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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Heading for Heaven # 7

Running the Race

2. The second thing you may learn from the text is this: "Many have gone before us; we are encompassed with a great cloud of witnesses." The witnesses here spoken of are those patriarchs and prophets who are mentioned in the eleventh chapter, and the apostle calls upon us to remember them and their troubles and take courage. Are we frail earthen vessels? So were they. Are we weak and encompassed with infirmities? So were they. Are we exposed to temptation and burdened with this body of corruption? So were they. Are we afflicted? So were they. Are we alone in our generation, the scorn of all our neighbors? So were they. Have we trials of cruel mockings? So had they. What can we possibly be called upon to suffer which they have not endured? What consolations did they receive which we ma not enjoy? You may talk of your cares and business and families, but their portion was just like yours; they were men of like passions; they did not neglect business, and yet they gave their hearts to God. They show the race can always be run by those who have the will. Yes, they were all flesh and blood like ourselves, and yet by grace they became new creatures; and so by faith they "obtained a good report;" by faith they confessed themselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth; through faith they "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire,escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens: women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others had trial of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented." But grace exceedingly abounded, and all fought a good fight and finished their course and kept the faith, and to the God of gods appeared every one of them in Zion. Take courage, fainting Christians: you are encompassed with a great cloud of witnesses; the race that you are running has been run by millions before; you think that no one ever had such trials as yourself, but every step that you are journeying has been safely trod by others; the valley of the shadow of death has been securely passed by a cloud of trembling, doubting one like yourself; they had their fears and anxieties, like you, but they were not cast away; the world, the flesh and the devil can never overwhelm the weakest woman who will set her face towards God; these millions journeyed on in bitterness and tears like your own, and yet not one did perish - they all reached home!

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 8)

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