Surrounded

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, 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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter 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.

This past week, we had meetings for people who work in Thailand, ministering all over the country. We had folks from Bangkok, who work with the student centers there; folks from Isaan; folks from Hilltribe areas. We had folks coming to have a time of refreshment from others who are faithfully working to share the gospel with the Thai people.
One particular thing that happens at meetings like this is recognition of those who have achieved longevity. Just like in the corporate world, time achievements are recognized, we like to highlight them too.
We call out those who have achieved 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, and even 25 years. Claps resounded through the meeting room as these folks were called to the front to receive a pin. Folks cheered loudly – longevity is HARD out here. It’s a big deal to make it for so long.
Just when it seemed that the cheering couldn’t get any louder, or last any longer, they called 30 years.
Yes, we had one couple who had lasted out on the field for 30 years. Let’s call them C&N. Folks bolted from their seats to line the aisles, and formed a tunnel for C&N to run through. We cheered loudly, thumped them on the backs, high-fived them. Cheering didn’t die down quickly, either. 30 years of service means that you know everybody, and everybody knows you.
As they ran down the aisle, it seemed that each clap represented a tear. A discouraged moment. A time when the missionary had to lean on God just a little bit more, cause everyone else had failed. Each clap stood for a joyful moment. A triumph. A failure. A time when they couldn’t be home with their families. A time of sickness.
A life devoted to God – that’s what it was.
The clapping was like praise rising to heaven, lives lifted up as a sacrifice of praise.
It was moving. But it made me think of Hebrews, quoted earlier. We’re surrounded by so many others who are running the good race. We’re looking at Jesus, and no one else. It was a moving and deeply inspiring moment. It challenged me to remain faithful. To seek God first. To put his call before any of my life’s paltry desires. And the best part is that God doesn’t make folks like me run the race alone. I can’t even imagine running it by myself.
I’m surrounded.
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