Friday, September 30, 2016

Running the race of faith (1): Shed the extra weight

Hi there, I trust God has been consistently #faithful to you as He is to me! I figured; His #love for us is so intense! So deep!
Ok, this is going to be a two-part series of posts on "running the race of faith" (anchor Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-2).
We'd be looking at the Scripture to learn what we need (and do not need) to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (v. 1). This is part one of the series, subtitled: "shed the extra weight". I trust that God will help us as we learn what we need to run this race of faith successfully. Do enjoy...

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto 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 12:1-2.

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Not everyone who starts a race will finish well, more so a marathon! That's not negative confession, it's fact! And there are certain reasons for that.

Our anchor Scripture (Hebrews 12:1-2) likens our faith journey as Christians to a race (precisely a marathon), as we are enjoined to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (v. 1).
(Endurance is synonymous with long distance races like the marathon. For sprints, you need speed, not necessarily endurance!).

That said, if you watch sports (like I do), you'd notice that athletes who run marathons look "thin", appearing underfed and starved.
Why's this? Well, they've trained long and hard, devoting hours of rigorous and tedious practice; and as a result, have shed all the extra weight which may "easily ensnare" them in the race set before them - a really long race.

Knowing that a long distance race such as the marathon will squeeze out every ounce of endurance and will power you've got, you'd have to lay aside every weight to run one successfully and clinch the coveted prize.

Similarly, in our loooong distance faith race, we won't be needing all the extra weight, we'd have to lay them all aside so we can run and win the prize of "well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your Lord" (Matthew 25:21,23) at the end.

We looked about the training process we need to undergo in this post to be fit for God's use. You'd want to read it...

Here, we'd be looking at some "weights" we'd need to shed to be able to run this race that is set before us...I can't imagine someone who's overweight winning a serious marathon, or do you? And there's not a more "serious" race than that which is set before us as "the chosen, special and called out people" (1 Peter 2:9).
(Though, our race is faith based and, as such spiritual, certain rules of its physical equivalent apply).

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Some weights we need to shed (lay aside)
Ok, with that said, let's look at some "weights" that need laying aside to be able to run and clinch a prize at the end...

1. Unforgiveness (and its attendant effects)
The subject of forgiveness is one that is very close to my heart; here's a beautiful piece on forgiveness you should read, it contains some great insight.

Unforgiveness is an unnecessary and unhealthy weight that we carry around; unnecessary because it would cost you nothing (but profit you a ton) if you lay it aside and forgive; unhealthy because it eats you up (literally) like cancer.
What's worse? Unforgiveness breeds other equally unhealthy (and cancerous) "weights" like bitterness and hate.

What is it worth to hold a grudge against that brother? Agreed, he hurt you. Yes, maybe he was inconsiderate, or even plainly heartless; but please do yourself a favour (as Joyce Meyer would say) - CHOOSE FORGIVENESS.

You're not helping the other person if you forgive, you're helping you; you'd be doing what's best for you. Today, choose forgiveness, shun payback. You can. Really.
Let His grace help you, cease from your struggles and rest in His finished work on the cross.

One key thought: if God, through Christ, could forgive all my (and your) sins, giving up His dear son to die in my (and your) place; what can man do to me that I'll not forgive? Admittedly, I'd be hurt (as a creature with emotions should), but through His grace, forgiveness is very possible.

How can you tell if you've forgiven someone? You have truly forgiven...when the scar no longer hurts...when the sight or thought of that person no longer ruins your mood/day...when you no longer think payback...and this is only possible when you allow the Holy Spirit pour out God's kind of love into your heart according to Romans 5:5.

Learn God's way, imbibe His nature - He is loving, forgiving, compassionate. As Jesus told His disciples after washing their feet in John 13:12-17, you have been treated with love, go and treat others likewise.

2. Lusts (and its attendant effects)
James 1:13-14 explains, "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed".

The subject of lust is a critical one, such that no Christian should toy with. Let us not underestimate the power of desire!
Some may think it's only a trivial matter, but as James explained further, "Then, when desire (lust) has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death [that is, eternal death] - James 1:15. It is clear then, that lust is no trivial matter and a weight that must be shed to run this race.

Lustful desires creep in through what we watch, what we listen to, what we read, what we feed our mind; therefore, be careful what you allow into your heart.

How to keep lust (and its attendant effects of sin and death) away? Psalm 119:9-11 (one of the favourite Scriptures) emphatically answers that!
"How can a young man [or anyone else for that matter] cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to your word.
With my whole heart I have sought you;
Oh, let me not wander from your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
that I might not sin against you."

God's word provides a way out for us from lust. Let His word fill your heart, such that there would be no room for lustful thoughts, desires and cravings.
Keep your heart diligently (by saturating it with God-inspired content), for it determines the course of your life and future (Proverbs 4:23).

3. Subtle character flaws
"Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes" - Songs of Solomon 2:15.

Hmm...those foxes, though little they are, they wreak colossal havoc!
They destroy the vine; and our vines have tender grapes!
Don't we all have 'em foxes in our vines...?

One line I totally love from Nathaniel Bassey's "book of life" classic goes, "little foxes and secret faults will spring surprises on that final day" - how true!
Maybe not "on that final day", but 'em little foxes, if they are not caught as Songs of Solomon 2:15 says to do, will spring surprises with the kind of damage they'd cause! So, we've gotta catch 'em.

I must be really honest here and say that I have some work to do on this front; procrastination is sorta like my "little fox".
I can be quite spontaneous (mostly in a good way, though), and start something as a hunch hits me, but I then tend to put it off for later after working on it to an extent.

But I'm learning to overcome that. How? I figured the reason that happens is because I try to do a lot of things at the same time (like starting multiple projects at once!), so I made the change to instead focus on a single project/thing at the one time. This way, I'm able to complete one thing (or at least do all I'm supposed to) before moving to some other thing. That has helped a great deal!

The worst thing you can do to yourself is deny the existence of some little fox in your vines when there is.
Foxes are sly creatures, they can be elusive; you may not notice 'em, but they are there. If you can't spot 'em, ask the Great Helper and Revealer of Truth to show 'em to you; that's why we are given the Holy Spirit; we are not to toil and struggle alone.

Flawed beings we may be as humans (and will probably continue to have 'subtle' character flaws), but our 'humanness' should not be an excuse for character deficiency. We can, and should, strive for excellence! Excellence is our domain! Make it your goal for catch 'em little foxes in your vines!
(In case you're wondering, 'em means them. That's just me being me!).

There's a significant gap between what we can potentially be and what we are.
And I'm fascinated by the prospects of becoming the man God envisioned when He breathed life into me (my) nostrils; you should, too.

The race of faith is not a dash nor sprint, it's over a long distance - a marathon. You'd need to shed every weight to run and clinch the incorruptible prize at the end.
Look inwards, discover whatever weight that may ensnare (trap) you and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, lay it aside. You can, and you will.

PS: You'd want to read part two of this series titled, "Running the race of faith: With singleness of mind", we'd be learning the place of focus and devotion to achieving the ultimate prize. It is said that if you must get to your destination successfully, you can't stop to throw stones at every dog that barks along the stay tuned...

What do you think? Do you think lust is that big a deal? Or have you struggled and overcome unforgiveness? Do share with us in the comments! I'll be looking forward to your thoughts.

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