Lighten Your Load (Part 2)

 

Running The Race
Part 2: Lightening the Load
 
By Larry D. Wright
 
My first section-hike on the Appalachian Trail began at Springer Mountain, Georgia and ended at Neels Gap, a trek of 32.8 miles. I trained for the journey and outfitted myself with only the essential items that related to food, water, first-aide, shelter, clothing, fire and light. That trip was in 1999 with my daughter Stephanie and I was proud of the fact that my pack weighed only 48 pounds. My most recent trip began at the Nantahala River in Wesser, North Carolina and concluded at Fontana Dam. I carried similar essentials as before but this time my total pack weight was a mere 32 pounds. Experience taught me that on a long distance hike over treacherous trails and monster mountains, weight was my enemy. My first hike was successful because I finished and spent quality time with my daughter but looking back, I am sure I missed some enjoyable views because excess weight made me miserable. When you struggle to reach a mountain peak, you don’t enjoy the journey along the way or the view when arrive. 
 
The writer of Hebrews helps us understand the importance of lightening our load with this exhortation, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us.” He employs an athletic metaphor as a means to encourage believers to “run the race marked out” and “not to grow weary and loose heart” (12:1-3). There are many things that cause athletes involved in endurance sports to fail but few are more costly than carrying excess weight. In order to reach your goals and enjoy the journey, you must lighten your load.
 
Some ministers feel smug that they are surviving the ministry but unfortunately they are not enjoying the race. To them ministry is something to endure and not to enjoy. The reason why many drop from the race and others fail to enjoy the event is because of excessive baggage. Simply, they are carrying too much weight. Participants involved in ministry must learn to lighten their load through the choices that they make. The author stipulates two levels of choices that must be made for the sake of the race. The phrase, “let us throw off everything that hinders us,” stipulates a choice between that which is good or what is best. If we run the race well we must discard everything that is not necessary for the journey. All fine-tuned athletes who win understand and apply this truth to their training and competing. 
 
Choosing what is best over what is good is a decision of elimination that is connected to your strengths. Paul was a person who could do many things well such as teaching, writing, and evangelism. All of these things were good; in fact,
 
he could have stayed in one city, established a seminary and taught the great truths of the faith and been successful. He didn’t do that for a reason. Paul’s greatest gift wasn’t teaching or preaching, although he was good at both. The one thing he did with excellence was plant churches and encourage believers on a one-on-one basis. Paul was a great accomplisher because he made choices that played to his strengths. He understood the importance of choosing what was best over what was good. He wasn’t a fort soldier; in fact, he didn’t like to be confined behind walls. I believe that Paul was more at home floating on a plank following a shipwreck than teaching in a religious environment. His style and gifting best suited him for the cavalry because he accomplished his best work in wide-open spaces where opportunity and danger lurked. “Throwing off everything that hinders” requires wise choices. Instead of working on your weakness, play to your strengths. Forget moving from good to better! The way to lighten your load is to make choices that move you from best to excellent.
 
The second choice in this passage is one between right and wrong as seen in the phrase, “let us throw off the sin that does so easily beset us.” NIV translates this “the sin that so easily entangle us”. Wiersbe comments, “While he does not name any specific sin, the writer was probably referring to the sin of unbelief. It was unbelief that kept Israel out of the Promised Land, and it is unbelief that hinders us from entering into our spiritual inheritance in Christ.” (Wiersbe, Be Confident, Hebrews, pp.135-136) Unbelief is a sin that will quickly end your race (11:6).
 
I agree with Wiersbe’s interpretation since the word sin is singular but I also know that every person involved in ministry has a proclivity toward specific sins that flow from the headwaters of unbelief. These sins play to our weakness and hinder us from running well or enjoying the journey. Entangling sins have ended the race for many sincere runners. However, we must recognize that what is a temptation to “entangle” one person may not be a temptation for another and vice versa. So we must identify and fortify in areas of entangling sins.  
 
Generally, in the ministry entangling sins tend to be:  procrastination (this may not end your ministry but it will cause you much unnecessary agony), mediocrity (settling for super when God expects supernatural), anger that seethes beneath the surface until it erupts like a volcano, hidden strongholds of moral impurity that eventually explode like the passionate heat of dynamite, and bitterness because the ministry is a battlefield where you are likely to be wounded. 
 
If you want to do well and finish strong in the race you must make wise choices that will lighten your load.
 
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