We all face obstacles every day; some are bigger than others. For some of us big obstacles may be communication issues in a relationship; for others it is financial debt. Some struggle with illness; for others it is an addiction that they simply cannot shake. It is also true that the number of things that can stand in the way of a great relationship with God is endless. In fact, anything can stand in the way if we let it.
We live in a world full of people who give excuses. We hear it every week when we ask our contacts why they didn’t come to church: “Well, you see, my friend came into town” or “We overslept” or “I have a cold” (one of the most common excuses I hear). People also have excuses for why they don’t read their Bible: “It is so difficult to understand” or “I left it in the truck and my wife has the truck” (for an entire week?) or “We’ve been really busy”.
Our lives are full of decisions, and the same is true in our relationship with Christ. I don’t serve Him because I have to; I do it because I want to. I also decide who I want to be in this world, and within that are a thousand other decisions to get there. If I want to be a woman of integrity that changes the world, then I need to grow within my life a hunger for the Holy Spirit and the discipline of intentionally placing myself in the transforming presence of God. It is imperative that I become a lover of His Word. There are no shortcuts. There is no other way.
Everyone has the same 24 hours in their day as everyone else. I choose how to spend my time. The world is also full of people who are living average lives and only achieving a small percentage of their potential. Do you want to be one of those people? I think you don’t. Therefore, how should you reorganize your time to make the most of your moments and hours? For some of us, that would mean actually organizing our time. What are the meaningless or mostly meaningless things that you spend the majority of your day on? What would happen if you used that time to work toward achieving God’s purpose for your life?
What about sin? Is there an addiction that you struggle with? Do you spend time in places that by their very environments hold you back from knowing Christ and serving Him? Do you spend a lot of time with people who encourage you to do things that you know would not please God? Sometimes we can be so accustomed to the sin in our lives that we excuse it away by saying, “Oh, it’s not that bad.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
When I think about stripping things off in the context of a race, I see a guy who is running hard to win a thousand dollars and he is sweating like crazy as he is realizing that he shouldn’t have put that jacket on in the morning. I see him tearing it off as quickly as possible and tossing it aside, still running because he doesn’t want anything to slow him down. He wants to win that prize.
My dad always taught me that the secret to running a race is having something central to focus on. Otherwise we are focused on other things, like how tired we are, how thirsty we are, and how the other runners are doing so much better than us. If we don’t have a good focus, it is easy to become very irrational and think of amazing reasons why it “wouldn’t be so bad to just quit right now.”
This passage says that the way we can run with endurance the race God set before us (this life and our ministry) is to keep our eyes on Jesus who is already a champion. It is in Him we put our faith, and if we allow Him, He is constantly perfecting it. And what on earth is the author talking about when he said that “for the joy awaiting Him (Christ), He endured the cross.” What joy could a cross possibly bring? Well, it brought us salvation, and because of that He can be in relationship with us. He gets to journey with us. That was what He deeply desired! What greater joy could there be?
In this life, we may have a thousand barriers. However, the key to running the race successfully and to overcome all that stands in our way is to keep our focus set on Jesus and who we are called to be in Him. We must learn to recognize the things that are holding us back, and like the runner, rip it off and toss it aside, still running toward our goal. This life is too short and there is too much at stake for us to be flaky and give excuses. I’ll let the world be full of people who are living average lives, but that will not be my story. I want the pages of my life to display passion, integrity, and miracles. I want to arrive before God one day and hear Him say, “Well done, my faithful one!”
What about you? What will be said of you? What decisions must you make differently from this day forward to achieve the life that God intended for you?