The great cloud of witnesses commended to us for their ability to endure were less than perfect examples of faithful witnesses. The ones who passed through the Red Sea made the golden calf. The ones who circled the walls of Jericho until they fell down fell prey to greed and kept some of the “dedicated things” from the forsaken city. Samson may have torn down the temple but he also dallied with Delilah and David would have liked to build the temple but for that fling with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite. The point is the great cloud of witnesses is remembered because God remembered them despite their tendency to forget God. So we are surrounded by a great cloud of folks a lot like us and the encouragement they offer is that God gifted them with a reward they could not create and did not deserve. That is why we look past the cloud and fix our eyes on the pioneer and perfecter of faith who for the sake of the joy that was set before him – that would be the world he came to save – endured more than the whole cloud of witnesses put together. So by all means run with perseverance the race set before you but recognize that when you stumble and fall the crowd will cheer you on but it will be Jesus who picks you up.