"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out
for us . . ." Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
While watching the young man surf, I remembered attempting to skim-board in mud puddles with my brother as a child. Our skill never rose, even slightly, to the level of the young man in the surf! It took him time, commitment, and dedication to rise to that level, which is true for any athlete. Weight-lifters don't begin bench pressing 300 pounds and marathoners don't run 26.2 miles the first time they run. To be at the top of their game requires dedication, perseverance, and commitment, which my brother and I were unwilling to devote to skim-boarding!
It's no accident that God compares our Christian walk to running a race. Faith must be exercised. We cannot be expected to endure life's hardships well without the proper spiritual training. At the beginning of every year, countless people resolve, once again, to eat more healthfully, exercise more, and lose weight. And many Christians rededicate themselves to practicing daily Bible devotions, praying regularly, and determine to be a better friend, sibling, child, spouse, and neighbor to others. Oftentimes, these good intentions last a few days or weeks, and then we give up. Do you relate? So, how can we run our faith-race more effectively?
In Jesus' Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23), the seed that fell on good soil is likely the part of the parable with which Christians identify. But are we not sometimes like the seed that fell on rocky ground? We hear the Word and receive it with joy, but when trouble comes we react with anger towards God. We blame him for it, become depressed or lash out at others, and fall away – maybe not from our faith entirely, but a root of despair or anger takes hold, and we may begin to doubt God's love, or alienate ourselves from others.
The Apostle Paul said, "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. . ." I Corinthians 9:25-27 (ESV). Hebrews 12:1 admonishes us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us and throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (NIV). The Greek word entangles, euperistatos (yoo-per-is'-tat-os), means easily encircling, easily surrounding, easily distracted, a serious hindrance. The King James translates the word as beset, which is an archaic word meaning, "bedevil, attack, afflict, torment, oppress, worry, ensnare." As in "they were beset by enemy forces." Does this not describe those sins in our lives we fall prey to? These besetting sins can torment, oppress, and worry us. These reoccurring sins can feel like attacks from the Enemy. But, here's the thing, we cannot set them aside on our own! The good news is, we don't have to muster the power to throw off these besetting and entangling sins. The Scriptures tell us that he who is in us—the Holy Spirit—is greater than he who is in the world—Satan, our Enemy—and in fact, 1 John 4:4 tell us those who are in Christ, those who've confessed Jesus as their Savior and forgiver of their sins, have already won the victory! So let us fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the author, the founder, and the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)!
What might be holding you back or getting in the way of running your faith-race? What sin might be entangling you? God says throw it off! We must be liberated from sin's trap to run our race faithfully! Let us dedicate ourselves to receiving the proper spiritual training, and allow God's Word to root down deep in good soil, fixing our eyes on Jesus—knowing his plans are best for our lives—so when times of trouble come (and they will most certainly come), we will be equipped to handle besetting sins and be able to throw them off, so we can persevere faithfully to the end. Then in that day, we will hear our Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master" Matthew 25:21(ESV).
Read and meditate on Psalm 1.
Dear Lord, help me to delight in your Word and meditate on it throughout the day. I want to be fruitful for your kingdom. Please make your will known to me, so I will faithfully walk in your way. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Sarah A. Keith
Photo credit: Oliver Sjöström @Pexels.com
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