Are You in the Parade?

Despite everything, there is good news for the Christian:

Parades have sort of fallen out of favour in recent times in the West. Sure, we still have some more modern and trendy versions such as a homosexual pride parade that some folks will get into. But the older, more traditional parades that celebrated things like our fallen soldiers and historical milestones are less important today it seems.

Memorial Day parades or Fourth of July parades (at least in America) were once largely attended events. We used to love to celebrate and commemorate great events and important achievements. But today patriotism, heroism and related virtues are now on the wane. At best, we are now prone instead to celebrate perversions and debauchery.

Thus June is supposed to be “Pride Month”. Well, I for one will certainly not be celebrating that. As some memes making the rounds have pointed out, the first pride event was when Satan fell from heaven, or when God rained fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. I do not want to be on the wrong side of history here – that is, God’s history.

My thoughts on public processions and celebrations of key events are because of a dream I had last night. If you don’t mind, I can share parts of it here. I was in a large, multi-roomed building, and I saw a lengthy group of people parading through the hallways and rooms. Soon it was outside, and I had joined in with it. It seemed to have been a group of believers, perhaps celebrating something like Easter.

Upon awakening it occurred to me that there has always been one long parade of God’s people. It was there in Old Testament times. And certainly since Christ came we have had a continuous, non-stop parade of Christians throughout human history.

There has never been a time in the past 2000 years when the light of Christ and those bearing witness to him have been fully extinguished. There have always been God’s people celebrating the great things of God. And just as I joined in with this already-in-progress march in my dream, so too, all of God’s people are part of this ongoing event.

And since I am now reading again in the book of Job, I am reminded that he too was a part of this massive parade. He too had a role to play in all this. He may not have seen the bigger picture, but he was one of the millions of participants, bearing witness to God and his Kingdom.

One of course thinks here of Hebrews 11. We call this the ‘Hall of Faith’. It speaks of so many great heroes of faith who have gone before, people such as Noah or Abraham or Moses or Gideon or David. Even the pagan prostitute Rahab who protected some Israelites is included in this list of great men and women of God.

Indeed, in the genealogy of Jesus mentioned in Matthew 1 we find three foreign women included: Tamar, Rahab and Ruth. And my point is, if there is a heavenly list of all God’s people throughout the ages, my name will be included there – as well yours, if you have let Christ give you newness of life and forgiveness of sins. So many people…

In fact, before I fell asleep last night and had my dream, I was thinking of ALL the people who have ever lived on earth. Right now there are 8 billion on this planet. How many more were around over the centuries? What I found to be so amazing is that if God knows everything about me, if he knows me by name, if he is intimately aware of my every thought and action, this is true of every other person who has ever lived.

That alone should do our heads in. What an amazing God we have who knows in exhaustive detail everything there is to be known about every single human being ever born. Yet he treats each one of us as if we were the only person on earth. He is able to give us individually his complete and undivided attention. And he does that with everyone!

So if you are thinking that no one knows about you or cares about you, well, there is at least one person who does: God. And if you are one of those people who feels alone, unloved, unwanted and unknown, be aware that there are so many others as well who might feel this way.

As mentioned, I am back in the book of Job, and early on it really struck me to read what he said soon after God allowed him to be afflicted so very greatly. Consider just a few passages:

“Why did I not die at birth,
    come out from the womb and expire?” (3:11)

“Oh that I might have my request,
    and that God would fulfill my hope,
that it would please God to crush me,
    that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!” (6:8-9)

“When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
    But the night is long,
    and I am full of tossing till the dawn.” (7:4)

“I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
    Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (7:16)

All these words especially hit me this time around, because one year ago when I last read them, my wife was still alive. Now the pain and grief that Job was going through seems a lot more relevant to me. Sure, I have not gone through anything like he has gone through.

And we all have different trials and hardships to bear. But as I reflect on Job, I know he is in that parade, just as I am. I know that one day I will see him and talk to him and worship God together with him. And I will see my wife again. And I will rub shoulders with all those featured in the biblical genealogies, and in the Hall of Faith.

I am not alone in other words. I am part of something much bigger and much grander than myself. It is when we get our eyes off of these spiritual truths that we can become discouraged and depressed. Satan will try to convince us that we are all alone, that no one knows we even exist, and that no one cares if we live or die.

