Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (To Sin)
1 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, 2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The author of Hebrews reminds us to throw off anything that would hinder us in our spiritual pursuit of Almighty God. Each of us have issues that are both unique and common, in that we each have trouble spots in our lives that not everyone else has, but that others similarly face and have faced. These issues impede us from our spiritual growth. For some, it may be the temptation of alcohol. Others may be sucked in by sports. Still others by lust. The list goes on and on. And while not everyone suffers from these, many do and have, and struggle even to this day with them.
We are reminded to throw these things off. Is there something in your life that just won’t go away, something that gets you in trouble each and every time that you encounter it? It is time to bring it to the body, so that others can pray for your deliverance from it:
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Run the Race
The Olympic Games were very popular during the time when the author of Hebrews wrote this letter. The imagery of the games would have been known and understood by all who had read it. They had seen the training and effort that the participants who entered the games had endured in order to prepare for their opportunity to win their events.
We need to have in our minds the same mindset that the athletes of that day had – a complete and total focus on the goal. They trained not only their bodies but also their minds for the sole purpose of doing the very best that they could in their field of endeavor. The proper term is discipline. They disciplined their bodies and minds.
In modern Western thought, discipline appears to be a pejorative, something that impedes a person from obtaining the desires of their hearts, and interfering with their pleasure and self-fulfillment. But it is quite to the contrary; discipline helps us to eschew that which does not intentionally drive us towards our goal. We cull the desires and behaviors that are at odds with our intentions and purposes and distract us from our pursuits so that we will be positioned to reap success from our endeavors.
We need to apply these same techniques and recognize their effectiveness as we learn spiritual discernment so that we can set aside the things that hinder us from completing our objectives. When we are willing to do this, and allow the Spirit of God to provide us with the strength and endurance to overcome the emotional pain that this type of loss generates, we are able to fully embrace our freedom from sin and say “NO!” to it. Every time we say “NO!” to sin, we grow a little stronger in our resistance to it.
Ask anyone who has quit smoking tobacco “cold turkey” how difficult it was. The body rebels against the intentional withholding of the chemicals that brought pleasure and comfort and order with it. The body rebels, and we may get irritable, the physical being greatly desiring what it is being deprived. Withdrawal is never pretty, and it is the same way with spiritual withdrawal. But such courses of action are necessary in order to grow and to regain control of that which we ceded to external stimuli and pressures. And when we come in contact with other people who are doing what we used to do, the body cries out in a desperate attempt to ensnare the person again. That is why it is sometimes so difficult for ex-smokers to be around smokers, and for recovering alcoholics to hang around drinkers.
Guide our Gaze
In this case, we have our goal in our sight – Jesus Christ is the one with whom we fix our gaze upon. It is His example that we need to keep in sight as we move away from sin and move towards righteousness. When we take our eyes off of the goal, it is easy to become sidetracked, blindsided, and fall back to old patterns of behavior. It is hard enough trying to break a habit without having people constantly offer the very substance or circumstance that you are trying to avoid.
With spiritual habits, we are constantly bombarded by the devil and his minions to go back to life that we were living. His calls to return are like daggers that zap our strength and feed the monster we are trying to starve to death. And like anything else in this life, what you feed will grow, and what you starve will die (eventually). Some things die long, slow, painful, soul-crushing, whining, loud deaths. But die they must. Remember to keep your eyes upon Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who shed His blood so that we could be free from our monsters. Put the monsters in the dungeon where they belong, and make sure you don’t feed them – the enemies of our souls will try to do all that they can to feed and water them when we aren’t looking or ready for it. Carefully planned ambushes that we don’t see coming are often the demise of the most well-intentioned Disciple. Discernment keeps our spiritual eyes aware of our environment as we allow the word of God to light the path for our feet.
Wave off Weariness
Finally, we need to keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we can remember the strength that He had through submission to the Holy Spirit to endure all that God had preordained Him to endure for our sake. We must always keep heart, even when our flesh and emotions fail us. For long after our physical strength is exhausted, it is only through determination of heart that we are able to hold on and endure, pressing forward to the goal. Most of us have not resisted to the point of bloodshed. Let us remember the price that was paid, and determine in our hearts that the One who endured all of our sins upon the cross is worthy of fighting until our very last breath leaves our body, and we go into glory.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Am I feeding or starving the monsters I am trying to slay?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, Your Son Jesus Christ has shown me the way to victory. Give me wisdom and discernment to avoid the circumstances that would overwhelm me and cause my spiritual demise. Help me to starve the monsters of sin that seek to overcome my soul, and give me the strength to resist them with Your word and Your strength when I am faced with them. Help me to avoid the pits and ambushes of the enemy so that I will be best positioned to grow in Your word and Your ways. And when there is no apparent way out, help me to remember the option that Joseph took when faced with the overpowering strength of Potiphar’s wife – help me to flee the situation so that I may not become entangled in it. This I ask and pray in the name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.