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“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.”(Hebrews 12:1)
Let me begin by asking a question. Can you guess how much I weigh? As you see, I am neither light nor heavy. Do I look heavy? I am very Hutsu(普通). I am around 70 kilograms. When I was in my twenties, I weighed around 62 kilograms, but now it’s over 70 kilograms. But the truth is that my body has become heavier. Whether or not it’s because my body has become heavier, I don’t know… But actually the weight of my life is much heavier than in my twenties. My body, my mind and my heart feel heavy.
I have three daughters, all born in Chicago, USA. My eldest daughter is currently going to college in Texas, and supporting her academic journey makes me feel heavier. In fact. I have heavy shoulders. My other two daughters are also enrolled in private Christian school. I feel a huge responsibility on my shoulders. Look at my dropped shoulders.
In addition to that, now I am actively involved in a mission organization called “Mission from the East” dedicated to Japanese evangelism. I founded this mission organization 3 years ago. What we are doing right now are… Publishing books, writing worship songs, and organizing gospel concerts. These responsibilities have become an extra burden on my shoulders. And most of all, I feel a big burden when I think about the Japanese church. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart when I think about the Japanese church.(Romans 9:2)
I am not gonna ask about your weight, as it is a matter of privacy. It is so rude. Right? But I am gonna ask about how heavy your current life is? I mean the weight of your current life. How heavy is your heart? What about your current state of mind? Is it 60 kilograms, 80 kilograms, or perhaps… 100 kilograms?
Thankfully, the Bible teaches us to live lightly. Jesus wants us to live lightly. Really? Yes. So, let us first identify the unnecessary burdens we might be able to bear as we journey through life. Let us recognize these burdens and throw them into the trash can so that we can live lightly.
Let us read Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1. “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.” From this passage, we can find two things that we should throw off. What are they?
Firstly, we must throw off everything that hinders our race of faith. Each one of us is like a runner in this race of faith. This race is our life of faith, and we all must complete this race. So, we need to train ourselves well to run effectively. A runner’s weight should not be too heavy. We must make our bodies as light as possible. We cannot run carrying unnecessary things. We cannot carry or wear anything that we don’t need. We must throw off anything that would make our trust in God weaker. Those things must all be thrown off. That’s how we can finish the race and win the race.
What are some things that hinder you in the race of faith? What is standing in your way? There are various factors that hinder us in the race of faith. One example could be “human relationships,” especially unhealthy and toxic relationships. To grow and strengthen our faith, we need the courage to boldly cut off unhealthy and toxic relationships that hinder our progress of faith. I encourage you to keep away from negative people – those who constantly criticize others, complain or gossip about others behind their backs. Specifically, distance yourself from those who lead you into sinful practices or places that compromise your faith. These individuals act as hindrances in your race of faith, and it’s crucial to walk away from them as swiftly as possible.
“Your spouses are like that? Pray for them to change. Your children are like that? Pray for them to believe in Jesus. Your relatives are like that? Pray for them to attend church. Your friends are like that? Pray for them to run the race of faith like you do. In general, there are too many influences that hinder the race of faith for first-generation Christians compared to second or third-generation Christians. My three daughters find it easier to live out their faith compared to their friends. They believe alone in Jesus in their non-Christian families. I’m a first-generation Christian. I myself faced so many obstacles while I was trying to live by faith.
Let’s pray for your spouses, families, and friends so they won’t become stumbling blocks in your race of faith. If there are people close to you who negatively affect your race of faith, throw them away. Where to? To whom? To God. Throw them to God. Let God deal with them directly. Stay away from them for a while. In extreme cases, consider parting ways with them. In particular, throw away unhealthy and toxic relationships.
Secondly, we must throw off the sin that binds us so that we can live lightly. What then is sin? Specifically, what is it? If you look at Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Sin weighs heavily on our lives. Sin weighs heavily on our hearts. Sin makes us unable to move. Sin binds our bodies and minds. So, break free from these chains of sin through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word, and run the race of faith. Run lightly.
Is sexual immorality tripping you up? Discard it. Is idolatry binding your whole body? Throw it away. Are jealousy and fits of rage causing you to stumble? Cast them aside. Is greed, drunkenness, or debauchery ruining your life? Get rid of them. Only then will the weight of your life become light. So that you may have a light body.
Let us talk about two more things that we should throw off so that we can live lightly.
The third thing that prevents us from running the race of faith and burdens our bodies and minds is… worry, anxiety, and concern. Believe it or not, worry is pride. Believe it or not, anxiety is pride. Believe it or not, concern is pride. Because the reason we worry, are anxious, and concerned is that we think we have to solve every problem, and we believe we can solve every problem. This is arrogance. God dislikes arrogant people. Arrogant people cannot be with God. And worry, anxiety, and concern weigh down our bodies, minds and hearts.
They block us from moving forward in faith. How can you throw away worry, anxiety, and concern? Praying to God is an act of throwing away worry. Praising God is an act of throwing away anxiety. Worshiping God is an act of throwing away concern. By throwing away these things, we can live lightly.
“Lastly, what troubles us greatly in running the race of faith is… doubt. We doubt God. We doubt God’s promises. We wish God’s promises would be fulfilled quickly, but God’s promises are fulfilled slowly. Timing is always the issue. There’s our timing and God’s timing. They always seem different. So, when God’s promise doesn’t happen when we want it to, we start to doubt. Moreover, God’s promise is eventually fulfilled, but it happens differently than what we expect and plan for.
Furthermore, when God seems not to answer our prayers, we begin to doubt God’s love. If unfortunate events keep happening in our lives, we start to doubt God’s protection. If our lives continue to face financial difficulties, we start to doubt God’s provision.
It’s hard not to doubt. It’s not easy. I know that well. Sometimes, I also doubt, asking, “Does God really love me?” “Does God truly protect my family?” “Does God really provide for the needs of my family?” The moment I begin to doubt, I try to turn to God. I pour out my troubled heart to Him. I cry out to God. And I repent before God. By doing so, doubt fades away, and faith increases again. Brothers and sisters, throw away your doubt right now! When you discard doubt, your body and mind become lighter. Let us live lightly.
Brothers and sisters, discard unhealthy human relationships that hinder your race of faith! Cast away the sins entangling your life! Throw away the worries, anxieties, and concerns weighing down your body, mind, and heart! And cast aside the doubts that blind your eyes of faith!
Once you’ve lightened your body, mind, and heart in this way, then take up the burden Jesus gives you. That burden is the yoke for your life. That burden is the cross for your life.
That burden is a burden that only you can carry, not something other people can carry for you. That cross is a cross that only you can bear, not something other people can bear for you. That yoke is a yoke that only you can take, not something other people can take for you.
The burden on my shoulders is Japan mission. My yoke is sharing the gospel to the ends of the earth. My cross is supporting the Japanese Church, sharing Jesus with the Japanese people, and helping them receive salvation from sin, death, hell, Satan, and God’s wrath. This is my burden, yoke, and cross.
Brothers and sisters, the yoke that Jesus gives you is light. The burden and cross that Jesus gives you are light. The yoke that Jesus gives you is easy. The burden and cross that Jesus gives you are easy.
Carrying this light and easy burden, let us run the race of faith every day. Let us carry this light and easy yoke and cross and run every day.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Instead, take up our cross and follow Jesus every day. By doing so, we can live lightly. Are you living lightly now? Good for you! Let us continue to live lightly with Jesus. Let us pray.