Hindrances to the Race
1st Baptist Church,
Des Moines, NM
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
According to this passage, Christians have a race to run. Today I want to focus on hindrances to the race. I want to focus on the phrase “let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us”. After we’ve dissected that phrase, we’ll come back- we’ll refocus our attention- on verse 2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”.
Before we leave this passage and go to the one that I’m going to use for the bulk of this message, let’s look at a few things.
“lay aside every encumbrance…”-
a racer doesn’t burden himself with unnecessary weight. He strips down to the bare essentials; using lightweight shoes, streamlined clothing (and not much of it!). Some shave their heads or wear tight fitting skull caps to reduce wind resistance.
Good racers are in shape. They work out and they stress, if possible, themselves past the demands of the race. If they run sprints, they run both shorter and longer sprints that the one they’ll actually race. If they’re going to run a mile race, they will strive to run at full pace for 2 or 3 miles, so that the shorter distance will seem easier. They watch their diet and eat properly, avoiding brisket, beans, and potatoes, most likely. The racer who wants to win will be in the best physical condition that he or she can be. These are physical encumbrances.
There are mental encumbrances, too. A racer who is thinking about something other than the race is not going to do as well as if he/she were focused on the race. The very best racers focus on the race and allow absolutely no distractions. They visualize the components of the race and see themselves taking the lead right off the start. They can picture the first turn, and they can picture each and every turn afterwards. They focus on the race.
“…and the sin which so easily entangles us”
Note that this sin easily entangles us. Sin doesn’t even have to work hard! It lays out a sloppy, easily discerned trap right out in the middle of the road for everyone to see and we walk along and stick our foot right in it.
Note also the word “entangles”. Sin doesn’t just catch us by the little toe. It wraps us up like a spider wraps up a fat juicy bug. So, often when caught in sin, we lie or cheat or try to wiggle our way out and only get entangled more in this spider web. What we need to do is get out our sword (the Bible) and use it to cut our way out. We need to confess our sins, and let God cut us free. But, we don’t- we have our pride to consider and so we just get more and more entangled.
that the entangler is clear identified- sin. It’s no mystery as to who
set the trap or what the trap looks like. It looks like sin. It looks
like disobedience to God’s commands. In the Garden of Eden, sin looked
like fruit on a specific tree. God pointed it out to Adam and Eve and
said, “There lies sin! Don’t eat from it!” And, of course, they did.
Sin today is not always so obvious, but a lot of times, it is. If we
stop and examine the situation, like a wary coyote, instead of rushing
in like a dumb city dog, we’ll nearly always recognize the trap. But,
we don’t and sin thus easily entangles us. We can’t say we weren’t
warned, though. Sin is it that easily entangles us.
One last thing is that this race is run with endurance, with patience. We don’t know the end of our race and finishing well is what matters. If we start with a sprint and the race is long, we might be tired by the end. If we start slow, thinking it’s going to be a long race, it might not be. We must run well at all times, but with endurance and with patience.
With these things in mind, let’s move to the meat of the text and look at some of the things that hinder our race.
Luke 8:4-18 When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: (5) "The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. (6) "Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. (7) "Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. (8) "Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great." As He said these things, He would call out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (9) His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. (10) And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND. (11) "Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. (12) "Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. (13) "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. (14) "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (15) "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (16) "Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. (17) "For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (18) "So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."
takes the word out of their hearts. It’s Genesis 3 all over again! They
listened to the devil. Don’t listen to the devil. What was Jesus’ defense
against the devil when He was tempted in the wilderness? He quoted
Scripture at the devil. He used his sword and let it cut away the spider
webs. When you see the devil approaching, get out your sword. Know, also,
that God is sovereign- the devil cannot do a thing w/out the permission of
God. We know this from Job. Read Job, chapters 1-3 and study the
relationship between God and the devil. We have been warned and we’ve been
given ammunition to refute the devil, just like Christ did. And if we are
Christians and Christ is our Savior (and only in that case), we have the
power and authority to use that word.
this group of seeds has shallow root and in times of temptation, they fall
away. What does this mean “shallow root”? I think it means that they
haven’t studied, they haven’t dug deep in their theology to see why the
believe what they believe and whether or not their beliefs line up with
Scripture. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to “Study to show yourself approved unto
God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of
Truth”. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction
in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished
unto good works”. These are clear commands to study the Scriptures. Ask
questions, dig deep, and put down roots. This is your protection against
being “tossed about by the winds of doctrine” and against being uprooted in
a time of temptation.
choked out by worries and riches and life’s pleasures, and bring no fruit to
maturity. Beware of these things!! Scripture gives us power against these
things: Philipian 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer
and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God”. Be
anxious for nothing. We have many cautions against riches: Matt 9:24 “It is
easier for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to
enter Heaven”, Luke 16:13 “you cannot serve both God and wealth”. 1Timothy
6:10 (p. 1046) “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for
which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced
themselves through with many sorrows”. Beware!! Note the problem with this
seed- “…and bring no fruit to maturity”. John 15:1-10 talks about what
happens to vines that do not bear fruit. Do NOT let worries and riches and
pleasure choke you out. Guard against the world- don’t conform, be
transformed! If you feel them moving in on you, the best thing to do is hit
the deck and pray.
And finally, the seeds on good ground. They hear the word with a noble and a good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. And there’s our link to running the race- patience. Our fruit may not spring up immediately, it may take some time to grow. The plant must be mature first. Fruit grows only under the right conditions and there are many different types of fruit. Agave plant example.
Now, it is critical to note that none of these seeds can move themselves. God is the sower, and the seed is the Word of God. We know from Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 12:3 and Hebrews 12:2 that God is the one responsible for our faith. In Hebrews, Christ is called the “author and finisher of our faith”. We know from Luke 17:5 that the disciples asked Jesus to “increase our faith”- they didn’t say “how can we increase our faith”, they asked Him to increase it. We know from Mark 9:24 that the father of a demon-possessed boy told Jesus “I do believe! Help me in my unbelief!”, again asking Christ for greater faith. So, we cannot move ourselves from one type of seed to another, not of our own strength and will and might. But God can. We have been given this warning and this illustration of different types of seeds so that we are aware of the traps and pitfalls and of the sin that so easily entangles us. We have been given a sword with which to cut away the webs of entanglement, and we know from 1 Corinthians 10:13 that we will never be tempted beyond what we can bear and we will always be given an escape from the temptation. We know from Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9 that we should “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you”. The warnings are there and the promises are there. Which seed do you desire to be and how do you want to finish the race? Fruitless, with a lackluster finish? Or with fruit, finishing well? “Ask and you shall receive”. Jesus is the author and finisher of your faith- look nowhere else.