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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)
I find myself continually affected by the incredibly obvious truth in this passage. There's certainly quite a lot of truth in the passage, but what most continues to convict and excite me is the simplest line -- "let us throw off everything that hinders."
Interesting, is it not, that sin is addressed separately? That there are things that hinder us, which we must lay aside, that aren't even sin? Though, depending on how we treat the things that hinder us, they can quickly become sin through idolatry.
It's a simple question of priority.
If my priority, if my goal, is to not just finish the race, but to win the race, why would I hesitate to make whatever adjustments necessary to do so?
Some things must be sacrificed for the greater goal of victory.
In the grand scheme of things, is there really anything worth holding on to? I think not.
How wonderful to be able to have the freedom to run to Jesus completely unhindered!
The consequence of all these things would be to block the work of God in your heart and in your home and in your church. You cannot afford to do it. Time is too short. Judgment is too certain. Eternity is too long. God is too wonderful, and Christ is too beautiful, and Heaven is too glorious for us to allow anything in our lives to hold us back from winning the race of life.
-A. W. Tozer
One of those sins that Christians tend to address as "minor," "little," and "unimportant," fear is often deemed unnecessary to address. We don't see it as a big deal, so we just ignore it, hoping it’ll go away. Unfortunately, though, as time goes on, fear not only doesn’t disappear – it actually grows. Before too long, the “little” sin is now the BIG sin that has begun to push us around and is grasping for control over every part of our lives.
I think part of the struggle we have to take fear seriously starts with the fact that fear in and of itself may not be a problem. Fear is a God-given emotion. The danger is found in what we’re fearing and how we respond to that fear.
I am so thankful that God uses people
Our God is a very personal God. He is a relational God. He lives in community, and He designed us to need that community, as well – starting with the fellowship we have through a relationship with Him. But it doesn’t end there – He also created us to need other people. Other Christians. Fellowship and relationships through the local church. Because God uses people.
We need encouragement. We need help. We need hope.
When we’re overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and broken, we are tempted to isolate. But it’s in those broken moments that we most need each other. We benefit the most from our relationships when it’s the hardest – when we’re most tempted to give up, close up, or shut down. When we’re vulnerable. When we’re scared. When we’re desperate.
The pattern in scripture is that when people (or even the nation of Israel) were desperate, they cried out to God. And God sent a man. God sent a woman. God sent a person. And He used that person to help, encourage, and bring about deliverance, both personally and corporately.
When Adam was alone and needed a helper,
God created Eve.
WHEN DAVID WAS RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE,
GOD GAVE HIM JONATHAN.
When Israel cried out for deliverance in Egypt,
God sent Moses.
1 Corinthians tells us about love, and insert your name. Then ask yourself, is this true of me?
In premarital counseling, it goes further – you insert your fiance’s name, as well, questioning
if he or she is exhibiting that brand of love toward you, as well.
Here’s what mine would look like:
Bethany is patient.
Bethany is kind.
Bethany does not envy.
Bethany does not boast.
Bethany is not proud.
Bethany does not dishonor others.
Bethany is not self-seeking.
Bethany is not easily angered.
Bethany keeps no record of wrongs.
Bethany does not delight in evil.
Bethany rejoices with the truth.
Bethany always protects.
Bethany always trusts.
Bethany always hopes.
Bethany always perseveres.
When I personalize scripture, it makes it much more real, direct, and applicable to my life.
It’s one thing to read about what agape (sacrificial) love looks like; it’s another thing to hold yourself to the standard. As I read through the passage inserting my name, it’s easy to see where I fail and where I need to make adjustments in the way I love the people God has
placed in my life.
I’m not one to keep a diary or journal. I’ve found that it’s too easy for me to slip in to negativity, so I avoid writing regularly unless it’s in a very disciplined format. For example, writing about what God is speaking to me about through my blog. I also have a 5-year Q&A a day journal that’s been a lot of fun to use.
I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I do remember that 2014 had a lot of ups and downs, as tends to happen in life. But as I flipped through this notebook, all I saw were the highlights; and all I remembered was the closeness I had with the Lord during that time; the answers to prayer I was receiving; the joy and the peace I felt. It was my gratitude notebook.
to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Oh, to find escape! Escape doesn’t have to be drunkenness; it could be blowing all your money shopping, or destructive eating habits, or any other excessive behavior we indulge in hoping
to numb ourselves. I understand the temptation to run, to hide. To give in to life.
But we who know and love Christ don’t have to hide anymore. He has given us everything
we need through our relationship with him to overcome whatever life may throw at us.
We just need to be focused on him, not the problems. We do this by submitting to authority,
by being thankful to God, talking about spiritual things, and singing to the Lord. These are all things that are challenging to us because they go against our flesh and what feels good in the moment; rather, they require us to choose faith, choose delayed gratification, and deny our flesh. The result is wonderful; I can’t explain it to you, though. You’ll have to try it for yourself.
You can’t give in to doubt and fear when you’re praising God and being thankful. Music was
one of the most powerful tools in my life over this past year to help me to focus on God instead of my problems, on His power instead of my weakness.
The hurt and pain of the past year is still very real and present in my life. I don’t intend to go
in-depth with the trials of this year. However, I thought I’d share some of the pivotal moments
in my life over the past year and the songs that helped me to stay thankful, stay focused,
and stay the course.
In a word: passionate.
About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even
iced skinny soy mochas.