Throwing off everything that hinders
My car has been giving off a terrible screeching noise of late, and I’ve concluded that there is a problem with the brakes. It seems that some combination of pads, discs and callipers is causing the brakes to be applied in error while I’m driving, not only causing me reduced speeds and miles-per-gallon, but damage to the parts concerned.
I wonder if sometimes our spiritual lives can suffer a similar malaise. We seem to be going along nicely, but then something gets a bit misaligned or faulty, and our spiritual health begins to suffer.
For the first wee while, just like with the car, you try to listen to the noise or feel the vibrations, and you wonder if you’re just imagining a problem. But then something happens and you realise that there’s definitely something wrong; things aren’t functioning like they used to.
What are these things that ‘put the brakes’ on our spiritual lives?
Well there are any number of them.
Unconfessed sin is one – something in our lives that we know to be wrong, and which has come between us and God.
Sitting loosely with the things of God is another – growing casual in our spiritual disciples of Scripture, prayer, church-attendance and others.
An overly-legalistic view of the Christian life will always put the brakes on real growth and development – it’s a relationship with God we’re offered; not a legal demand we’re confronted with.
Disappointment with God can be a painful brake to spiritual growth and vitality – some problem/trial/affliction comes along, and it’s difficult to trust God in it and through it; difficult to understand why God has allowed it.
Godless priorities will also hold us back – there are many things in all our lives competing for our attention (family and work, domestic duties and friendships, pastimes and organisations) and our calling as Christians is always to make God #1.
So what are we going to do about all this? Well my car is booked into the garage, because I don’t want to drive an inefficient vehicle with defective parts. I want safe, efficient driving, so I’ve taken the necessary action. And likewise, surely we want healthy, effective spiritual lives – lives that count in our great aims of glorifying God and building his church.
Hebrews 12:1 urges us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and that’s exactly what we’ve got to do. That’s not always easy – for some of the things that hinder us may be precious to us; and some of them may be painful for us, and difficult to throw off. But the Hebrews-writer also gives us the key to all this, by instructing us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” We are to consider him, and all that he endured for us, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart.”