Throw Off

I love inspiring my boys to run.  I’ll say to them, “OK, try this.” And I’ll take off for some quick steps through the grass.  Zachary, who is lean and fast, says, “Watch me, Dad.”  And he takes off and zooms around the yard in blurring circles.  Benjamin says, “Watch me, Dad.” And he kicks his big legs into gear and pretty soon he’s flying on his toes.  I love inspiring my boys to run.  And even more than that, I want to inspire them to run fast and free for God.

I want to be a hero of faith.  Don’t you?  By that I mean I want to be a person who can run for God every day of my life- the type of faith that inspires others to keep pace.  I want to inspire a marathon of speed and agility for the Almighty God.  I want to witness to others that it is possible to live a life of faith even through circumstances that make it difficult. 

Now I know it’s possible because in Hebrews chapter 11 there is a crowd of people who endured the pressures of this world and still they were able to run the race with courage and freedom.  Their faith in God was proven victorious.  There’s Noah, there’s Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, David, Samuel, and so many others.  Then there’s the apostle Paul once said, “I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him.”   And still there are more.  Throughout history and down to this very day countless believers have run for God through fire and trial, stress, suffering and persecution, unhindered and free.  Therefore let us be like them.  Let us run the race with endurance.  I want to do that.

But I have a problem.  Like many of you I carry around things that hinder my speed and my strength… that weigh down my ability to run.  I’ve attached myself to some baggage, some really heavy, full baggage, that I am rather stubborn to let go.  I now am weighed down and slowed down by the things I hold onto that God didn’t put in my hands.  And so when God asks me to do something, to go somewhere, to help someone or to spend faithful time alone with him, I want to respond well, but I often can’t.  I am entangled.  I am caught.

Some of these bags are filled with stress that comes from the noise of busy, hurried days.  Some are filled with hurts, most with sin.  And for some reason I grab onto these things with a strong grip, even if they hurt me or others.  It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the world tells us to be successful in life we need to have a grip on things.  But the Bible says to be successful we need to lose our grip on the things in life. 

The race that we run isn’t a rat race.  It’s not where we just try to keep up and get the kids where their supposed to go and still make it to work and mail the birthday cards on time.  The race is our struggle to run daily through this life without being distracted in our faith.  So, the writer of Hebrews says, get rid of the stuff that will distract you.

Now there are no specific items mentioned here.  There is no “what to bring, what not to bring” list.  That would have been helpful perhaps.  Obviously, some items, like love and hope and forgiveness and hospitality, are good for us to carry.  The Bible tells us to pick up our cross daily, or to carry the armor of God, which includes items like truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, readiness. 

But there are many items that we are not supposed to pack.  There are things we should NOT carry.  Simply put, anything that gets in the way of our faith should be discarded.  We are to COME WITHOUT the things that weigh down our ability to run through this life for God. 

"Don’t load yourselves up with equipment," Jesus says (Luke 9).  He sends his twelve disciples out on a missions trip to heal the sick and to preach about the Kingdom of God.  He tells them, “Don’t even take along a walking stick, nor a travelor’s bag, nor food, nor money.  Not even an extra coat.”  Jesus didn’t want them to be attached to belongings which would hinder their journey or cause anyone to stumble. 

You see, if we are weighed down, we can’t pick up the things that God wants us to do.  Our arms aren’t free.  They’re entangled.  Entanglement means, getting stuck, getting trapped.  It’s like a path which suddenly becomes full of branches and thorns.  If you have any extra garments or bags on you, you’ll get snagged, caught up.  Because of sin, we get easily distracted.  Our eyes and our hearts get entangled in something that takes our focus off of Jesus.  Sin distracts us from the focus of our faith.  Sin catches the corner of our eye and we turn our attention away from Jesus.  And we trip.  And we fall.  And we probably take some other people down with us.  And the bags feel heavy.

  But on this marathon journey, Jesus understands where we are beginning from.  Jesus has been there.  He has run the race to perfection.  He knows the condition of our faith.  He knows what we’re carrying around in your soul.  He knows if we’re holding on to jealousy, or weighed down by bitterness or un-forgiveness.  He knows if we’re holding on to somebody else too tightly.  He knows if we’re slowed down by lies or a hidden sin, by a temptation that we can’t seem to ignore.

The cool thing is that Jesus also knows what steps we should take to break free in a sprint and to get to the finish line.  He knows the layout of the path.  He is the author and perfecter of our faith.  He wants to inspire us to run, free and alive- all because we no longer are carrying around all that extra weight. 
He is.  It’s a remarkable thing that God should carry all of our baggage.  When he endured the cross, scorning its shame, he carried our iniquities.  Jesus lifted up our burdens, our sins, and our infirmities and carried them to the cross for us.  How dare we go back to the cross and pick up that baggage again.  No, we are not to grow weary and fall into old patterns.  We are to find our stride and run free for God.  Watch this, Dad.

Now is an opportunity to throw off everything that is hindering us in our faith.  You probably don’t need me to mention the things that you might be holding on to.  The Holy Spirit I imagine is already at work drawing to your attention things that are distracting you, weighing upon you. 

We can be heroes of faith.  We can go on a baggage diet.  We can cast away all of those things that would hinder us from following Jesus.  And we can run the race with endurance.

**Hebrews 12:1-3  (NIV)  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.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and
perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the
cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne
of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so
that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

*** This post is excerpted from a sermon I did back in 2005.

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