[Dashby is a new member of the All4God writing panel. He has just finished A-Levels at Wallace High School Lisburn, and is presently on a gap year with Open Air Ministries. He will be writing a few articles sharing what is on his heart and helping you grow in your relationship with God.]
The Olympics hit China spectacularly this summer with the track and field again being the centre stage. Usain Bolt made setting world records seem effortless and all the training and pain for the last 4 years was rewarded for all those who took part and represented their country. I’m now into my third week of my GAP year and there have been 2 verses that follow me wherever I go, these verses if taken to heart by God’s people would transform this world again but the problem is the Church in the West especially is cold and I am the first to hold my hands up and say that so often Christ and His Kingdom is not first in my life, I may say He is or even think He is but when I actually take a step back and see where I am at so often I’m living for myself, God is an afterthought, my relationship with my Saviour comes perilously close to routine and ritual at times. I want to look at the first verse in this part,
“Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking onto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12 v1-2)
The Epistle to the Hebrews is an incredible portion of the bible, the first 9 chapters outline the doctrines that we need to cling to, of how we are made right with a Holy God, then the doctrine is applied with practical application in the latter chapters. The above verses are preceded by the great testimonies of the Old Testament saints, those who trusted and those who died with an unshakable faith in their God. Get the picture, you are in the ancient Greek amphitheatre, running the race and all around you are the faithful who have gone before you, the word “cloud” gives the impression that they are so numerous that individuals can’t be singled out, these witnesses are not just spectators cheering us on, they are Godly examples of the faithfulness of God. The Christian life is not a bus ride to heaven, it is a race, a race that is going to take all your energy, all your strength but we have those around us who’ve gone before and encourage us to keep going in God’s grace.
“let us lay aside every weight.”- When athletes were training for the race in the games, they would tie weights to their legs to strengthen their muscles, but when it came to race day no one ran the race with these weights on, no every excess bit of weight was discarded so that the runner could go as fast as possible. We have so many weights in this life, notice that weights are classed as different to sin, they may not be wrong in themselves but they hold us back from running to our full potential. Every person’s weight can be different, you may have the rucksack of relationships with the opposite sex; you might have the lead boots of watching things on TV that cause you to be distant from God. We are called to lay it aside, yes that may be difficult to do and our hearts may deceive us and make us think that it’s not obviously sinful but we need to lay it aside. Recently I have had to do this in my life concerning a number of things. It’s my prayer that you will truly evaluate your walk with the Lord, what weight is holding you back? Remember that you only really feel the weight when you’re running; a heavy bag on your back isn’t too bad when you’re sitting or standing or even walking but when you run it’s not too long before you notice it!
“and the sin which so easily ensnares us”- As Jerry Bridges illustrates in his book “The pursuit of holiness” sin has been defeated in our lives when we became Christians but it still rages a guerrilla style warfare within us. We all have those sins, which keep raring their ugly heads and pulling us down, ensnaring us and tripping our feet as we try to run. The question is how bothered are we about our sin? Do we ask God each day to search our hearts and take away the lust, the pride, the selfishness and the judging of others? We see the sin in our hearts when we look at God, when we spend time in the quiet place in His Word and in prayer. Just this weekend God’s humbled me, I’ve been trying to run in my own strength and doubt hit me and God used it to drive me to my knees, looking at my life I see that my time with the Lord is nowhere near what it should be. Would Usain Bolt be able to run like that if he had only trained for ten minutes a day? Yet how often do we tick the box in our minds that we have “done our quiet time” with only ten minutes before we turn the light out. We desire revival in the nations where the majority have turned from God, yet if truth be told, revival needs to come to the Church first, look at any person in the past or the present who have been used mightily by God, you find them on their knees more often than not, great men and women who spent hours, even days in prayer and were rewarded for it. We need to honestly ask ourselves, Where does prayer come in our lives?
“Let us run with endurance the race set before us”- The race is determined, it is set by our Father in heaven but we need to run it, it’s ours to run. We can’t move forward on someone else’s endeavour or faith, it has to be our own, we need to give our all, will all the TV we watched instead of seeking the Lord matter when we are on our deathbed? Will all the hours we wasted doing meaningless things matter? No, what will matter is what you did for your God, how near you drew to Him; how many lost perishing sinners you brought to Him, that’s what’s going to matter. You’re going to need endurance, you’re going to fall but get back up, and you’re going to feel the weight of needless burdens, sling them off and be free; if you’re truly running the devil is going to attack with all that he has but keep going, there’s a finish line ahead! No more walking, no more getting distracted by fleeting pleasures of sin and this world. Hebrews 12 v1 screams to us, RUN, RUN, RUN!