“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” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV).
I have never regretted committing my life to Jesus in May 1973. The Lord has been faithful, even during those times when I’ve let things hinder my walk with Him—preoccupation with working out, playing golf, watching sports, or even working at my job. It’s not that I quit reading my Bible or going to church, but I knew I was coasting in my spiritual life. I never questioned my salvation, but I felt more distant from the Lord. And it was not God who had backed off—I was the cause.
How about you? Are you growing and maturing in your walk with Jesus? Or are there hindrances in your life that are causing you to feel more distant from the Lord? For the purposes of this discussion, I’m not focusing on deliberate, habitual sin. Let’s confine ourselves to hindrances. Are there material possessions, favorite activities, or ways of thinking that are limiting your relationship with Jesus? We all have them. Some we can easily identify; others may be in our blind spot.
Getting back on the right track in your spiritual life requires intentionality. It won’t happen by accident. Here are four steps to consider.
Pray and ask God to show you anything that hinders a closer relationship with Him. You don’t have to use long prayers or fancy words. Be honest with God, and He will honestly answer your prayer. The Lords desires a close relationship with you. He will absolutely help you.
Trust Jesus’ words: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7,8).
Read your Bible regularly—and do what it says. God’s Word is your handbook for life. The more time you spend reading and meditating on the Scriptures, the more knowledge and wisdom you’ll have to guide you in all aspects of your life.
Psalm 119:105 is an often-cited verse: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (NIV). This verse is true for those who read and obey God’s Word. But it doesn’t work for those who read the Bible occasionally as though it’s just another book. You can’t merely find time to study God’s Word. You make the time. A dedicated 5-10 minutes per day will bring amazing results. I promise you, once you make those few minutes a daily commitment, you’ll soon be carving out longer blocks of time to gain even greater results.
Develop a plan to eliminate or reduce hindrances. Once the Lord has helped you to identify hindrances, choose one or two of them and develop a plan to deal with them. Don’t try to fix everything at once—that’s a sure path to failure.
Let’s consider some common hindrances. If excessive time on the Internet is a hindrance for you, set boundaries on how much time you can spend daily.
What about television? The average American spends 3-5 hours (or more) watching TV each day. This is a huge chunk out of any person’s waking hours. Think of what you could do with some of those hours to improve your spiritual walk and pursue other constructive things. As just one example, imagine the benefit of translating one hour of TV into 15 minutes of Bible study and prayer and 45 minutes of exercise.
Set the right priorities. If procrastination is a hindrance that stresses you constantly, put it at the top of your list. If you constantly criticize others, make it your priority to mend relationships. Plan to deal with the most challenging problem first.
Commit your plan to the Lord and then work your plan. Proverbs 16:3 provides great wisdom: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
I’ve never been one to obsess about a particular assignment, but years ago I was stationed at Fort Polk and received orders for Germany. Our daughter was a junior in high school. To move during her senior year would impact her participation in varsity basketball and interfere with potential scholarships for college. After stressing about it for a few days, I finally got smart, prayed, and created a plan.
I worked through personnel channels and made a counteroffer to my orders—if they would allow me stay one more year at Fort Polk, I would happily take any assignment they wanted to give me. The personnel folks accepted my offer. Our family remained at Polk through my daughter’s senior year and moved to Germany for a three-year assignment. God worked it out perfectly.
Back to Hebrews 12:1. The first part of the verse exhorts us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
Why? Because of what God says in the rest of that verse: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” You and I are running life’s tough race. It only becomes more difficult if we hang onto anything that hinders.
Don’t continue to carry those extra weights. Run like a champion and cast them off!