I can tell you straight up what’s hindering me from running: laziness.
I’ve not exercised consistently in over a year. I can make all kinds of excuses–I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I don’t enjoy it. And they’re all true. But they’re still just excuses. I know that I need to exercise my physical body in order to stay healthy and strong. If I don’t take care of this body God has given me, I limit my usefulness to His kingdom.
So, I need to throw out all the excuses and get rid of every hindrance and just get outside and run.
“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” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV 84).
What’s Hindering Your Race?
But the writer of Hebrews is talking about a different kind of race–a spiritual race. He says that since we have examples who have gone before us–real men and women whose life stories are told in the Bible–their examples should encourage us to stay in the race and not be hindered by excuses or entangled in sin.
I can think of lots of excuses for not serving God: I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I don’t enjoy it. I hate church. Too many hypocrites. They don’t do it my way. I don’t know what my gifts are. I don’t have what it takes. They don’t need me. Somebody else will do it. That’s not my calling. They hurt me.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it’s unspiritual and keeps us unfruitful for the kingdom. We need to renew our minds in the Word of God and not allow thought patterns that keep us on the sideline and out of the race.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2a).
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
We also make excuses for our sin. We tell ourselves that we have a right to be offended or that it’s just a white lie or we can’t afford to tithe. We blame others for our choices or we claim that’s just the way we are and we can’t help it. But Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin. We have a choice to live by the sinful nature or the Spirit.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of death might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:12).
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5).
If I want to exercise my body regularly, I have to take captive the excuses and instead think about the health benefits of staying active. I need to renew my way of thinking about running or walking and remind myself that I actually enjoy it when I do it.
The same is true for our spiritual lives. We can make all kinds of excuses for not serving, but the truth is that we are happiest when we are serving God and others and when we are dealing with sin and striving to walk in the Spirit.
Eyes on the Prize
The best way to stay in the race is to keep our eyes on the finish line.
“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” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
If we will keep our eyes on Jesus, we’ll be motivated by His love for us demonstrated in the cross, and we’ll throw off all the excuses and just run.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be on the sidelines. I want to be running my race for the Lord.
I wrote a Bible study called Let’s Run! Running the Race with Faith and Perseverance. It’s a six-week study that will inspire and motivate you to run your race for Jesus. I want to encourage you to pick up a copy and study this passage in Hebrews. Let God’s Word renew your mind and get your focus back on the race set before you.
Gotta go now. I’m putting on my running shoes.
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