessed saints, now take your rest;
a thousand times shall you be blest
for keeping faith firm unto death
and scorning worldly trust.
For now you live at home with God
and harvest seeds once cast abroad
in tears and sighs. See with new eyes
the pattern in the seed.
The myriad angels raise their song.
O saints, sing with that happy throng;
lift up one voice; let heav’n rejoice
in our redeemer’s song!