Friday, October 31, 2014

Drop that Rock and Run

Taking walks with my three year old could be considered interval training.  Sometimes she'll run delightedly from one mailbox to another, looking for spiderwebs, while I power walk or even jog to keep up.  Then she'll stop for several minutes to examine a leaf she's found.  Run, walk, stop, walk, stop, run; it may not be cardio, but it's certainly fun!
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One day a few weeks ago, she picked up a good sized rock, probably the size of her two hands.  As she carried that rock, her pace was noticeably slower than it had ever been.  She could no longer run to the next mailbox as she lugged that heavy weight.  We both slowed down in our walk.
It reminded me of a verse in Hebrews:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).

I had before me a living example of what happens when we don't "lay aside every encumbrance."  We slow down.  We don't run with endurance because we can't run holding all that extra weight. 

The "cloud of witnesses" he mentions refers back to chapter 11, the "heroes of the faith" as they are commonly called.  The author has made a long list of Old Testament characters who accomplished amazing works through faith.  He's urging us to be like these heroes and lay aside everything that can slow us down.

In context, this extra weight isn't necessarily sin.  The Hebrew author tells us to lay aside the weight AND the sin.  The sin trips us up; the weight just slows us down. 

So what could it be?

We can find out by looking back at our examples in Hebrews 11, the cloud of witnesses he speaks of. 

One common thread through many of these "heroes of the faith" is their fearlessness. Through faith in God, they cast aside the weight of fear to accomplish the deeds we know them for today.  Abraham left his home to go to an unknown land without fear because God was leading him.  Jochebed and Amram didn't fear the king and hid baby Moses.  In turn, Moses didn't fear the king when he left Egypt and later returned to lead the people out of slavery. 

Fear is a weight we need to lay aside as well, and I've seen many Christians doing just that.  The brave  young girl who shares her faith with a friend, the preacher who refuses to marry a same sex couple despite the community backlash, and the missionary who goes to a disease ridden country to share the love of Christ along with his medical skills are all great examples of modern heroes of faith who refuse to be slowed down by fear. 

None of the men and women listed in Hebrews 11 were perfect, but they all chose not to remain weighed down with the shame of past sins.  Instead of worrying about how bratty he had been to his brothers, Joseph found a way to save his family from famine.  David was certainly contrite and repentant of his sins, but he also knew that he could be forgiven and continue to serve God (Psalm 51). Samson's life seemed to be one bad choice after another, but he is still included in this faith hall of fame because he continued to seek God even after his bad choices landed him blinded in prison.

In our Christian walk, we also have to "forget what is behind" (Philippians 3:13), including our past sins.  God promises us that when we confess those sins, they are totally washed away (1 John 1:9).  Remembering them will do nothing more than slow us down.

Some of these giants of the Old Testament also had to give up the weight of trivial activities.  Let me explain.  David should never have seen Bathsheba bathing. In 2 Samuel 11:1, we find that the king should have been with his armies, but David instead sent his commander and remained in the city.  When his soldiers were fighting, he had time for a nighttime stroll that led to disaster.  Eventually, he cast away this weight and fought with his armies again (2 Samuel 21:15).  Moses also had to set aside indolence in order to follow God more closely.  He gave up the luxury of the royal house in Egypt, and endured ill treatment with the other Hebrews instead (Hebrews 11:24-26).

We can carry the weight of frivolous habits too.  It sounds odd to think of fluffy things like games or books being weights, but trust me.  I know the guilt of missing precious time with my children from reading one more chapter or playing one more level.  Candy Crush and Harry Potter are not sinful, but when I become a slave to them, I can no longer be a slave to Christ.  

I don't know about you, but it seems like a tall order to cast aside the weights of fear, shame, and frivolity.  Thank goodness the Hebrew writer told us how to do it.
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus is our ultimate example.  If he could leave the glory of heaven, I can drop trivialities.  If he could go to the cross, I can put aside my fears.  I can remember that on that cross, he took away all my shame. When I do those things, I can be a better follower, running the race with endurance.

On that walk, my little one eventually decided that her big rock wasn't worth carrying.  She saw something ahead that she wanted, so she threw the rock down and ran with abandon toward it.  I want Jesus badly, so I'm going to throw down the weights that slow me down too. I'll leave with this thought from Paul.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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