Hebrews 12: 1-2
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
I sometimes think about field day in elementary school - this was like the Super Bowl for a well too energized 9 year old boy. I recall looking forward to this day all year; it meant school was almost over, the best brown bag-sacked lunch ever, and the beginning of a summer in the sun waiting impatiently around the corner. I loved the contests and races and the ribbons that awaited the winners. There was the famous tug-of-war battles, the 50 yard dash, the water balloon toss and the long jump, and most everyone's favorite...the 3 legged race. You see, the downside of the 3 legged race was this - you were only as fast and as good as your partner. It was the only contest where you had to have great timing to have the best time. It was about rhythm and motion and balance while attached to a classmate from the knee down. In retrospect, I am not even sure if I won any of those races. I do remember grass stains and tears, so that is probably a no. However, I can assume that if my partner and I would have had time to practice - to get it down, it would not have been a contest at all. The 3 legged race is hard because there is no practice. It is learning to run with someone in perfect time in order to win. Sounds about like real life, the real life of a Christian. We too are running with and along someone, and the winners will be those who are closest in step with the ultimate running partner in life, our Lord Jesus.
It is really the first steps that we take that set the pattern and flow of victory. We are not racing to lose - we are running to win, and this requires a solid start on which to build momentum. Once we get into the groove so to speak, it becomes so much easier to predict the path and our pace. 1 John 2:6 says in part "...whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." Imagine if we all walked in the path of our Christ, where would our road lead us? To certain victory. Even though our Lord is no longer present in the flesh, by looking to him, we can walk with him now. His helper in the Holy Spirit remains in us as a guide to find our way out of the lost condition we are all born into. Galatians 5:25 puts this thought in such good perspective: "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Walking in the Spirit requires listening with our heart, and real world application. It also requires something we sometimes forget - removing our baggage before we begin.
The scripture at the heading of this message puts into context why our way should not only include looking to our Lord, but having the kind of faith that can identify what we cannot carry with us into our race: "Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..." In context, we are advised to do this before we begin our race. I find it interesting that the word "weight" used in this passage is used only one time in scripture. The Greek word here is 'ogkos - it means literally - 'a prominent burden'. These burdens are not directly sin according to this verse as they are mentioned separately, but they both cling to us and weigh us down, they both impede victory, making us more sinful. We all are certain of who can remove our sinful condition, but we can be just as certain and reassured of who removes our burdens; our weights. We lay them aside by replacing them with a new one. Is this even possible? It is actually imperative. Matthew 11:30 states quite simply, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" Notice that Jesus did not say "my burdens are light", it is singular. We have an awesome opportunity to take every burden that we have - ALL of them, and replace them with a kind and light burden. I would say that is a fair trade friends.
So from 1000 feet away it looks like this: 'Before we start this race, give me all of your baggage, and I will trade you for mine, which is light and easy to carry. This race may take a while, but that is okay too - I will help you endure. And have no fear, I actually already won this race for you, so just look to me with eyes of faith, and your victory is guaranteed.' It is often easy to think that living in grace means our sins are cast away and forgiven, but it also means that the burdens we carry have been lifted and replaced, and all we have to do is accept that as a fact of our faith in Jesus Christ. He is literally waiting for us to finish. He is our perfecter and protector - he is our biggest fan by a long shot, and he has myriads of "cheerleaders" around him cheering us on as well with each and every step. Sure, life is a race - but it does not have to be a rat race of sorts. We are in a marathon that we have been promised to win already. By looking at this life through that kind of assurance, without anything to hold us down, and looking to our Lord as we move forward, we cannot lose. We cannot lose. We simply cannot lose. On your marks - get set...