STUMBLING SAINTS (Olympic Lessons 6) Hebrews 12:1
As followers of Jesus, we know to avoid sin because it will interfere with our living for Him. Sometimes we are so focused on keeping from sin that we allow other things, which are OK in themselves, to slow up in our Christian life. The Bible warns against these hindrances.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
“The sin that so easily entangles” will keep us from living a faithful, Christ-like life. But it isn’t just sin that holds us back. We need to “throw off everything that hinders.” There are many things in life that in themselves aren’t sinful, but when they hinder or distract us in moving toward our goal of Christlikeness they need to be set aside. Work, friends, money, exercise, dress, sex, popularity, success, achievement, hobbies, food, etc., are all OK in themselves but when they interfere with our spiritual growth they need to be “thrown off.” The image is of someone running the 100-meter dash in the Olympics wearing a bulky bathrobe. There is nothing wrong with wearing a bathrobe, but in those circumstances, it will hold them back.
The further and longer you run with Jesus, the more sensitive you become to distractions. Living the Christian life is a continual process of dropping whatever interferes so we can run better.
Anything that takes time, energy or focus from our relationship with Jesus is a hindrance. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Galatians 5:7 says, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”
We must be careful, too, of carrying extra weight with us. Overweight athletes do not perform well. The same is true of “fat” Christians, those who nibble on spiritual junk food but don’t study the Bible themselves. We can fill ourselves with high-calorie stuff that appeals to our emotions but is low in nutrients. What do you read, watch on TV or listen to on the radio? What kinds of conversations do you have with others? What do you day-dream about when your mind drifts? How much influence do those who aren’t living for Jesus have in your thoughts and actions? It doesn’t have to always and only be on God subjects, but too much fluff and not enough substance will undermine your ability to run your best race. Fear and worry are certainly extra weights we often carry around as well.
How can we get rid of the extra weight we carry and avoid that which hinders us? First, realize sin’s power to control you was broken by Jesus (Romans 6:11-12). Jesus already defeated our sins, weaknesses, distractions, extra weights, wrong influences of others, fears and worries. We don’t have to battle them alone. We don’t have to give in to them. When we ask Jesus for help and lean on His strength, we can overcome them all.
Second, we have His holy Spirit in us strengthening, guiding and encouraging us (Romans 8;13; Ephesians 4:22; Galatians 5:16). We don’t have to battle on our own.
Third, we need to depend on God’s grace to help us (Titus 2:11-12). Evelyn Ashford, US Sprinter, said: “The Bible is my guideline, if I’m feeling well or not. God has really helped me through some difficult things. My faith in Him has helped me excel in my athletics and off the track as well.”
Finally, we must ‘run with perseverance” as the verse says. Florence Griffith Joyner, another US Sprinter, said: “You never fail until you stop trying.” Even if the course God sets for you seems too hard, just keep going. Recently I read about an Olympic steeplechase winner who ran 9 laps before being declared the winner while everyone else just ran 8 laps. There are many stories of runners falling down and getting up to sill win their race. We must do the same. The next blog will talk more about running with perseverance.
What is causing you the most trouble in your Christian life? What can you do this week to better overcome it? Thank God for all He has done to help you in your life up to this point. Name as many thing as you can.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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