Verse: Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
It feels like a lifetime ago, but I used to run marathons. During one phase of my training, I aimed to reduce my average mile time by several seconds each session. That went well when I felt good and wasn’t carrying excess weight (body weight or snacks/water). However, on days when I was tired, had slept poorly, or hadn't eaten enough, I struggled to improve my times. I was bogged down and unfocused.
The key to better training sessions was clarity. I worked diligently to trim away a pound here and there: healthier food choices, selecting lighter clothing and shoes, and carrying less gear with me. I also worked on my mindset before running so that I had a vision in my mind’s eye about how I would feel throughout the run. Importantly, it wasn’t just one thing that I needed to work on, but a lot of small little things that were accumulating and reducing my overall speed and endurance.
We all know we shouldn’t sin. It’s not in our best interests. But this passage is more than a “don’t sin” segment of the Bible. It’s also about optimization and trade-offs. Sometimes in life you have multiple options, and you can choose more than one at once. But is that going to be distracting? Would it be better to pick one and focus on it? How do you throw off everything that hinders? I think figuring that out is much harder than not sinning. At least with sin there’s a whole playbook about how not to. Determining how to integrate God’s will into your life in meaningful ways is much more vague.
Out of the many possible approaches to this extremely tough problem, I’m just choosing one today, which I’ll call long thoughtfulness.
Long thoughtfulness is the simple yet difficult act of thinking about, writing down, meditating on, and praying about an idea over the long term. The idea? Your life’s mission. Yeah, that’s a big one. Good news though, you don’t need to have the answers figured out immediately, and God probably won’t reveal his entire unraveled will for you all at once. Just write down an inkling of a thought to start, and revisit it frequently: weekly, monthly, annually. Ask God about it. Write down what you’re thinking, and mold it over time. Let your brain stew on it when you have free time, and make sure to update your writings.
It won’t be a perfect roadmap for your life that you’re writing. Really it’s intended to provide clarity and to help you orient yourself towards God’s will so that when choices come up in your life, you have a process for thinking and praying that you can use to figure out if it’s helping you or hindering you.
God, I trust that you’ll reveal your will for me gradually over time. Help me identify hindrances in my life that are holding me back from understanding and implementing it.
Guest Author: Jordan Ambra