Hebrews 12:1-2 will almost certainly be misunderstood without the inclusion of those notoriously difficult words in 11:39-40. How many emotionally soaring exhortations have been given, encouraging Christians to perseverance in the face of trial because, after all, there is a great grand stand of onlookers - the faithful who have gone on before - applauding and cheering us on. As I hope to show, that application, while perhaps emotionally stirring, has very little to do with this great text.
We mustn't race ahead to those opening verses of chapter 12, with their lyrical, trumpeting words about being surrounded by that "great cloud of witnesses" before we know who these witnesses are and why they are there. Because it's what God is up to with these witnesses that explains both the nature of the race we're in and why it so frequently requires perseverance through unexplained trial and suffering.
So what do all these examples of faith - those "witnesses" - actually have to do with us? What does Moses' unfulfilled faith have to do with Cedarview Community Church?