It is during these times especially that we need to keep in mind the heavenly parade. We are marching right now in it. It may not seem that way. But one day we will see just how real this has been. Consider another passage from Hebrews in this regard – one that follows on immediately from the hall of fame chapter:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (12:1-4)

Even as I am typing this, and as you are reading this, a great cloud of witnesses is checking us out. We are NOT alone. We are NOT unnoticed. We are NOT unloved. God has our backs, and we are part of a great movement of his involving millions upon millions of people.

If that does not encourage you, I am not sure what will. Let me round all this off with a few quotes. Bateman and Smith, who believe that Barnabas wrote Hebrews, nicely tie the two chapters together along with what I said about Job and other suffering saints:

Barnabas drew special attention to the numerous witnesses (“clouds of witnesses”) that surrounded and watched him and the entire household family of faith in Rome, like spectators attending an event at a Roman amphitheater. These “spectators” were witnesses who had already endured their own life’s challenges. Barnabas then delivered a twofold expectation. To begin with, his readers were to consider themselves as athletes competing before a crowded amphitheater….


The second expectation was to finish the race: “let us run” with endurance. Race was a metaphor for finishing life as a faithful follower of Jesus, God’s royal high priest (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7). Barnabas, along with his readers, were expected to be loyal and dedicated to Jesus, an expectation inferred in previous passages (4:1, 11; 6:11-12; 10:23). The goal of faith was not to win but to be dependable as well as servants to others to build community (6:10; 13:1-17).

Image of Hebrews (Reformed Expository Commentary)
Hebrews (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Phillips, Richard D. (Author) Amazon logo

And Richard Phillips says this:

It has been rightly said that the story of our lives is only finished in the lives of other people, others we have loved and led, influenced and inspired. The same can be said of the great eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, that it is only finished in the chapter that follows, in which the example of these heroes of the faith reaches out to us. The goal of chapter 11 was not mere history but exhortation. This is why chapter 12 begins with the key word “therefore,” demanding that we deal with the implications of what we have learned, applying the lessons of faith to our own lives….


This, then, is how you should conceive of your life. You belong to this noble company of God’s people, living in this world but glorifying God through faith. This is the context of your life. You are surrounded by those with whom you will spend eternity, those who will be your brothers and sisters long after everyone else is consigned to judgment. You should hear their voices and conform to the pattern of their faith, not to the pattern of this world.

Finally, George Guthrie comments on “becoming ordinary ‘heroes’”:

My life must be radically different in what I embrace—the values of a heavenly kingdom. When I live “by faith,” I then will be one to whom God can bear witness and one who bears witness to God in such a way that others will be stimulated to faith. My life will portray that “faith works!” Then I will be a “hero” in the best sense of the word, for I will live a life that helps others and honors Another. Then I will be extraordinary, having chosen a narrow path.


This is not the provenance of “super Christians,” however. Do not check the “Not Applicable” box yet. As Christians we are extraordinary because of what God has done in the midst of and in spite of our spiritual dullness. Speaking of the humbling amateurishness of those with whom God works, author Annie Dillard writes:


“A high school stage play is more polished than this service we have been rehearsing since the year one. In two thousand years, we have not worked out the kinks. We positively glorify them. Week after week we witness the same miracle: that God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter. Week after week, we witness the same miracle: that God, for reasons unfathomable, refrains from blowing our dancing bear act to smithereens. Week after week Christ washes the disciples’ dirty feet, handles their very toes, and repeats, It is all right—believe it or not—to be people.”


Just a few pages later Dillard reflects on a tall Catholic priest in his sixties who, “when he knelt at the altar, and when he rose from kneeling, his knees cracked. It was a fine church music, this sound of his cracking knees.” So God makes his own sweet, often unappreciated music with second-hand, pawn-shop instruments cast off by the world. Only eternity will reveal their true worth, but at times even earth time gives glimpses.

So, are you in the parade? You should be. It is the only place worth being in, even with all our flaws and imperfections.

[2039 words]

3 Replies to “Are You in the Parade?”

  1. A stirring article indeed Bill. It reminded me of a great hymn entitled, “For all the Saints”. The last verse reads:
    From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
    Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
    Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:

  2. Thanks Bill as some religions/beliefs don’t believe our spirits are awake/living after death. They say we are asleep like Lazarus was till Jesus raised him from the dead 4 days later. I believe our spirits go to that great parade of witnesses in heaven when we die like you said.

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