Stripping off what holds me down

gull.jpgTherefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Over the last few months, I’ve been intrigued by this thought of “the sin that so easily trips us up.” This sin that is described in other translations as entangling us, clinging closely to us and being easy to fall into (NIV, ESV, TPT respectively.) That kind of sin seems to be something that I should be acutely aware of.  After all, how can I strip it off and avoid it if I’m not sure what it is?  Sure, I’m familiar with the thought of sin.  I have plenty that I struggle with. But, this little statement, tucked away in scripture, seems to elude to the idea that each of us has a particular sin that troubles us more often than others. I was curious as to what mine might be and tried to pay close attention to what it might be over the course of a few weeks.

It’s been annoying how many have regularly reared their ugly heads’. I’ve also been quite annoyed at how difficult it is to pry their ugly claws off my mind and heart. All the will power in the world doesn’t seem to change me, at least not at my core, and that’s frustrating. I want (no…need) practical steps and explanations when it comes to walking out my faith but, sometimes, all I hear are nice sounding phrases that don’t really tell me anything or get me anywhere.

“Strip off every weight that slows us down.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But sin isn’t a silky dress that we gracefully and easily step out of like a bad Marilyn Monroe movie.  It’s more like a claustrophobic-inducing straight jacket that we viciously rip off. Sin isn’t easily dealt with. I had to ask myself how I could possibly find a way to be free from something that had attached itself to me for years.

Then came verse 2.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith”.   It may be a struggle and I might question if it’s possible at times. BUT, Jesus will not only show me the way but will help me. The practical answer of how to strip off that sin is to be so close to Jesus that He’s able to speak, move, convict, empower and work in my life.

The question then becomes, “How submitted am I and how fixed are my eyes?”

The honest answer for me was, “not very”.  Not because I don’t love Jesus or don’t want to serve God with all I am…I do.  But, the amount of time I was giving to the things of this world was much greater than the amount of passion and desperation that I had for the things of God. My words may say differently, but the truth is seen in my actions.

I Corinthians 7:35 became a clue as to how I can draw nearer to Jesus so that He could free me from the sinful side of myself. “I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.”My obedience, devotion, love and service to God should be greater than anything else in life. If it isn’t, I have distractions that I need to get rid of. That’s the only way to run the race that God has set before me.

I don’t like to admit it but I have lots of things that distract me, lull me to sleep or tempt me to feed my personal sins but IF I decide to take seriously the call placed on me in Hebrews 12:1, I need to start getting a little more ruthless with those things. I certainly have not “arrived” but Jesus seems to be showing me some things that help as I try to keep my eyes on him and rid myself of the same old struggles that I’ve dealt with for years.  I’ve got a long way to go, a lifelong journey to be exact, and I still have seasons when I feel miles and miles away from God, but the chaos and confusion in my mind is quieter and the peace that I’ve longed for for so long is becoming an intoxicating treasure that I crave more everyday.

I challenge you to ask God what will help loosen the tight grip of your reoccurring sin, lesson the distractions in your life and help focus your eyes more intently on Jesus. He will speak because you are precious to Him and your heart is His desire. The question we have to ask ourselves is, what is most precious to me and what do I desire above all else? The answer that brings joy is the same as it always is…Jesus.

7 things that help me focus

  1. Don’t look at anything before I spend time in God’s word each morning. No social media, no internet, no newspaper, no emails, etc. Even if it’s just 5 minutes to read a verse and give praise and allegiance to Jesus for the day. It quickly becomes addictive and can easily take over your whole morning once you experience the peace it brings to your heart.
  2. Journal. Whether it’s a verse that speaks to your heart, something you are grateful for or struggling with, a prayer, or 2 pages of thoughts – write it down. It will force you to start talking to God.
  3. Decrease the amount of TV, news and social media that you fill your mind with. It’s such a huge part of our life and culture that you may not even realize how much you’re taking in. Keep track for a week by using an app on your phone   or by writing it down. This was a HUGE source or clutter, confusion and anxiety for me.  In and of itself, cutting back on this has brought so much peace and clarity to my heart and mind.
  4. Along the same lines, every 4-6 months fast from all social media. Yep…I haven’t done this one.  I made it a day and was surprised at what a habit it was. But, I will do It soon (with God’s help) J. Neuroscientists and psychologists across the board say that this is important.  The length of the fast has been anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. Research it and decide what works for you.
  5. Fill your mind with more good things.Worship music, podcasts and messages by pastors and teachers I respect from all different backgrounds has been great for me. I have to be careful not to overload myself with too much good information just as I have to avoid too much bad information. Too much of anything in my brain makes it difficult to meditate on the things God is saying.
  6. Again, along those lines, READ. Of course, read and study Scripture but also read for fun. Read for knowledge. Read to challenge yourself. Some of my favorites, lately, have been the Christian mystics that my daddy loved.  I also have a long list of Christian classics, novels, poetry and travel memoirs that I don’t have enough time to get too.  This makes turning off the electronics a lot easier.
  7. Get outside. It’s scientifically proven that spending time in nature is a huge benefit to humans. I can’t even begin to express how much I think our society has lost as we’ve become less connected to God’s creation; but, that’s another blog for another time.  For now, just get outside!  It seems to be easier to hear God when we’re reminded of how small we are in this vast universe…and how loved we are by it’s creator.  Plus…it’s beautiful. ❤

 

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