The runners waited for the race to start. Some of them were doing stretches. Some of them were pacing around, trying to get warmed up. But only a few of them looked like typical runners. Several were very overweight. In fact, several could even be called obese. And then there were some that, although they looked quite fit, they carried bags. Some had just a small bag, but others had immense backpacks hanging off their backs. As the call came for them to line up, they all gathered around the starting line.
As the gunshot rung out in the cool morning air, the runners took off. The fit runners, wearing packs or not, were the first to move ahead. The slightly overweight weren’t far behind. But the heavier a person got the harder it got. One fellow was really struggling to even start walking, he was that heavy. One had to wonder why he had even bothered to try to run this race. Anyone watching could see that he wasn’t fit for a race like this.
As the race progressed, a few of the fit runners lost their packs. And, unbelievingly, a few coming behind them picked them up. And some runners even picked up some bags of trash by the road and started running with them. It seemed ludicrous. It was hard enough to race without anything extra. Why were they picking up trash?
An amazing thing happened as they raced: the overweight literally grew thinner. The obese fellow at the beginning of the race hadn’t given up and he was a good 150 pounds lighter by now. He had started out barely walking, but now he was up to a steady jog. Those who were just a few pounds overweight now looked fit and trim.
But, curiously, those with packs on their back were really struggling. The woman carrying the biggest backpack–75 pounds or more–just couldn’t continue. She staggered to the side and had to rest. After a few minutes, she gave it another go using a slow steady pace.
Okay, so I know you would never attend a marathon seeing this motley group of people. But what about the race *Hebrews 12:1 refers to? Oh, now that is a motley group of people, is it not? God saves all kinds of people. He saves fit, trim people, who never developed a lot of baggage. He saves obese people who are weighed down with guilt and consequences of terrible events and habits of their pasts. He saves people encumbered with baggage they have chosen to carry with them, things like sinful habits, material possessions, sports, entertainment…anything that keeps us from running the best race we could.
Sure, some of us start out fit and trim. We have had great families who love the Lord and taught us to obey His word. We start the race out in pretty good shape. But we are still sinners. We can still improve.
And as we run the race of life, the overweight start dropping off their pounds one by one. As they continue to run, the baggage of the past slips slowly away. God heals their pain and, while they may still have some stretch marks from carrying all of that extra weight, the weight…the burden of the weight…will be lifted.
And the ones carrying the bags? Well, some of them wise up and throw those sins and idols to the ground and experience a wonderful sense of freedom, as they start to race unencumbered. And some of them carry the bag with them the whole way to the finish line. The thing is worn, tattered, and downright ugly but they keep clinging to it. Some even pick up a bag or two after they have started the race. Sometimes the bags get thrown on the ground for a week or two and then, unbelievingly, the person will come back and get them. These bags cost the runners a lot of time.
If you are saved by grace alone through Jesus Christ’s shed blood on the cross, then you are running the race that was referred to in Hebrews. I don’t know about you, but I would like to be one of those who is fit and still running with energy as I approach the finish line. But, even now, as I write this, I can think of some pretty heavy bags that are keeping me from running the best race possible. Bags I have thrown on the ground…just to come back and pick them up again. May we all evaluate the race we are running today. May we run with robust health and unencumbered! Happy running!
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,