The Race – Part 2

17 05 2017

therace02Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:1-2

Last fall I was able to take a shot at the Spartan Beast. This is a 13-mile obstacle course. Every obstacle is difficult, and if you fail an obstacle after one try, you earn 30 burpees. Running 13 miles on level pavement is difficult enough, but this was running up and down hills and cliffs on dirt single tracks. It was definitely the hardest event that I have competed in to date. There was one obstacle that was the hardest for me and many others. We ran around a bend in the trail and were confronted by a volunteer who gave us a 5-gallon bucket. We had to take that bucket to a pile of pea gravel and fill it to the top. We then proceeded to carry that bucket straight up a steep hill for half a mile and straight down the back half. Most, me included, could only carry the bucket 10 steps or so before we had to lower it down to catch our breath and shake our hands out. I even saw a couple of people break down crying. My wife always reminds me at this point in the story that I chose to do this and even paid money to carry that bucket.

That bucket always reminds me of the hindrances and sin mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. It seems ridiculous to run with a 5-gallon bucket filled with pea gravel, but that is how many Christians try to run. We might even have Jesus in our sights, but we are struggling every step carrying all that weight that so easily ensnares us. Some believers knowingly choose to carry a full bucket of sin and hindrances, but for most it is a small accumulation over the years that results in a wearing down. We may not even notice until one day we come to a stop completely burned out surprised at the load in our arms and our ineffectiveness in producing fruit. This is a great reason why every believer needs to surround themselves with a community of friends that are willing to point out those unnecessary loads.

It is important to note that the author of Hebrews talks about two distinct things that can ensnare us: hindrances and sin. Sin is something we understand. We know that it starts small and progresses over time accumulating a weight that keeps us from running. The way to cast off that sin is to embrace the forgiveness that is available to you through Jesus and repent of those sins. Although sin is incredibly destructive, it is something that is easily recognized, if not by ourselves then others and especially through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

This word “hindrance” is usually something that is not talked about and fully understood. In the world in which this was written, this word would have been used for any restrictive clothing that caused athletes not to do their best. As a longtime runner, I understand the need for proper clothing and equipment. It’s one thing to throw any old shorts on and run a few miles, but those same shorts might rub you raw at 20 miles. As we will see, we are running an endurance race, and we must evaluate everything in our lives. It is important to note that these hindrances are not necessarily sin. Running a marathon in high heels is not the best thing to do, but it is not wrong.

If our race is to complete the Great Commission as Jesus has commanded, then we must evaluate our lives to see if there are any hindrances that might keep us from finishing that task. I don’t think that debt is an outright sin in all cases (it certainly can be in some), but debt could easily hinder you from running the race. What if you were led by the Holy Spirit to be a pioneer missionary among an unreached people group, but you were up to your ears in debt and could not go because of that? Do you spend so much time on your hobbies that you forget the lostness of your neighbors? Hobbies are not sin and could be used for the glory of God, but they can also be a hindrance.

Every year we push our church members to take a class called Perspectives. One of my favorite speakers each year is Todd Ahrend. Todd talks about how God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others, but he says that, instead of being a channel of God’s blessing, too many are consumed with managing their own blessings first. Having a boat is not a sin, but once you purchase a boat you must take care of it, spend money on it, store it, use it, etc. It can become a hindrance to running the race God has laid out for us.

Each person must pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them those things that are hindrances and sin so that they can be freed up to run the endurance race marked out for us.


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