Running the Race – Hebrews 12:1-2
by Dionne Stratton
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Hebrews 12:1-2 – “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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.”
Hinder – hold back, delay, hamper, encumber, obstruct, impede
Entangle – snare, entrap, catch up, trip up
Perseverance – insistence, urgency, firmness, resolve, determination
Fix – fasten, attach, glue, stick, secure
The Race Marked Out for Us
There are many things that slow down our progress toward the God-centered life that would keep us from walking in the center of God’s will. Sometimes the enemy’s best weapon against us is not direct physical assault, but rather the subtle chains that hinder us in our walk with God and our progress toward the goals He has for us and for our lives. We are not here randomly nor are we left to make of this life what we will. Scripture says, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans to prosper you not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)”, and “He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men to inhabit all of the earth and He determined the times set for them the exact places where they should live. God did this so that people would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:25-27)”. As His people we are, “created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned long ago for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)”. Though we can be sure that God has a plan for our life and that He will by no means hide it from us, we must remember that there is an enemy to our souls - he has all the distractions and resources of the world (for he is “the God of this world” – see 2 Corinthians 4:4) and all the “spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12)” to bring against us. The passage here simply calls it “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. Let’s take a closer look at that first one.
Everything that Hinders
There are two kinds of hindrances that the enemy uses to hamper our progress. First are the inner hindrances of fear, anxiety, doubt, despair, anger, rage, hate, unforgiveness, bitterness, depression, pride, condemnation, and greed. All of these things isolate us from others (if not physically then emotionally) and keep us from true intimacy with God because we are always desperate to hide them as much as possible. Even though we know that God knows the “thoughts and attitudes” (Hebrews 4:12) of our hearts, still we try to hide from Him and we do all that we can to hide them from one another, never really revealing our hearts. However, hiding ourselves is never the answer. We must not forget that God desires to work through His people and thus it is vital for every believer to be connected to a local body with regular and genuine, honest, and deep fellowship and connection. For this reason Scripture says, “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)”. God’s purpose for our lives always involves other people and He has equipped and instructed us to “build (one another) up in love (Ephesians 4:16)”. We are to “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. ” (James 5:16). That means all our short comings, failures, and issues - not just our sins. If the devil can get you withdrawn and isolated, he can essentially effectively negate your influence and purpose in this life and keep you from getting help and getting healed. From there it is a relatively small step for him to get you out of the world entirely. We must remember that the enemy has as much influence over our thoughts and emotions (and consequently our actions) as we allow. We assume that we cannot help our thoughts and feeling and while it is true that we cannot always keep negative thoughts and feelings from entering our minds and hearts, we can determine how long they stay – whether it’s minutes or hours. You must determine that you will not play the victim anymore. Remember that Scripture says, “submit yourself to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)”. You must be fed up with his tactics. You must be done. And, if you haven’t done so, you must open up to a trustworthy brother or sister so that you can be encouraged, loved, prayed for, and ultimately healed.
Second are the outer hindrances of distraction, entertainment, workaholism, addiction, stress, oppression, unhealthy eating habits, lack of proper sleep and exercise. All of these things hinder us by draining our strength, clouding our minds, and keeping us preoccupied with the things of this world. From all these things we must seek freedom. God will not force freedom and healing upon you. He offers it but He asks us all, “Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)”. Our automatic response is “of course!”. But is it really true? Are you ready to lay aside all of your excuses and take responsibility for who you are and who you’re supposed to be? Once you break free, people will expect more of you – you’ll expect more from yourself and staying free is an unending battle. Though the intensity of it varies, we must be constantly vigilant to avoid the devil’s pits and to keep from being trapped again (1 Peter 5:8) but it’s the only way that we can fulfill God’s purpose in our lives. We cannot properly run the race with weights and shackles on us.
The Sin that so Easily Entangles
Now we come to “the sin that so easily entangles”. Mostly this refers to a habitual sin that clings to us and is always tripping us up. It’s like having heavy weights shackled to your legs, it slows you down considerably. As long as you consistently walk down the path of sin, you cannot walk in God’s perfect will for you and you cannot do all that He has for you. We all know how hard it is to break a habit and the enemy will do all that he can to make that sin look as enticing as possible. For indeed, there are pleasures of sin, but they are only “for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). When that season is over you will find that your “pleasurable” and entangling sin has robed you of the life you were meant to live leaving only bitterness, emptiness, and regret for, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Once we are entangled in sin it can seem impossible to break free but, “all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26)” and He has provided us with the Holy Spirit through whom we can walk in victory over sin. Indeed, God has given us “everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)”. For, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)”. If the Spirit of the living God lives in you, what is there that you cannot do if He calls you to it? As Scripture says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)”. Not just some things – not just having health, wealth, and favor – but also victory over sin, anxiety, and depression, to walk in confidence, live in love, joy, and peace by God’s power and calling (Romans 14:17).
