What’s bogging you down friend? What’s slowing your forward progress in your faith? What keeps you from being all you want to be, all you were created to be? I believe the Scriptures reveals many things that impede our progress – things that are all very much under our control. We would be wise to pay careful attention to them.
The writer of Hebrews addresses three of these in this verse: “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). We’re going to look at two of these in this post and unpack more in subsequent posts.
Did you notice that the writer separates “things that hinder” from “sin?” Not everything that bogs us down is sinful. The Greek meaning of the word “hinders” is a weight or burden. Because the writer uses the image of a race, we can imagine the thoughts of a runner; his goal is to be fast, and so he eliminates everything that might slow him down. Modern runners search for the lightest shoes and for running garments made from lightweight fabrics. Everything is evaluated for its weight and how that might affect his time. A runner would never take his backpack to the track with him. Yet too many of us are trying to run this race of faith with weights and burdens tied to our backs. We are still carrying guilt from sins that God has forgiven. We are carrying pain from old hurts and wounds that God is more than willing to heal. We are carrying the expectations of others – or ourselves – as so much excess baggage. As we run this race,everything in our lives should be evaluated for how it can hinder our spiritual progress. Any weight that is not essential for the race should be eliminated. Don’t be hindered by excess weight.
The other point that the writer makes is “sin that so easily entangles.” Continuing with the runner’s example, I Kings 18 has the perfect visual for us. When God sent rain to end the drought in Israel, King Ahab took off in his chariot to try to beat the storm, leaving Elijah behind. But “The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:46). Elijah, on foot, outran King Ahab in his chariot pulled by a horse (or horses). You can imagine how Elijah’s long flowing robes would have wrapped around his legs as he ran, causing him to slow down and likely stumble. So, he took the skirt of his robe and tucked it into his belt to free his legs from becoming entangled. That is the perfect picture of sin. It wraps itself around us and makes it impossible to “run the race marked out for us.” Here’s something powerful I discovered when I researched this passage. The Greek rendering of the whole phrase “which so easily entangles” is a combination of three things. It means “to skillfully surround,” and “to prevent or retard.” Okay, that fits perfectly with the image we have in our minds. And of course we know that Satan is the one “skillfully surrounding” us with sin. But I was very surprised to find it also includes the meaning of “well or much admired.” Do you see it? What entangles us so easily is the sin that we cherish. It’s the sin that we secretly love. It’s the one we won’t let go of, the one we keep returning to again and again. It has become entangled around us until it seems a part of us, to the point that cutting it off will seem like cutting off a limb. But it absolutely must go – and it is up to us to do the cutting. Yes, it will be painful because it will involve something that has become dear and intimate to us. It may even mean severing a relationship that is built on sin. The writer of Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:4). That is exactly what you and I must do—fight against that sin, even if it feels like it will kill us. But that’s not what we do, is it? The truth is, we don’t really struggle with our sin. Oh, we may give a wimpy word of protest, but we still give in to it. We don’t look for “the way out” that God provides, because we don’t want to escape it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Beloved, it is time to be brutally honest with yourself about your pet sin. It is not your friend. You need to kill it before it kills you.
Weights and sins are very much within our control. You and I need to shed every weight and burden and entrust them to the Father who loves us. We need to cut off and kill the sin that has wrapped itself around us and surrender it to the God who calls us to run the race. The victory tape awaits you – the prize is in the Lord’s hands – eternal life in an eternal place with your eternal Savior.
Run Beloved. Don’t let anything slow you down.
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