Passing The Baton

by Jeff Pohlman

20 MAR 05

Dear Brethren,

In light of occurrences this past week, the Lord has refreshed my insight on something that I feel I ought to pass on to you (play on the word intended), which I think will bless you.

With John Moreland's change of address this last Tuesday, from eternity-on-sinful-earth to perfect-sinless-eternity-with-Jesus, and during the passing of our days that it took to lay his 78-year-old earthly-tent body in the ground to go back to being dust, I have seen a spiritual principle afresh and I sincerely hope it blesses you too.

Of a sudden, I became aware of a passage that is so dear to me. That being Hebrews 12, 1-3 (NASB - emphasis mine). "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may no grow weary and lose heart."

I utilize the first two verses of this scripture in my automatic signature line when I write my eMail to friends. Its significance to me may be more fun and funny than to most, because I have a kindred sense of what it is saying. Why? Because I am a car-racer at heart. Not everyone shares this fanaticism with me. Some may be athletic track stars, endurance foot racers, and so on, but others still, will have no attachment at all, because they are not racers of any sort. That's obviously okay, because Father created us all, and we are but little facet-expressions of the whole gem - being Himself.

So, let me give you a little perspective of the joy of this scripture. In this passage, the writer of Hebrews has just finished a wonderful litany about a huge collection of saints who had preceded them, at that point in time. Maybe he had just gone through an experience like the friends and family of John Moreland just have, and he was looking toward what needs to be done in his own future, and the lives of the saints around him, maybe not. But he paints a wonderful metaphorical picture of what should continue to be, until the day Father God decides it's time for Jesus to turn it all into perfected eternity.

Back at the opening of Chapter 11 in Hebrews, he starts with a phrase that is bedrock in most Christian's lives. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." He boldly states that it is faith which gained God-approval, for all men of old. Then he goes on to outline the balance beam of faith in the lives of specific men (and women) of old, otherwise known as the works that proved their faith (notice the faith comes first, but the works must follow). He gives a wonderful résumé of God's working through many many ages, starting with Abel's correct sacrifice, and carefully outlining such greats as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses and all of Israel in the wilderness, Israel with Joshua at Jericho, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtah, David, and Samuel. Others were omitted, like Daniel, but not for their lack of faith, simply because the writer either forgot, or randomly chose to utilize only these few.

Once he establishes that there is a huge throng of people throughout all of the ages who HAVE exercised their faith in seen-works, he makes the bold statement we quoted at the beginning of chapter 12. Since we ARE surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

That wonderful cloud. That huge grand and glorious cloud! Made possible by Jesus alone. It, the cloud of witnesses, was just added to this March 15th, 2005. John Moreland's name was written in the Lamb's Book Of Life a long earth-time ago, so the issue had already been settled - as it should be for all of us. As John would have said, this is a non-negotiable item. There is no bargaining or bartering with the God of eternity, for the soul of a man or woman, once the flesh-tent they have been assigned to on this side, has expired. The issue must be settled by faith in Jesus only, by the individual, before Father calls for the person to be finished on this side. That's tough, very tough, but it is true, and no amount of our wrangling can change a person's eternal status after they've left here (or change Holy & Just Father's mind), after their body is done working here.

So what about this cloud? It is a metaphor. A word picture. Our predecessors are no more standing around at the handrails of eternity, leaning over watching us, than we would choose to stand around and gleefully and repeatedly watch a drunken bum choose to swallow disproportionate amounts of alcohol and then vomit their guts out in gutters, over and over. We are sinners. That cloud of witnesses, is now sinless. They are not choosing to watch us sin. They are choosing to praise Jesus in continual worship. It is the testimony of their faith that pushes us on as witnesses, much like seeing a hall of fame for some particular sporting activity.

Somehow, the only one capable of watching us, in our sin, yet seeing us transformed as sinless, is our three-in-one Godhead, and thanks be to Jesus for paying the price to make that possible. That's another whole story, and one you ought to plumb the depths of.

As for us and this cloud of hall-of-fame witnesses, we are still in THE race, yet still on this side of eternity. Albeit a baton passing relay race. We have one small difference between an Olympic baton relay race and what we are truly engaged within.

In the track event, there is typically a team of say four runners. Each runner is to complete one circuit of the track, then pass the baton to the next runner of one circuit, and the last runner gets to cross the finish line, breaking the ceremonial string. The overlapping runners are only side by side but for the very few steps it takes to hand off the baton, then the accepting runner takes off while the spent runner takes his or her place as a finisher - yes - cheering on the teammate.

The small difference we need to consider about our reality is this. There are many many runners on the track at the same time, on different laps, and the baton pass does take some time to complete. Indeed, if you consider just the case of John Moreland and myself, if you measure the laps in terms of laps around the sun, or earth-years on this side of eternity, John had been running the race for 45 years before we became side by side in the running. Up until that point, I had been running the earth-laps for 18 years, on other tracks. At the point of our running the laps together in The Spirit of Jesus, we had each come to our own personal faith experiences with Jesus in a time before our joining together in the race.

For yet another 33 years, I ran side by side in Spirit with John, on the Spirit track assigned to us. Sometimes we were physically close, sometimes not. Yet, we ran side by side. Encouraging when we were out of breath, pushing each other on, exhorting to better and better training. All of the metaphors come to play about training, strengthening, toughening, discipline and ultimately putting to the test by doing our faith. All the while, John was the best of mentor coaches a runner could ask for.

You don't see an Olympic track meet where runners run multiple laps side by side, holding the same baton. That's okay, not all metaphors or parables have perfect adaptation to our real lives. They just give us differing perspectives so we can have some understanding when we need it. If a metaphor doesn't help you, move on.

So here I am now. My running mate is finished. His part of the laps have been run. He finished strong. I have tears in my eyes and a huge choked up throat, but he is done, AND HE RAN WELL. Not only that, he HAS received The Crown for which we all run, the crown of eternal life.

I can't look back, lest I trip, stumble or fall. Neither would he want me to, nor would Jesus want me to stumble and fall. Neither will I want anyone else to do the same when my turn is to be finished, with the same crown of joy. I can hear John's rumbly deep voice in my spirit saying, "GLORY." I can say on this side, "Thanks John," and some day it will be translated to the other side, by virtue of the Holy relationship we have in Jesus.

A subtle but wonderful dynamic intertwined through all of this is that my closest running mate is my wife with whom I have been spiritually running for a few more years than the 31 we have been married for. My wife and I are still inextricably connected with John's widow Sue. My wife and I have our own children and grand children all running with us in the same Spirit, and Sue still has hers. We all know each other very well, as if blood kin. The list doesn't stop there. We have many many more people we are most definitely joined to in Jesus. The list as a sort of who's who - - wonderful saints whom the Lord has joined together to run in most grand fashion, as designed by Jesus Himself.

So here I go, baton in hand, with a whole bunch of other wonderful saints right beside, not alone. We're still running. Running hard. Panting with exhaustion at times, but still running. Enduring - - as the writer of Hebrews calls it. Still exhorting and encouraging. Still training. Still submitting to discipline. Still learning. RUN THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE... FOR THE JOY OF JESUS.

Run brethren run.

I love you, and I love Jesus more.



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