I went running the other morning with my friend D.R. and some guys I know from church. D.R. started this little running group a couple months back under the premise of the apostle Paul’s many references to the Christian life as a race. We get together early on Fridays, have a short devotional thought, and then take off for 30 minutes of running, jogging, or walking (or in my case, 30 minutes of gasping, panting, or wheezing). Now I’m the type of guy who, when it comes to exercise, is no longer what you’d call “self-motivated.” And to be honest, although I enjoy the effects and acknowledge the benefits of exercise, it’s often a struggle to maintain consistency on my own.
One of the verses we were looking at before running that particular morning was Hebrews 12:1 - 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. The part of this verse that grabbed me as I thought about it is the fact that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.”
Obviously, those witnesses could be non-Christians; those to whom we are examples for Christ as we live our lives. I think that’s the context in which most of us think of those witnesses, but I don’t think that phrase is limited simply to those who are not Christians. I think that cloud of witnesses also includes our brothers and sisters in Christ – it is a reference to the importance of Christian community in that it enables and motivates us to “run with perseverance.”
You can't make it alone. We were made for community... that's why the Church is called a body.