The first couple of verses of Hebrews chapter 12 give this instruction:
“Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”
The New Living Translation actually says: “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.”
Having been a casual cyclist for several years, I have definitely become familiar with the idea of diminishing weight in order to gain efficiency. For a serious cyclist, unnecessary parts such as kickstands or baskets are immediately out of the question because of the weight that they add to the bicycle. Most will also immediately remove reflectors from a new bike if it comes with them. Some cyclists have even been known to peel the stickers off of their bikes in order to trim every last unnecessary gram.
The quest for efficiency does not end there. Road bikers where skintight clothing, and often shave their legs. They use extremely skinny tires with extremely high air pressure in them.
The women’s track pursuit bike for the Olympics this year has the drivetrain on the left side of the bike, instead of the traditional location on the right. This is to reduce wind resistance since the bike will only be making left turns. I could go on, but you get the picture.
If humans are capable of such intense attention to detail in athletics, are we not also capable of seeking that kind of perfection in spiritual things? Have you removed as many unnecessary encumbrances as you can from your spiritual life?
Susanna Wesley once wrote these words to her son: “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”
Her definition of sin is thought provoking because it reminds us that spiritual encumbrances may not always appear to be obviously wicked, but they may effect us negatively nonetheless.
What television shows could we give up, or what habits of thinking could we alter, or what quiet whisper of the conscience could we listen to more earnestly, in order that we might run with endurance the race set before us?
As any professional athlete can tell you, even the smallest changes could make a big difference.