Throw it all Off
When Paul tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” that includes all the emotional, spiritual, and temporal chains, hindrances, and sins already discussed. Such things keep us from living out our full potential in Christ. These hindrances are not from God (He only gives good gifts see James 1:17), but from the enemy who would cripple us and weigh us down. God came to save us from all these things here and now and He desires to set us free from them as much as He desires to save us from hell – for these chains are themselves the very chains of hell and while we are bound by them how will we ever enjoy the “life in all it’s fullness (John 10:10)” that He came to give us here and now?! We were meant to “soar high on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). Let us not forget that these chains not only hinder our work for God and our effectiveness in this race, but it affects our relationship with Him. Whether you can see it or not it is the truth. Throw off those chains and see how your relationship with God changes! There is no particular difference between the various kinds of chains that the enemy uses to hinder us. They all attach the same way and all lead to the same end, the only real difference in them is our different reactions to the enemy’s attack. The only difference between anger, depression, and anxiety is our reaction to circumstances based on the direction of our thoughts due to our individual predispositions. All chains hinder our purpose and our relationships – especially our relationship with God.
The Key to Freedom
The key to freedom is the supernatural transforming power of God given to us by His indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the same power and Spirit who raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11) for what we need is no less than transforming resurrection power, anything less will not yield permanent change. For this reason He says of those who are in Christ, “you are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)”. Though we are new inwardly in our spirit, we must still be “transformed by the renewing of (our) minds (Romans 12:2)”. This means realizing, receiving, and reckoning our position and power in Christ. As Scripture says, “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)”. We must know what Scripture says about us, we must receive it as true for us, and then we must “consider” or “count on” it as being true. You must know that He is willing and able to give you “life in all it’s fullness” and that means being free from all hindrances. You must receive it as part of the truth of your salvation. You must count on it as true for you, trusting in God to make it a reality in your life. Above all, you must stop trying to cover it up or deal with it yourself. God cannot deal with anything that you will not admit to. Scripture says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)”. If necessary, He will bring circumstances into your life that will force you to face those issues. It’s better to do it now, willingly. You must stop trying to take care of it yourself for that will never work, not permanently anyway. As with everything God says, “Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). He is your comforter, counselor, helper (John 14:16), healer (Exodus 15:26), your very present help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Look to Him for help, healing, and freedom for, “Who the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36)” and “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)”.
Fix Your eyes on Jesus
So once we have asked for and perhaps even received healing and freedom, how do we walk in confidence and victory? By keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the One who overcame the devil, sin, and death by the cross (Colossians 2:15). He is our example and our inspiration. In Him is our hope (1 John 3:3), through Him we receive the upward call of God (Philippians 3:14), and with Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) because what He has begun in us He will complete (Philippians 1:6). We keep our eyes on Him by immersing ourselves in His Word (for He is “the Word made flesh” see John 1:14) and by daily spending time with Him in prayer (not simply asking for what we need from Him but besides that, taking time to hear His heart and just be with Him) By fixing (or “gluing”) our eyes on Him and drawing close to Him, transformation, freedom, and healing are “easy” and “natural”. As Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit – but you can’t do it without Me (John 15:5)”. All of the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)” are the very opposite of the hindrances discussed earlier. How you be filled with love and hate? Or joy and depression and despair? Or peace and anxiety and fear? No! Just as God’s Spirit gives freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17), so too the fruit He produces in us (Galatians 5:22-23) replace all the negative fruit of the world and our old sin nature. The fruits of the Spirit aren’t something we strive for and work at, they are a natural product of our connection to Him and will flourish just as much as we allow ourselves to be connected to Him. That is why this, like everything else, is “by His Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). The life He gives is nothing less than the awesome and almighty power and presence of God at work in us that we should desire and be able to follow His will (Philippians 2:13) for our life all of our lives. Believe it, claim it, proclaim it, and live it out!
Point to Ponder
What are you able to see in your life that weighs you down and keeps you from truly running in the race that God has marked out for you? Hint: the obvious outward hindrances are always an indication of more serious inward hindrances. Discovering these will require honesty with God and with yourself. Are you ready to be bold and, by God’s Spirit, reject these hindrances that you might live the abundant life (John 10:10) that God desires for you – a life that is lived for Him alone? Is there some habitual sin that you’ve allowed to entangle you (Hebrews 12:1) and keep you from walking in God’s will? Is it really worth all you are missing out on in your walk with God? Are you ready to do whatever it takes to be free from everything that weighs you down?
Let’s pray, “Our almighty God and Father, we thank You for Your Word and for Your promises. We thank You for the gift of Your Son who saves us and Your Holy Spirit who lives in us and helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). Help us now as each of us prays, “In the Name of Jesus Christ, by faith in His blood, relying on His Word, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I declare that these things shall no longer have any place in my life; fear, anxiety, doubt, despair, anger, rage, hate, unforgiveness, bitterness, depression, pride, greed, condemnation, or anyone’s perception of my strengths or abilities as well as all distractions, workaholism, addictions, stress, oppression, and any unhealthy living habits - that I may obey my God immediately and completely all my life and so persevere in the path marked out for me throwing off all burdens, hindrances, and sins by keeping my thoughts and the eyes of my heart fixed on Jesus who has begun this work in me and will see it done. Lord, I also confess my sins to You and ask You to help me to be free of them so that I can live a life that pleases You. I know that You have heard me and answered me (1 John 5:14) so I consider it done and thank You for all that You have done and will do in my life. In the name of Jesus, who will present me faultless before the presence of His glory (Jude 1:24-25) I pray. Amen!!”
Hebrews 12:1-2 paraphrased – “Therefore… let us throw off everything that holds us back and slows us down, especially the sin that so easily traps us and trips us up, and let us run with resolve, insistence, and determination the race marked out for us. Let us fasten, permanently set, and secure our eyes on Jesus…”
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