I was talking to a friend recently about how she came to Christ, and she told me about a sermon she heard that really made her desire to have the life that God offers us in Jesus. The pastor was telling a story about two people running. The first person was wearing heavy boots, thick pants, and an overcoat, and carrying some exercise weights. The second person was wearing running cleats and a lycra jumpsuit, like an Olympic athlete. He asked the congregation who they thought would run faster, and what they thought would be the best attire to perform well in a race. The answer is obvious in the natural sense, but is it as obvious in our lives?
This is what it says in Hebrews 12:1
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
What an encouragement to become like an Olympic athlete in the race that is our lives! All we need to do is get rid of those extra weights and uncomfortable attire. I have often felt that people have thought me extreme in some of the decisions I have made as I endeavour to rid my life of the things that hold me back from running the race marked out for me. But the instruction to ‘throw off’ for me paints a pretty vivid picture! If a heavy coat is keeping you from performing in a race, you don’t sit down and think about it, maybe take it off and carry it for a while and put it back on again to see if it was really hampering your performance, you just get rid of it as quickly as you can!
When God convicts me of something in my life that is slowing me down or distracting me from what He plans for my life, I need to get rid of it immediately. That is not always an easy thing to do, but the Lord knows that! That’s why the Bible mentions sins as things that ‘so easily entangle’ – imagine trying to run with a snake trying to coil itself around your legs and trip you up! Not so easily gotten rid of.
But through Jesus we can overcome! We have been given a weapon to fight against sin and spiritual attack – the word of God. For guilt we have 1 John 1:9. For anxiety we have Philippians 4:6-7. For fear we have Isaiah 41:10.
But our focus is not to be on these things that we are throwing off – these are light and momentary troubles. The next verse in Hebrews 12 is there to remind us what we should be looking at as we are running our race – Jesus. Here He is described as the Author and Finisher of our faith. He was there at the beginning, and He will be with us to the end! We are also reminded of the joy set before Him that helped Him endure the cross; and that He reached the final goal, to be with the Father in heaven.
Colossians 3 emphasizes that our thoughts need to be there, where Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God. I was meditating on these verses and wondering how to apply them practically. What came to mind as I pondered was that the place where God is on the throne is His Kingdom; that setting my mind on things above could be likened to seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Am I letting God’s kingdom come in my life, in all areas? Am I constantly evaluating whether my behaviour and attitudes and assumptions are in line with what God’s Kingdom is like?
It comes back to being transformed by the renewing of my mind; taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ; fighting against those things that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. To hold onto the promise in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that I am a new creation.
It’s not an easy journey. It’s not a once-off change. That’s why we are told to run with perseverance. (She must be a good pace-setter :-P) I am again encouraged by Paul not to give up when things have not gone well – I can still leave behind the mistakes and press on again. I know that God has a race marked out for me. That race may not look the same as yours, and that is okay. The things we need to throw off may not look the same. That is also okay. God will make these things clear to us.
So I pray that you will be encouraged by this: be bold to throw off what hinders, be strong and persevere, fix your eyes on Jesus – forget what is behind and press on towards the joy to come. Let us run in such a way as to win the prize, and if we meet again along the way, let us keep spurring each other on.