The 1st of the 11th month (1 November) is All Saints Day. Every year on 1 November some Christians commemorate All Saints Day. In the early church, Christians used to gather on the anniversary of the death of a Christian martyr like Stephen, who was stoned to death in Acts 7. As the years passed, and many Christians were being killed, there were commemorations on a weekly basis. Different churches commemorated different martyrs depending on how close those martyrs were to their own congregation.
These commemorations were important for the early Christians. Those that were still alive were inspired by the lives of those who lived and died for their faith. They were encouraged to face their own persecutions and their difficult lives. Over time, the church decided to dedicate one day to celebrate the lives of all Christians who died in the faith. I have personally been inspired by the lives of many Christian men and women who died in the faith: Stephen, Peter, Augustine, Monica, Patrick of Ireland, Martin Luther, and many more in our day.
When I think of these saints and All Saints Day, I am reminded of Hebrews 11. Saints simply means people sanctified by God through his Holy Spirit, that is, all true believers. Hebrews 11 is a memorial of all people of God who died in the faith. It describes the challenges they faced, which are similar to what we still face today.
“Others were mocked and experienced the most severe beating with whips; they were in chains and imprisoned. Some of these faith champions were brutally killed by stoning, being sawn in two or slaughtered by the sword. These lived in faith as they went about wearing goatskins and sheepskins for clothing. They lost everything they possessed, they endured great afflictions, and they were cruelly mistreated. They wandered the earth living in the desert wilderness, in caves, on barren mountains and in holes in the earth. Truly, the world was not even worthy of them, not realizing who they were.” (Hebrews 11:36-38 TPT).
These were men and women like us. As the writer of Hebrews continues, “since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT).
When we commemorate All Saints Day, we don’t focus on these men and women. We keep our eyes on Jesus who initiates and perfects our faith. Just as he helped them finish their race, he will help us finish ours.
Therefore, “let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Amen.