Ancient Gates

Sunday Setlist #4   —   View Song   —     —   Get the Free Devo App

Play the devotional:

"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." - Hebrews 12:1

God strengthens our faith in all kinds of ways. You could say the whole Bible — all 66 books, all 1,189 chapters — is one long, diverse, concerted effort to help you believe and keep believing. 

Because he knows faith won’t often be easy or simple, God weaves specific encouragements throughout Scripture: “Take heart.” “Be strong and courageous.” “I will be with you.” He also sounds serious warnings to awaken us from our spiritual sleepiness and remind us just how much is at stake. Sometimes, he walks us through fields and over mountains, beside seas and under night skies to show us how everything he’s made declares his glory.

He also tells us old stories of great faith. The saints of old seemed to have drawn greater strength from these stories than we often do today. Modern life trains us to focus on now — what’s new, what’s trending. We’re not very good at harnessing history, especially ancient history. And yet God devotes so much of the Bible to that history, because he knows the right stories help fuel the fight of faith. He loves these stories. And if God loves telling these stories, shouldn’t we see more in them than we often do?

Examples from Hebrews 11

When the author of Hebrews writes, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” he’s just traced the clouds, pointing out one giant of faith after another. He’s reaching back across centuries to prove that God can be trusted and that he’s worth whatever it costs to follow him. He’s helping you over the hurdles in front of you by reminding you that he’s helped millions over these same hurdles before. He begins by reaching back as far as he can: 

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”

– Hebrews 11:4

Abel died for doing what was right, and yet he didn’t die, because he believed.

Do you remember the man who defied what everyone else around him thought and built an absurdly large, impractical boat? 

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” – Hebrews 11:7

Can you imagine how hard it was for Noah to believe what God said would happen? Do you see how God carried him through his storm?

Do you remember the man who surrendered the wealth and authority of one the richest, most powerful nations so that he could stand with the people of God? 

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” – Hebrews 11:24–25

In your walk with God, has he called you to forfeit more than Moses did? Will he not sustain you and repay you a hundred times over and more, now and in the world to come?

Such saints, and many others, “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Hebrews 11:32–34). And they did it all by faith. Because they believed, God worked in them, and through them, and for them — and all along, he kept them.

So what has God called you to do by faith? Draw strength and endurance from the countless stories of challenges overcome, temptations defeated, battles won.

Witness of Witnesses

One piece of history deserves even more attention, though. One story of great faith rises, like Mount Everest, above every other towering peak:

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector 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

Yes, we rehearse the great stories of past faith — of Abraham and Moses, of Joshua and David, of Peter and Paul — but in every story, we lift our eyes above them (and ourselves) to see Jesus. He’s the great friend of weak faith, the founder and perfector of our faith who held that faith through the darkest day of history. No challenge was greater, no temptation fiercer, no battle harder, no victory sweeter, than what’s he’s done for you.