The finish line of faith is a life that is more Christian today than yesterday. The goal is not perfection, but progress. Hence, the Christian life is not like a tourist strolling in the park or a vacationer meandering along a beach. The Christian life is more like a marathon
By the way, are you any farther along toward that goal today than you were yesterday? This is not a question of longevity but of likeness. It matters little how long you’ve been on the track; it matters greatly how far you’ve progressed from the starting line.
If you aren’t making progress what is holding you back? What is tripping you up in your spiritual journey? What is slowing your progress toward Christlikeness? In other words, in the race set before you, what would God say is presently keeping you from being the follower he would like you to be?
The author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Heb. 12:1 HCSB). Hebrews 12 begins with the word “Therefore.” When you see the word therefore in the Bible you ask what’s it there for? The “therefore” of Hebrews 12:1 is a reference back to Hebrews 11, the great hall of fame of faith. The champions of Hebrews 11 have run the race victoriously and now encourage us to become spiritual champions, too. The men and women of faith listed in Hebrews 11 were not perfect people. Look at the list. Noah was a drunk. Abraham, a liar. Samson, a person of passion. Rahab, a prostitute. Moses had a temper problem. Gideon was distraught with fear. David, an adulterer and murderer. Not only were these people not perfect, they weren’t even close to perfect. But they progressed toward the finish line of Christ-likeness.
These champions of yesterday testify to us today. Noah is telling every drunk you can stop. Abraham reminds every liar that you can tell the truth. Samson acknowledges that God’s power can enable you to win over your passion. Rahab informs you that you can break the chains of promiscuity. Moses jogs your memory that with God’s help you can control anger. Gideon testifies that you can face your fears. And, David beckons that you can overcome the worst things a human being can do.
Like the champions who have gone before us, we aren’t perfect either, we all carry a lot of weight with us throughout life that tends to impede our spiritual progress.
• The Weight of Outright Sin.
Sometimes that weight is outright sin—things that we know are wrong but we have simply been unwilling to let go of them. Outright sin entangles the feet so that the runner trips and falls, often repeatedly. How may people have you seen get tripped up in their Christian walk over bitterness, lying, envy, idolatry, and sexual sins?
• The Weight of Besetting Sin.
Sometimes that weight is besetting sin—things that we have tried to get rid of, but they keep coming back time and again, like a cancer. Memories of past mistakes, bouts with addictions, wrongful habits that we can’t break are among the many besetting sins that encumber our advancement
• The Weight of Distractions.
But sin is not the only thing that keeps us from being spiritual champions. Sometimes those weights are things that are not necessarily sinful, but they are distractions that keep us from progressing spiritually. The author of Hebrews also speaks of “laying aside every weight . . . that so easily ensnares us.” These are the many things in life that are not particularly sinful in and of themselves, but they have the potential to become weights that slow us down, hold us back, and impede our progress. They are pursuits like ambition, socializing, decorating, golf, tennis, surfing the web, movies, music, talking on the phone too much, playing too many video games, reading too many unimportant books.
How do you go about losing the extra weight? Admittedly, it will not be easy because most sins are stubborn, and many weights involve years of habit. It’s like training for an Olympic event that takes years of practice, work, discipline, and dedication. Follow these steps.
• Identify the sins and weights.
The first step is to identify the sins and weights that are tripping you up. We are very aware of our outright sins and besetting sins. The distractions, however, are sometimes a little more difficult to identify.
• Confess and repent of your sins.
The next step is to confess and repent of what is weighing you down. Confess means “to speak the same.” In other words, it means to call it like God sees it. Confession accepts the responsibility for our actions and acknowledges what God already knows. Our holy God also demands that, in addition to confessing our sins, we repent of it, or forsake it. Repentance says that we turn our backs on the way of sin and turn instead to God. The farther we progress toward being a spiritual champion the more sin does not look good. We turn from sin not only for what it does to us, but also because of what it does to our Holy Father.
• Be filled with God’s Spirit.
Once sin has been confessed and forsaken, God forgives and gives us his Spirit to enable us to live victoriously over it. So the next step for us is to be filled with God’s Spirit. Trying to live above sin without God’s power is like trying to drive a car without gasoline. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us his Spirit to empower us spiritually. Through the Spirit’s power we are given the resources that break the chains of our sin and remove the weights that hold us back so we can run the race to become a spiritual champion.
Our part is to identify the sin, confess it, repent of it, and then seek the controlling influence of God’s Spirit. Once we do this then God can do a miraculous work. This process may take but a moment or many years. While hard to describe in words, let me see if I can illustrate it visually.
In the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest was a mentally slow and physically challenged child. While wearing braces on his legs he moved painfully slow until one day a miracle occurred. As we was walking home from school with his friend Jennie a group of bullies road up on their bicycles and began throwing rocks at Forrest. Jeannie instructed Forrest to run. As he ran away his braces came off and he ran so fast that the boys on bikes couldn’t catch him.
In the race set before you, what would God say is presently keeping you from being the disciple he would like you to be? Do you feel like Forrest Gump before his braces came off? Are you trying to run your spiritual race with leg braces? Is sin tying your down? Are distractions holding you back? What sin have you identified? Will you confess it and repent of it? Will you allow God’s Spirit to control you so God can do a miracle in your life? Then you can run unencumbered the race God has set before you.