Sin that so easily entangles us
“Therefore, … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb 12:1).
The author of the letter to the Hebrews is not talking about a sin that is different for each one of us, but about a sin all of us know: unbelief. For believing in God does not only mean a rational acceptance of his existence, but a deeply rooted trust in Him: for everything, at all times. Weak faith plagued the early church. And today also, lack of faith is robbing Christians of spiritual power and fruit. It is lack of faith which keeps the unbeliever from being saved. But it is the same sin that can keep God’s children in a state of spiritual immaturity.
When the Egyptians pursued the Israelites, God’s people screamed in fear. But the Lord miraculously opened the sea, so they could pass between the roaring walls of water and escape their bloodthirsty enemies. What a mighty experience this must have been! Such powerful divine intervention must change a person’s life entirely. However, a few weeks later they were complaining again, accusing Moses of leading them into the desert to die, and thus denying God’s guidance. Forgotten was his saving grace in the face of certain death. An incredible reaction? Not really. We sometimes react in exactly the same way. Each one of us has seen miracles, starting with our own salvation and spiritual rebirth. And yet, we often are lacking in faith to really trust God and to stand on his promises. Paul explains that what eventually happened to Israel should be taken as a serious warning for each one of us (1 Cor 10:1-13).
Without faith the resources of God that come in response to believing prayer are undiscovered (Jas 1:6-7). Without faith the fear of failure captures our heart, and we will attempt only that which is humanly possible (Phil4:13). Refusal to trust God dishonors and displeases Him (Heb 11:6). It is a source of grief to Him. It disappoints his love and faithfulness toward us, and it stands in the way of his mighty plan for our lives.
Believing is Seeing
“Seeing is believing” is a popular saying. It shows what the prevailing attitude is. In the world, but often also among Christians. But the Bible tells us that believing is “being certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1).
How then can we set aside that besetting sin of unbelief and grow a great faith? First of all, we can pray for it (Luke 17:5). Next, we should recognize in a deeper way Who God is, and what his character is like. This will show us that He always keeps his promises. For “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfil?” (Num 23:19). Study the wonderful promises in God’s Word – and the conditions that often accompany them and claim them for yourself in prayer. This way you exercise your faith, and because you have a first-hand experience of God keeping his promises your faith is strengthened. So, contrary to popular “belief”, believing comes first, and seeing is the result. God’s Word is filled with promises, for your personal life as well as for your work for the Lord. Claim them one by one and “wait in expectation” (Ps 5:3). They were meant for you.
A Cloud of Witnesses
Read the Bible. Identify with biblical characters and recognize that we can depend on God to respond toward us as He did to them in ages gone by. This is the whole purpose of the challenge in Hebrews 12:1, and of the list of witnesses that are marched onto the witness stand of Hebrews 11. Each of these people tells us that God can be absolutely depended upon and that we can trust Him unconditionally.
Lord, without faith I cannot please You, and your plan for my life cannot take shape. Today, I start exercising my faith by claiming your precious promises. Help me grow in faith every day, until, with Paul, I can say “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength”. Amen.