Laying Aside Hindrances: running
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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.
Man's perennial efforts to take himself in hand,
however he attempts it, lead to the greatest bondage
in which man misses what he was meant to be.
Man's true freedom does not consist of the unfettered
power to direct his life, either in a political or
in a Stoic sense. It lies in life with God, lived as it
was originally intended by God for man. He only
gains this as he denies himself. Paradoxically, the
free man does not belong to himself. He belongs to
him who has set him free.
In literature and in Scripture, life is depicted as a race. How we choose
to run the race determines our quality of life, and whom or what we
choose to run toward determines our peace and joy.
All of us begin the race with a handicap - an inherited sin nature that
subtly binds us and weighs us down so that the race can become strenuous
and futile. God, in His great love, unbinds us, frees us from our handicap,
and gives us a new nature purchased by the death of His Son.
As we admit our inadequacy to run the race alone and accept God's
gracious redemption, then the race begins to have meaning, validity, and
most of all, freedom. It has been observed that "none are free indeed
but those whom Christ makes free." We are free in Christ, but we must
be aware that we often run the race with unnecessary baggage that can
hinder our freedom. What is this freedom that Christ has made possible,
and what can hinder us from living in freedom?
Laying Aside Hindrances
We are told in Hebrews 12 to lay aside the encumbrances, or the weights
or hindrances, that keep us from running or progressing in our spiritual
lives. Hannah Whitall Smith describes burdens as "everything that
troubles us, whether spiritual or temporal."
G. Campbell Morgan comments, "Anything which has the remotest
chance of interfering with our fellowship is to put away, to be kept away."
1. Look up the following words in a dictionary, and then write down a
definition for each term:
Every weight, that is, all inordinate affection and
concern for the body, and the present life and world.
Inordinate care for the present life, or fondness for it, is
a dead weight upon the soul, that pulls it down when it
should ascend upwards, and pulls it back when it should
press forward; it makes duty and difficulties harder and
heavier than they would be.
2. In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes the death of our old life
and the gift of new life in Christ. Read Romans 6:1-14.
a. How is our freedom accomplished?
b. What choices are now ours?
3. What hindrances do you especially struggle with that keep you from
experiencing freedom in Christ?
Running with Freedom
4. God has delivered us from the law of sin and death and from the
tyranny of self. What does Paul teach in Romans 6:15-23 about the
freedom God gives us and our part in experiencing that freedom?
Write your responses in the appropriate columns.
Once we've tasted being alive, we can't go back to being
dead. Aliveness in God is addictive.
Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus
Jesus exemplified freedom all of His life. He never allowed anyone or
anything to hinder His accomplishing the will of His Father. Sure of His
identity and mission, He lived, ministered, and served confidently and
5. Read Jesus' important proclamation in John 8:31-32. What do you
think He means by "the truth," and in what sense does it set us free?
But what is the nature of our freedom? It is not release
from all restraint. It is not license to indulge our sinful
nature. Our freedom is the freedom to "serve one another
in love." It is possible to do so, because the Holy Spirit
enables us to act in ways that are contrary to the natural
impulses of our sinful nature. Walking by the Spirit, we
are released from the old master that produces hatred,
jealousy, fits of rage, envy, and such. We are released to
be loving, patient, kind, faithful and good.
Lawrence O. Richards
AUTHOR'S REFLECTION - I have heard of slaves who were given freedom
by the Emancipation Proclamation who still chose to live in slavery.
For them, freedom was a frightening unknown. I think of the Israelites
who were freed from their slavery in Egypt, yet longed for the food they
received while in captivity. They were willing to become slaves again just
to satisfy their appetite.
Freedom can be overwhelming, and it may seem that we are really
sacrificing the "good life" to be set free by Christ. To truly understand the
weight of sin and self is to begin to grasp the preciousness of our freedom
in Christ. This understanding is a continuing process for me. I give up my
freedom when I insist on being in control, demanding my own happiness,
and building walls of protection. All of these behaviors seem right and
feel comfortable, but they ultimately become heavy burdens.
God clearly calls us to "give up" this cumbersome, defeating "old self."
I think more than anything this means grasping the truth that I have the
power to lay aside these encumbrances. I don't have to be a slave to sin, to
myself, or to others in order to feel good about who I am. I don't have to
have the world tell me what will make me happy. True freedom is realizing
that apart from Christ, I am not free. If I really want to experience
this "addictive aliveness," then I will throw off everything that hinders me
from being truly alive. It is the only way to run.
Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along
the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon
overtook him and the driver kindly offered to help him
on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer but when
seated in the wagon, continued to bend beneath his
burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. "Why do
you not lay down your burden?" asked the kind-hearted
driver. "Oh!" replied the man, "I feel that it is almost too
much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of
letting you carry my burden too." And so Christians,
who have given themselves into the care and keeping of
the Lord Jesus still continue to bend beneath the weight
of their burdens, and often go weary and heavy-laden
throughout the whole length of their journey.
Hannah Whitall Smith
YOUR REFLECTION - In journal form or as a prayer to the Lord, write
down your thoughts in response to these two questions: In what areas
do you long to be free? How would your life be different if you were able to
experience God's freedom in these areas?
SUGGESTED SCRIPTURE MEMORY - Hebrews 12:1