When running a race, any expert runner will give you this advice: “Don’t wear new running clothes or shoes on the day of a race.” Why? It will prove a hindrance when the non-broken-in shoe begins rubbing blisters on the heels. Or when those cute new running shorts prove to be a distraction as they “ride high” in places they aren’t supposed to go. Ultimately, stick with the broken-in gear that doesn’t distract the runner from the finish line.
My running pace can be hampered by a myriad of obstacles. A frayed string constantly tickling my leg. A loose waistband sliding further down with each step. A headphone cord rhythmically and annoyingly tapping on my arm. Each one of these distractions impedes my mental toughness and diverts my focus. Therefore, I make a point to rid myself of these issues before any run.
Even Paul recognized the struggle runners face when they encounter distractions. He also knew the Christian life would be much the same. Philippians 12:1-2 says, “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 . . . .”
While most of us recognize the sins part of that verse, we rarely stop and consider the hindrances part. Paul took time to separate the two ideas because they must be examined separately. Sins tend to be a little more obvious, especially with the help of the Holy Spirit. However, hindrances hide.
Wonder where they hide? Let’s look at this modern day — and possibly personal — example. Every afternoon, a woman peruses social media outlets. She encounters various pictures, status updates, and video links. In fact, one picture depicted a family enjoying a glorious trip to the beach. A status update shares that a few old friends got together for a girls night out. Then she watches a video link explaining the Top 10 Must-Have Summer Styles. When she finally signs out, she’s sad and maybe a little angry, but she doesn’t understand why.
Suddenly, it hits her. All those status posts, pictures, and videos have pointed out exactly what she doesn’t have. Due to a recent move, friends whom she could share a girls’ night out don’t exist. With the recent job change, a beach vacation is not in her near future. And one look in her closet quickly reminds her, she does not have any summer “must haves.” However, she does have many other valuables: the possibility of new friendships, a happy family, a fulfilling new job. Yet, she finds herself discontent, rejected, lonely, and unhappy.
All these emotions stirred up from one stroll through the Social Media Park of Perceived Perfections. This, my friends, is a hindrance. Not the social media itself, but the feelings we let it awaken. Now instead of be content and focused on the day’s tasks, we are distracted by unhappiness that bleeds over into our home. We aren’t “sinning” necessarily, but our walk with Christ is hindered because we have stopped focusing on Him and are now focusing on ourselves.
While the “hypothectical” social media example is true, many other life elements can hinder our relationship with God. Consider these:
- Lack of discipline – This comes in many forms. It could be in our jobs, our education, our health, our pursuit of God’s call. The list is long.
- Worldly-focus – not in the sinful way, but by being more concerned with the needs of this life (money, social status, good job, comfortable home) than the needs of others in this life.
- Good “Causes” – this seems to be the cry of today’s generation: justice for the injustice. Yet I worry that the passion for the cause outweighs the passion for Christ.
- Hobbies – while these are useful and needful for a balanced life, I’ve often seen lives where hobbies became time-suckers. Take me, for example, my hobby is reading. I could spend entire days laser-focused on a good book and let the world turn without me. If I don’t take guard, my hobby hampers my relationship with Christ and the job He’s asked me to do.
This list is relatively short, but I’m sure you could add a few extra numbers of your own hindrances. While few of these hindrances are sin, they are things that can quickly distract us from our walk with Christ. And a distracted Christian is all Satan needs to keep God from being known.
So today, as you lace up your running shoes, check for those hindrances in your own life. And just as Paul says, “throw them off” and “run with perseverance.”