Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, and with it comes the beginning of some of the most special celebrations throughout the year. As October winds to a close, most people are feverishly preparing for the way they will embody a superhero or a pop superstar, a musician or a historical figure. Others will stock up on candy (whether they get to hand it out this year or not) and fill their yards with spooky artifacts and tableaus filled with the mysterious and strange. “This is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween!" as the song goes.
But is that what Halloween is really about? The world may not give it much notice, but during this time the church, the family of God's people, quietly prepares to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us in faith. I’m sure you’ve heard that Halloween is simply All Hallows Eve, or the day before All Saints' Day, and it is an important moment each year in the life of the church to celebrate those who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labors.
When I was in high school, I remember being shocked to hear of the tragic death of Rich Mullins, whose music I did not particularly enjoy when I first heard it, but who grew to become one of my favorite Christian songwriters of all time. Mullins captures the essence of what All Saints' Day is about in one of his best songs, "If I Stand." A portion of the chorus goes like this: “If I sing let me sing for the joy/That has borne in me these songs,/And if I weep, let it be as a man/Who is longing for his Home." It’s my most sincere desire that all of God’s people would have a similar longing for their heavenly Home, and diligently work while they have time to bring others along to that perfect, extraordinary place where sin will be no more and tears will be a thing of the past.
The truth is, we have SO many examples of people who put their absolute and complete confidence and trust in God. It’s one of the main reasons we read God's Word. The saints who have gone before trusted God completely, were hoping and longing for a land better than the one they already inhabited and found the love of God in the company of His people during their earthly journeys. This has been the focus of our conversations in church as of late, as we seek to cultivate and encourage an atmosphere of faith, hope, and love. Hebrews 11 is affectionately known as the Hall of Fame of Faith, a biblical who's who of those who walked with God by faith. It truly is an extraordinary list, when you look at the lives these simple, godly people lived. But God put them in extraordinary circumstances, and they trusted Him. My guess is that you probably have a few names to add to this Hall of Fame that are unique to you. Parents. Grandparents. Sunday school teachers. People who loved you like Jesus and challenged you to follow His example.
In the very next chapter, the author begins with this encouragement and challenge: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Source and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-3). If you look through your own story at both those you have known personally, and those who are the ancient members of God’s family recorded in Scripture, you will quickly see that you too are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who encourage you to run your race by faith. And by God's grace, as you invest in the lives of others, He is adding you to their personal Hall of Fame of Faith. Day in and day out He uses your example, as you love like Him, express a beautiful hope in the homeland to come, and trust God to walk with you in life and death. The race is long and often difficult, but it’s a tremendous blessing always to have a cheering section present. May God strengthen your heart and spiritual legs for the road ahead, because as all who look see and discover...
Adventure is out there!