3.14.23 | Hebrews 12:1-4


(online only due to rain/snow)

Prayer Guide:

The anonymous author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, after walking his or her readers through the “hall of faith,” the lives of the Old Testaments saints, moves into a final exhortation. The imagery of this passage is that of an athletic contest, perhaps more specifically, a relay race. The readers (and we) are on the field of contest, surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses,” the Old Testament saints who faithfully ran their leg of the race and are now seated in the stands. The readers (and we) have the baton in our hands and it is our turn to run the race. 

It is important to know that the stakes of our lives are high. Our life of faith can (and should) be thought of with the same intensity as an athletic contest. We are not at a party, on vacation, on an ocean cruise, or napping. We are in a spiritual contest, a struggle, on the field of play. And we are surrounded by saints and angels who are cheering us on and intently focused on watching us run after Jesus. We have a race to run, friends, just as Jesus did. And just as the heroes and forefathers and mothers before us did. And we have the next generation waiting to receive the baton from us. It is critical that we run our leg of the spiritual race. Which means we need to rid ourselves of anything that is weighing us down or slowing us down. In the ancient world, as in today’s world, athletes would strip down in preparation for a race. Think of swimmers taking off their windbreaker, or sprinters taking off their sweatpants before their event. If we want to run with endurance, we need to remove any excess weight, any encumbrances. 

The author highlights two things in particular that need to come off. First, we must remove “whatever hinders,” or “anything that encumbers.” The Greek word is ongkos, referring to a weight or an encumbrance. Just as it would be ridiculous to run a marathon wearing a backpack, many of us struggle in the Christian life because there are so many things we are holding onto that slow us down. What excess weights are you carrying? Attachments to or concerns for worldly things, resentments, pain and hurt from the past, lies we’ve agreed with? A calendar full of obligations and duties that are not actually what God is calling us to do? Ask the Holy Spirit – what is slowing you down, what is weighing you down as you try to run the race marked out for you? These encumbrances and weights are not necessarily sin…but they are not helping us either. Paul says, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is profitable. Everything is permissible, but I will not be mastered by anything.” What are the things in your life, perhaps even good things, that are competing with Jesus for your affection and attention and focus. It’s time to put these things off, like the sweatpants you don’t need to wear for the marathon or the windbreaker you don’t need to wear for the swim heat. The author tells us not just to slough off some of the things that hinder, but everything that hinders. All of it. If it is questionable, Evan Roberts, told the people of Wales in the early days of the Welsh Revival, get rid of it. God honors consecration. 

“Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is profitable. Everything is permissible, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

1 Corinthians 6:12

Similarly, the author tells us we need to put off the “sin that so easily entangles.” The Greek euristatos almost suggests that sin has a mind of its own and a skillful way of tripping us up. A surefire way to avoid revival and renewal is to allow sin to continue to wrap its tentacles around us. For many of us, there are patterns of besetting sin that will keep us from being able to run after Jesus. God wants us to be set free to run after him – but for that we have to confess our sins and renounce them. 

For Reflection and Prayer:

What is acting as spiritual “dead weight” in your life? Perhaps it is not necessarily sin or even bad, but it is taking up space and time and energy and focus that rightly belongs to God. What would it mean for you to lay this aside so that you can run after Jesus? Consider the church as well…how might God be leading you to repent on behalf of others and to pray for their dead weight to be laid aside? 

What are the sins in your life that are entangling you or tripping you up? Can you confess these to the LORD and perhaps to others today? 

How about for the wider church, whether Sanctuary or the Church in New England? What sin patterns are tripping up your brothers and sisters? What needs to be confessed en masse by the church? Can you stand in the gap and repent and pray on behalf of your brothers and sisters in Christ?