In our last blog we studied about the cloud of witnesses that cheer for us as we run the Christian race. In today’s blog I want to look at the first of the two challenges the writer of Hebrews offers to us in light of the people of faith cheering us on as we live for the Lord. In Hebrews 12:1-2 He said, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Imagine the massive arena in Corinth with the stands filled with people and you are one of the runners preparing for the next race. It could have been one of the sprints but it seems more likely that he has in mind the marathons that were run at the time. This was before the standard marathon was settled as around 26 miles in distance so we can’t be sure what the length was in the writers mind but it is obvious he has seen the events many times and it could have been the case that he had competed in the games at some point in his life. Now, he isn’t thinking of the physical race before the screaming mobs, but of the spiritual race that one enters when they begin the life of faith for Jesus Christ. This race goes from the time one becomes a Christian until they lay down their lives in death to go to the final reward. For any runner to succeed it is vital that they lay aside all the weights and obstacles that might get in the way of their running. It could have been some extra pounds they had gained. But notice the application to our spiritual life.
Throw off all that hinders. Many of the things that hinder our run for God aren’t sinful in nature. Instead they are just things that get in the way of our being fully committed to the race. The truth is the things that hinder us are often very good things. They would never make anyone’s list of awful stuff that we shouldn’t be involved with. They are often the wholesome, the hobbies, the work and relationships that eat away at our time and energy that keep us from the things of greater value. How often do you either say or hear another say, “I just wish I had more time?” Or how many times have we answered some request for us to get involved in some service for others with, “I just don’t have the time right now to take on anything else.” There is no question we live in a time when people are terribly busy. It seems that every time we come up with some time saving devise in life we become busier. But what is it that takes up so much of our time? Are we so busy we never have time to see any of our favorite TV shows? Are we so busy we can’t find the time to watch our favorite teams play football or basketball? Are we so tied up with work and family life that we can’t find the time to fish or hunt or golf or whatever other sport or leisure we may have? Have you become so busy that in the summer time you can’t find a chance to go to the lake or in the winter to go to Colorado?
I have no doubt that some are saying, “Leon, do you think it is wrong for us to go to the lake or any of the other things mentioned?” No I don’t think that. What I think is that we tend to find the time to do the things that we consider important to us. I certainly don’t want to take fathers or mothers away from their children or even from each other to be in some ministry at church, at least not all the time. But I wonder if we couldn’t cut back on some of the things we enjoy doing together to make the time for us as a family to serve others in the name of the Lord. I’ve noticed in studying the life of Jesus that even with the greatest mission any one ever had, and a ministry that would only last three and a half years, he never seemed to be in a hurry to get from one place to the next. Can you even imagine Jesus saying to the twelve, “Guys we need to get moving. I have an appointment in Jerusalem at 9:00 in the morning?” No, the man who accomplished more than anyone else who ever lived, only lived on the earth for 33 years waited until he was 30 to begin his ministry. He walked from one place to the next. But one thing is clear. He used his travel time as a time of ministry. He took advantage of the opportunities and the interruptions that came his way to carry out the mission of seeking and saving the lost. Even after the resurrection and during the time between the resurrection and his ascension, he had time to go out by the sea shore and have a fish breakfast with the disciples and have a walk with Peter to guide him about his future work as a shepherd for the people.
The things that hinder could be things that we could just as easily turn into a means of ministry. Instead of using social media as a way to tell everyone about how I feel about everything or to unload on someone, I could use it as a way to encourage others or even to share my faith with them. Take some time this week to evaluate your time usage and see how much time is spent on things that serve more to hinder your run in the race for God than to make it better. What can you lay aside or throw off that would help you run the race for Jesus? Don’t wait, throw them off right now.
The second part of the challenge is even stronger. We need to throw off the sin that so easily entangles us. There are very different things that tempt each of us. The sin that might entangle me, may not be one that bothers you at all. The sin that pulls you away from the Lord, might not even offer the slightest temptation to me. This often leads us to look at the other person who is struggling with some sin and declare, “I just can’t understand why they would have such a problem with that sin. It just never tempts me at all.” Some people can drink a few alcoholic beverages and stop and not be tempted to take any more. But others may be bothered with that temptation so much that if they ever take the first drink there is not stopping until they pass out dead drunk. One may not be tempted at all by pornography, while another person is so drawn to it that they can’t even own a computer and not give in to the sin. Some people are so tempted by anger that it seems almost beyond their power to control their temper. Others may have very little temper at all. But here is my point. We have have something in our life that is the sin that so easily entangles us. There is never a time or place for me to feel arrogant or proud because I’m not tempted by something another person is. I need to remember the things in my life that so easily pull me down.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a difficult time controlling my temper. As a young person I don’t think I worked much at it, but seemed to rather enjoy it. But when I devoted my life to Christ Satan took a clear run at me on the temper thing. Too often he won the battle and I would get mad, say things that I would have to go back and correct and often destroy friendships in the process. I’ve spent many hours of my life in prayer for the Lord to both forgive me for some time when I lost my temper and said things I shouldn’t have said and more time praying for God to help me learn to bring it under control. Not long back I was with some men and mentioned the problem I had with losing my temper and someone who hadn’t known me for many years spoke up to say, “I just can’t imagine that. You just don’t seem like a person that ever gets mad over anything.” I smiled and said thank you and said to my self, “I hope they never see it differently” and prayed to God, “Lord, help me to keep it under control from now on.”
Your sin that so easily entangles is likely something very different. But there is something that easily pulls you down. Whatever it is, it can take hold of you and Satan will use it every chance he gets to try to embarrass you, entangle you with the wrong crowd and build a wall between you and others you care for.
How can we keep from having such sins to entangle us and pull us away from the Lord? Repent of them quickly and make it right with those around you who are affected by the sin. Pray for God’s help and constantly work at putting on God’s full armor so that Satan can’t get to you. Keep growing closer to God all the time. Remember you are weak and human. Never be like Peter and declare you will never fail the Lord. Be humble. Lay it aside and run the race with everything in you.