We Christians often talk about our "Walk" of faith, our "Walk" with the Lord, but recently, and perhaps because we are so close to the end, the Lord reminded me that we are in a race. Our Christian journey might well be compared to a marathon, where you start off slow, pace yourself, then as you approach the finish line, you give it all you got!
But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
This past week, I wasn't even reading these verses about the race, but in all honesty, the Lord has been dealing with me for awhile now about casting off anything that is slowing me down, putting aside all encumbrances. I've been struggling so much lately, and as I talk with the Lord, I have come to realize that He is slowly stripping away from me any and all things that take my attention off of Him and off of finishing this race. In my own life, it has been attachments to kids and grandkids, a need to remain relevant in my writing career, and other more personal things. These encumbrances that weigh us down don't have to be bad things in and of themselves, but they are anything and anyone upon which we place the majority of our time and focus.
As I was pondering a particular thing in my life I was having a hard time letting go, the Lord put one word in my mind. Addiction. It struck me like a hammer. Addictions don't have to be to alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.. They can be any attachment we have toward a person or thing. Anything that if we think of getting rid of it, just the thought causes great pain. Wow. Like I said, it could be something good in and of itself, but if it takes our focus off the Lord in the last minute of this race, then it must go.
Such encumbrances could be things like
Chocolate (sorry, one of mine!)
A TV show we can't live without
A spouse or love interest
Children or grandchildren
A career and/or the accolades and success that comes with it
Food (an unhealthy obsession with it)
Worry (Yes you can be addicted to worrying)
The Approval of others
Then, there's the bad ones: Sex, drugs, porn, an immoral relationship, etc.
Lately, I have sensed the Lord stripping things away from me, and to be honest, it's been painful, but I now realize that He's doing exactly what I asked Him to do! I have been asking Him to make me more like Him and to help me do only His will before He comes.
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:37-38
Those are harsh words, but I doubt Jesus was kidding. Does that mean we are to hate our family and friends, stop eating chocolate, quit the job we love? NO. It's all about your heart. It has to start there. You have to be willing to give up your addictions for Jesus if called to do so. He must come first always.
Just think of that one thing in your life which is the most important thing or that one person you love more than anything, and then ask yourself this question. If a group of armed men stormed into your house and told you to deny Jesus or they would take that thing you love from you forever or kill that person you love in front of you, what would you say?
As I was pondering all of this, the Lord gave me a flash vision. I was running along a road, emerging from a band of trees and in the distance I saw Jesus standing there with His arms wide open to receive me! It only lasted a second, but it blessed me so much. He's waiting for us to finish the race He has given each of us. He's pulling for us! Shouting encouragements! He knows we can do it if we keep our eyes on Him.
Don't be dragging yourself to the finish line carrying tons of packages along with you, burdened down by the things of this world. You might end up not finishing the race at all, but dropping to your knees halfway there, completely exhausted!
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
1 Corinthians 9:24
1 Corinthians 9:24
You wouldn't see a Marathon racer heading to the finish line with a backpack oh his back and carrying two suitcases.
So, if you're feeling like the Lord is yanking away from you some things you've always treasured, rejoice and keep running. In fact, pick up the pace, and keep your eyes on Him. He's waiting with open arms to reward those who run to win!
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,