Hebrews 12:1b “…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.”
I’m not a runner. Let me just say it again: I am not a runner. As my husband says, if you see me running, you better run, too, because something scary is chasing me. I have slipped into a jog now and then when I have gone walking, but I don’t run. My brother-in-law runs. And he got my sister into running. I have several friends who are avid runners and have participated in many marathons of varying distances. But I just never have really even wanted to.
Let me back up…I HAVE run. In fact, in elementary school, I could outrun any boy on the playground. But somewhere around my 3rd grade year, I stopped. And I haven’t run since.
But just because I don’t run, doesn’t mean I don’t understand running and running well. For example, I know you don’t run well in combat boots, a parka and a big, floppy hat. I know you don’t run well in a field of tumbleweeds. I know you don’t run well backwards.
In Hebrews 12, Paul is reminding us of the importance of running this race of life well. To be careful where we run, who we run with and what we have on when we run. And he’s not talking about high school running tracks and Nike running shoes. He’s talking spiritually.
There are way too many stumbling blocks in this race of life as it is. But we, as humans, even as Christians, allow sin to creep in…heck, sometimes we leave the front door wide open and holler for it to come in and have dinner. Either way, it’s there. We welcome it. We entertain it. We feed it. And it waltzes in, makes itself at home, then begins to slowly and methodically destroy us. It begins to “entangle” us.
The first place it entangles us is around our feet. I imagine trying to run the rope obstacle course that they run in boot camp/basic training. Where you have to run through the checkerboard of criss-crossed ropes. I guarantee that with my first step, I’d get my foot caught on a rope and eat it. Makes me nervous to even think about it. But as a true runner, you need to run without anything entangling your feet. Make sure your shoelaces are tied. Make sure your running pants fit close to your ankles. Better yet, run in running shorts. Run on surfaces that are free of debris and roots and the like. Get rid of those things so that you can run smoothly and successfully.
Another place that sin entangles us is in our stomach. Yes, our gut. You know the feeling. The feeling of guilt. The feeling of anxiety that “someone will find out.” The feeling of nervousness. The feeling of fear. All these feelings affect our tummy. No one can run well with an upset tummy, yet we all try to run our spiritual race with a knot in our stomach concerning some something that we’ve done or haven’t done. Pretty soon, we’ll bend over in pain from a stitch in our side.
A third place that sin entangles and gets hold of us is our mind. We fool ourselves with faulty thinking. Things like, “This isn’t that bad,” “Everyone else does it,” “No one will ever find out.” These types of thoughts and mindsets are sometimes the most dangerous to the runner because it keeps us from being focused on what’s really happening in our run. A runner needs to stay focused, so he/she can see the path ahead; be aware of any upcoming rocks, limbs, potholes, people in their way that will slow down or stop their run. It’s foolish to think that sin is “no big deal.” Its consequences can be devastating and when we take sin too lightly, we will, ourselves, be devastated.
Sin can also entangle our mind when we are distracted. Distractions are wicked mean…and believe me, I can be distracted quicker than you can say “squirrel”. Put me in a cluttered room and tell me to clean it up and/or organize it, and I’ll find one picture or one match book or one autograph book from elementary (yes, I still have it; don’t judge)…and the distractions begin to run amok! Those aren’t bad distractions…they just get my focus off the job at hand and onto my best friend in 2nd grade. But remember this: as you run your race, you can be distracted by people on the sidelines who are booing you and telling you you’ll never finish, but you can also be distracted by those along the sidelines that are hollering your name and telling you you’re doing great! If you turn your attention toward them for very long, whether good or bad, you will slow down…or worse, bite it right there in front of everyone.
A final place that sin entangles is our heart. Our heart is the center of our everything. It’s the center of where we love. The center of our passion and purpose. When sin comes into our lives, we lose our ability to truly love ourselves and love others. We become overly-focused on ourselves simply because we’re trying to convince ourselves that we’re ok. We’re trying to justify our actions. We’re trying to hide our secrets. And when we over-focus on ourselves, we under-focus on others around us. Those who need our attention and love. Those closest to us, like friends and family, and those around us who need our time and service.
So…get rid of it. All of it. Open the door to your life, use no pleasantries or kind gestures, and kick sin to the curb. It’s no good for you. It doesn’t help you wash the dishes or take out the trash or cook dinner. It only sits on the couch, trying to pull us down and trip us up when we walk by. And if it’s not sitting on the couch, it’s following us way too close and getting in our personal space, eerily whispering in our ears that we don’t measure up, that we’ve screwed up too bad, that there’s spinach in our teeth…or that we’ll never finish the race so we might as well give up now.
And as you kick sin out, invite grace in. Grace encourages, spurs us on, reminds us that we can overcome sin and telling us that we are loved! And love never trips us up…it puts wings on our feet and helps us to fly!