Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1, KJV).
As I reach the age where I find myself one of the senior members of our local church and of my family, I’m wondering how my life is seen by that “so great a cloud of witnesses” around me.
I’ve learned that a good witness is developed within the body of Christ. Several members of our congregation made a real impact on me while I was growing up.
Brother Fouts, with his pockets full of candy for the children after church, made us feel loved.
Brother Kilgore loved to tease the kids and make us feel special.
My aunt Imy, as my Sabbath school teacher, made sure I learned the books of the Bible, and lived a life of generosity to her family, church, and friends alike.
Thinking on these memories, my mind wanders to the more personal part: my own Christian witness. How obvious is my love for the Lord, my desire to serve Him? Will I be remembered for the love I show to others? I’ve always felt challenged by the question that used to float around quite a lot: If I were on trial for being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to convict me?
Other older church members always seemed to be frowning, always complaining — especially about the children. These people didn’t influence my path nearly so much as those who made me feel loved.
I certainly don’t want to be remembered as a negative person, inside or outside the church. I think that’s why I love the lyrics in Steve Green’s song “Find Us Faithful” so much. He talks about our lives lighting the way for those who come after us, of leading them to believe, inspiring them to obey. I want my life to be one that inspires others to want to live for the Lord.
Scripture describes men and women of great faith who have served as examples in my life and influenced my witness. I’m especially struck by these references from Hebrews 11.
Noah. Verse 7 says that Noah “in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”
I am amazed by this man whose faith was so strong that he dedicated decades to building an ark to protect his family from a flood, when no one had ever even seen rain. I can only imagine how much ridicule he endured for his beliefs, but still he continued to build and to trust. We have visited the replica of the ark in Kentucky, and the size alone is incredible. What faith to simply follow God’s directions when told to complete this seemingly impossible task! Noah’s faith serves as an incredible example of doing what God says regardless of how it looks. As in Noah’s case, I must be dedicated to God in order to have an impact on others.
Abraham. When he was called, Abraham “obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (v. 8).
This one really hits home for me. I love to travel, but I like to plan ahead, look up places to see and things to do — at least know what to pack! It’s hard to imagine taking off with my family to a place no one knows anything about. In my lifetime, even the astronauts who went to the moon had seen pictures of it and knew quite a bit about its atmosphere and terrain. But Abraham “blindly” followed God’s command, trusting totally in his God to lead him, and then he lived as a stranger in that land.
Of course, this isn’t the only example of Abraham’s trusting God in what seemed like impossible situations. Genesis 15:6 tells us that after God promised heirs to Abraham, despite his old age, “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (KJV). As I reflect on my own life, I must think about how strongly I’ve trusted the Lord in difficult situations and then follow Abraham’s example so my faith will speak to others.
Moses. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24, 25).
I’m particularly fond of verse 25 that says Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. How easy it would have been for him to tell himself that he could help God’s people as the ruler of Egypt or that God had placed him in that position. Rather, Moses sought God’s direction and allowed himself to be used.
In our day, we have an overabundance of evil all around us (abortions, sexual immorality, lack of respect for God, etc.). Worse, these sins are accepted, and those who oppose them are made to feel out of step with the times. This makes my witness even more vital.
Two verses stand out to me when I consider my impact on others’ lives:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).
Does my light shine in such a way that glorifies God? Do others see Him when they talk with me or watch my behavior? Does my life inspire others to want to know the Lord, to serve Him better?
May those who fear You see me and be glad (Psalm 119:74, NASB).
When I step through the doors of my local church, are others glad to see me? Do I bring joy into the room — especially to the children? Do I make the little ones feel special and encourage them to want to be in church? Do they want to spend time around me because it blesses them and causes them to draw nearer to God?
I recently rediscovered a poem entitled “Indwelt” (author unknown), which I carried in my Bible for many years:
Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in the deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
Is it a beatific smile,
A holy light upon the brow?
Oh no, I felt His presence when
You laughed just now.
For me, ‘twas not the truth you taught,
To you so clear to me so dim.
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.
And from your life He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed.
Till I lose sight of you and see
The Christ instead.
Truth is clearly important when I witness to others, but do I also bring a “sense of Him” by how I show His work in my life? How I speak, act, relate to those around me should lead others to not only see Christ in me but also to want to know Him more and follow Him. For instance, does my social media presence reflect a faithful witness and bring glory to Him?
When our sons were small, a friend of ours used to tease them by saying, “Your dad is a decent human being” — but in an insulting tone.
Sometimes I wonder if I do something similar when I share my faith. Do I say the right words, but in the wrong spirit? Do I turn people away or discourage them by how I treat them? Do I bring a true sense of Christ to those around me?
As I’ve heard so many times, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.” I must consider how clearly my faith is expressed in my words and actions. I want to reflect God’s love and faithfulness and inspire others to follow the Lord.
Reflection is a powerful tool, especially when coupled with God’s Word and much prayer. However, that reflection must be an honest look at our actions, words, and motivation.
Looking to Jesus
So, back to that earlier question I’ve asked myself: If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to convict you? How many witnesses could provide testimony about your faithfulness? And what might that testimony sound like?
May we follow the instructions in Hebrews 12:1, 2: “let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith” (NASB) — and faithfully reflect His love to all around us.
Marcia Sanders writes from Fort Smith, AR, where she attends the Church of God (Seventh Day) with her husband, Randy. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.