Heb 12:1 NKJV Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
I have witnessed and even (when much younger) was a participant in foot races. I note that when one runs a marathon it would be nice to be able to carry at least a couple of energy bars and maybe a couple of bottles of water. However the extra weight would act against the runner, not to mention the slapping of the pack on your back or legs. Likewise, when we run the race of life things that we hold dear as men and women, can weigh us down and make it difficult for us to live Christ like lives.

Well in Hebrews 11 we learn about a whole lot of folks who also ran the race of faith, and we are told that they are the ones we are to look at when we run that race. That although we are to keep our eyes on our Lord, Jesus Christ as he tells us in verse 2, we also need to remember the history as put forth by these heroes of the faith. The truth is that we have even more people than those to look to, we also have 2,000 + years of men and women to look to and to study. The life of faith is not a sprint, it is a marathon and one that takes a lot of perseverance and faith. These are the folks that are the model for us to follow, for they gave all that they were to further the Kingdom of God.
You know that every Memorial Day, and Veterans Day we remember those who have been the heroes of our nation, many of whom gave their lives to insure our freedom. This list in Hebrews is the same kind of list of heroes, only these are the ones who set up the Kingdom that Jesus became the final hero of.
Let us therefore look to this list of ancient heroes, as well as to Jesus for our example, our model, of living the Christian life. Our history, the history of the Church is replete with those who were willing to give up their lives to serve the Lord. We don’t have a lot of stories of those who came after the Apostles, but we do have some. There is the story of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was offered release if he would renounce Christ. His reply to the Proconsul was: “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?” At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred. This was in the persecution under Marcus Aurelius sometime after AD 161 when he became emperor.
The next set of persecutions were: The persecutions now extending to Africa, many were martyred in that quarter of the globe; the most particular of whom we shall mention. Perpetua, a married lady, of about twenty-two years. Those who suffered with her were, Felicitas, a married lady, big with child at the time of her being apprehended, and Revocatus, catechumen of Carthage, and a slave. The names of the other prisoners, destined to suffer upon this occasion, were Saturninus, Secundulus, and Satur.
On the day appointed for their execution, they were led to the amphitheater. Satur, Saturninus, and Revocatus were ordered to run the gauntlet between the hunters, or such as had the care of the wild beasts. The hunters being drawn up in two ranks, they ran between, and were severely lashed as they passed. Felicitas and Perpetua were stripped, in order to be thrown to a mad bull, which made his first attack upon Perpetua, and stunned her; he then darted at Felicitas, and gored her dreadfully; but not killing them, the executioner did that office with a sword. Revocatus and Satur were destroyed by wild beasts; Saturninus was beheaded; and Secundulus died in prison. These executions were in 205, on the eighth day of March.
These are all recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs along with many other horrors. During the reign of King Henry the 8th in England there were some persecutions by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland: The archbishop of St. Andrews (who was a rigid papist) learning of Mr. Hamilton’s proceedings, caused him to be seized, and being brought before him, after a short examination relative to his religious principles, he committed him a prisoner to the castle, at the same time ordering him to be confined in the most loathsome part of the prison.
The next morning Mr. Hamilton was brought before the bishop, and several others, for examination, when the principal articles exhibited against him were, his publicly disapproving of pilgrimages, purgatory, prayers to saints, for the dead, etc.

These articles Mr. Hamilton acknowledged to be true, in consequence of which he was immediately condemned to be burnt; and that his condemnation might have the greater authority, they caused it to be subscribed by all those of any note who were present, and to make the number as considerable as possible, even admitted the subscription of boys who were sons of the nobility.
Today of course we are glad to be able to come together to worship freely, however, others are not so fortunate. In Canada Pastors have been arrested and tried and then put in prison for reading verses which talk against sexual immorality, such as homosexuality. In China pastors have been imprisoned because they did not adhere to the official state church. Not only imprisoned but beaten and tortured for years at a time. Some have not survived, but the House Church movement continues to grow in the face of this persecution. In the Middle Eastern Muslim countries you can be tried and executed for talking about Christ, even in the privacy of your own home. If you are a Muslim and convert to Christianity, you may be killed by anyone who finds out.
This is the history of the Christian Church in the world. I say this because we are told to run the race, Heb 12:2 NKJV “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Now if this can happen to Jesus, and to so many others down through the ages, do you really think that you can escape persecution? You can’t, so it now comes up that perhaps you may not want to run this race. Let’s face it, heroes are supposed to win all the time, maybe get banged up a little but they are supposed to win.
Here we see that death can very well be the fate of anyone who stands for the Kingdom of God. At the very least prison and torture may be the fate of some. Remember that even the apostle Paul was beaten, thrown in jail and beheaded in Rome. Real heroes are willing to even die rather than deny Jesus Christ as Lord. Brethren, a time is coming, when we may find ourselves in a real pickle, that if we confess Jesus Christ as Lord, it could get us jail time or even torture and death.
Heroes and Heroines of the faith should be an inspiration to we who are their legacy. They should be the historical model that we follow, no matter the trials or tribulations that may ensue. We know that sometimes people will ridicule and laugh at us for loving God and working for the coming Kingdom, but there are much worse things than laughter and ridicule. One of them is that we have an opportunity to stand for something greater than ourselves, and it may mean the difference in the life of someone else. A difference between life in the presence of God for eternity or in Hell divorced from glory for eternity. Which one would you like to have a part in having happen?
Hebrews says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, all those who have gone before, are now with Christ, awaiting the great and glorious day of the Lord. You and I are standing before God today, and He sees us as who we are in Christ. Not as sinners, but as saved and covered in righteousness by the blood of Christ. As Romans 6:4-7 says: “ Rom 6:4-7 NKJV Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
(5) For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (7) For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

The heroes of the past were heroes because they kept their eyes on God, their hearts were given over to Him. Those of us today who claim the name of Christ, can either keep our eyes on the prize of eternal life with Him or we can run and hide. We have been tasked with the same task that all those who came before us were tasked with, further the Kingdom of God. Introduce Christ to all that you meet. Knowing that some will accept Him as Lord and Savior, but more will probably walk in the same darkness that has been theirs for their entire lives. We can pray that things will change, but, we know that there are many who will not accept salvation, simply because they don’t think they need it. We have to keep trying even if it means ridicule and even persecution. On the 25th of September, there will be a whole bunch of kids meeting at the flag pole on School Grounds, will you support them, or leave them to whatever happens.