1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.
Notice the violent verb choice used in Scripture for today’s Monday’s Marinate. “Throw off”. It could have said remove. It could have said lift away. Instead, Scripture says “throw off”. What are we supposed to throw off? We are to throw off everything that hinders, including sin that entangles us in its tricky web of deceit.
Last week I wrote about how God delivered me from the bondage of smoking. If we use that as an example of my sin, the deceit I was entangled in as a kid was that smoking would grant me entrance into the Cool Kids Club. The truth is my ability to live a healthy lifestyle went up in smoke because eventually it became difficult to breathe and I even developed a smoker’s cough. (Thank God that went away too!)
When social mores changed and smoking became unacceptable, it began to feel like you were ostracized from society. Much had shifted in the 28 years I had smoked. The reason I started smoking in the first place back-fired. The deceit I bought into as a young teenager was that smoking would help me fit in. Eventually, that shifted to my being isolated from others who were making healthier decisions.
It was time to throw off this sin. As we decide to throw off sin, it’s important to remember we have God’s strength and power to help us. I wouldn’t have been able to throw off my sin without God’s intervention.
I just love the next part of our Scripture: And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. There are several reasons I love these words.
The day I surrendered to Christ, the line in the sand date, was 1-10-2010. Our pastor asked anyone willing to surrender to Christ to come to the front. The church I attend rarely has people come to the front when they make a decision to follow Christ. Normally, it’s done from our seats. That day, however, they were handing out running bibs as a symbol for those who said yes to Jesus. Above is a picture of my running bib from that day.
After that decision, God led me through many trials and tribulations but kept me close to Him and helped me to persevere through some of the toughest circumstances of my life. God marks out a different race for us, one that is so awesome. We just need to hang in there with Him – especially in those really rough patches when He’s breaking us free from all sorts of pain and sin. If you are in the midst of a season like that, I promise your perseverance will pay off. Hang onto God and do not let go. On the other side of our pain and sin is something really good and beautiful if we persevere and run the race God has marked out for us.
The word “therefore” signifies there’s a connection to language preceding this Scripture. It’s important. Hebrews chapter 11 outlines all the members of the Hall of Faith, those biblical role models God has left us with who are known for exemplary faith. As it says in Hebrews 11:39-40
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Before you become overwhelmed with the word “perfect”, let me call your attention to the Scripture we began with. Verse 2 says we need to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the perfector of our faith. It is not our job to be perfect, it is our job to fix our eyes upon Jesus and let Him be the perfector of our faith. Whew!
God had something better for me in so many ways. He gave me a running bib to mark my moment of surrender to Him and many good things have come from that. Take my simple smoking example. God removed that desire from me. And then, He made me a runner. If you knew me before, you would think that was hilarious! But here’s the thing, just as verse 40 says above, God had something better planned for me.
He laid the foundation for me to run when He delivered me from the bondage of smoking. God knew running was part of the plan He had for me. Little-by-little, I became a runner. I learned how to hydrate so that I didn’t become over-heated and depleted. I built up the stamina to sustain longer distances. Muscle mass developed in my legs so that they could push my body up hills without feeling fatigued. There were times it was painful when I began to run. Now, I actually enjoy it. Now, I find peace in it. It’s a wonderful time to pray, dream, and think creatively. Sometimes, it is my saving grace when I need to calm down and process a situation. I just finished my first half marathon. I love that it was the cheesiest marathon! My first medal is cheesy, like me!
Faith is very much like running. It’s a gradual process. With God’s help we develop the muscle mass needed to live the life that He calls us to. It may seem difficult at times, but with God we can run the race of perseverance and step across the finish line victorious, smile, and say “cheese”.
How has God helped you persevere?
How has God delivered you from sin?
Is there any sin you need to remove from your life?
Ask God for His help. “Jesus please help remove the bondage of ( ) from my life. Replace this bad habit with something healthy. Help me to focus on the plan you have for me. Show me the “something better” you want to bring into my life. In Jesus’ name, amen!”