If you’ve never heard of an Iron Man race or been to one, the people who do it are incredible. The race starts off with a 2.4 mile open water swim. Then they ride a bike for over 112 miles. Once they’re done with that, they have to run a marathon. Did I mention that it all has to be done on the same day and within a certain timeframe? These men and women push their body’s to the limit like nothing I’ve ever seen. To me, they are the very picture of endurance.
In high school, i ran the mile. Yes, it was just one, and they called that endurance running! I still had to train and condition my body to be able to run four laps around the track at the fastest speed possible. I had to get my muscles to the level where they could maintain that speed for close to five minutes. I also had to condition my lungs to not get winded so I wouldn’t run out of breath in the race. It’s a far cry from an Iron Man, but I still had to train.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (NLT). We each have our own race to run in life. Some of us will run a short distance, some will run a 5k, others a half marathon or a marathon, while others an Iron Man. Whatever race God has set before you, run with endurance and don’t compare your race to someone else’s.
There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not the mountains ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” To run with endurance, and to run to win, we need to get rid of sin in our lives, even small ones. They keep us from running our race the way God wants us to. We must discipline our flesh and our spirit through prayer, reading God’s Word, and running alongside other believers to be able to endure the race we’ve been given. We each have a certain time frame within which we must run our race, so we need to run to win.
To demonstrate how difficult it is to accomplish even the easiest tasks while you are bound up, I once tried to preach a sermon with my hands tied behind my back. I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but it proved to be more difficult than I could imagine. My first problem was holding the microphone. Then I needed help turning the pages in my bible. After that, I needed to turn the page in my notes. Finally, I couldn’t use my hands then I spoke, which apparently I do.
So many of us try to do more than speak while we are bound up. We actually try to go through life while we are bound up in depression, addiction, grief, sin, etc. If you’ve been there, you know that even the smallest tasks can prove to be difficult. Go designed you to live a life of freedom. As Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that He set you free.” Jesus also said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
There’s a song called “Chain Breaker” that says, “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker. If you feel lost, He’s a way maker. If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior. If you’ve got chains, He’s a chain breaker.” The words to this song remind me that I don’t have to live bound up in my chains. There is no chain so strong that God cannot break it in your life. There is no depression so dark that He can’t bring you out of it. I’ve been in the deep, dark prison of depression and He set me free.
I love reading Psalm 107 because it’s a reminder of what God can do for us. In verse 14 it says, “He brought them out of their gloom and darkness and broke their chains in pieces” (GNT). If you’re bound up by chains today or are in a dark place, call out to God. Ask Him to lead you out of that place and to set you free. I know if He did it in my life, He can do it in yours. It’s time we all got back to living the life of freedom that God created us to live.
My six year old son has been asking me a lot of questions about sin lately. He asked me if I sin. When I told him that I do, he wanted to know why. I explained that I don’t want to, but sometimes I do. It’s just part of being human and having sin live inside us. Then he wanted to know if it upsets God when I sin. I told him that it does, but God is faithful to forgive us of our sins when we confess them to Him and are sorry for doing them. Then he wanted to know if he sins and the circle continued.
I love that he’s already concerning himself with wanting to live a life that pleases God. I also want him to understand that sin is an ongoing problem in all of our lives. There is no one who is perfect and can keep from sinning. This problem is outlined perfectly in Romans 7. Verses 17-20 say, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; i decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway” (MSG). It’s the struggle we all face.
No matter how much anyone of us want to live a sinless life, we eventually fall short and sin. Paul is very clear in this chapter that the problem is not us, but the sin that is inside of us. We are all dependent on God’s grace instead of our ability to live sinless lives. I love how Romans 8:4 puts it. “The law always ended up being a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it.” Trying to live a sinless life doesn’t fix the problem; it only covers it up. Living a perfect life is not our goal. Learning to trust God’s grace is.
God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working in us is the remedy to our sin problem. When we try to put a Band-Aid on our sin and do things on our own, pride comes in. The answer is to quit trying to live a sinless life out of sheer will power because we can’t. God’s Spirit is living in us and working in us. We must learn to live Spirit led lives, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us in the life that He wants us to live. The Spirit wants to lead us into a life of freedom instead of constant condemnation because we fail constantly. Rip off the Band-Aid and let God heal you from the inside out.
One thing I’ve learned is that every sin lives within me, and I’m capable of committing any of them. The sins living within each one of us is just waiting for the right circumstances to show up and it will give us the opportunity to commit them. I learned this one night while I was very angry and bitterness was growing in me. The thought and desire to murder was so strong in me that it frightened me. I never believed I was capable of such a thing until that moment. Like Joseph in Potiphar’s house, I ran and didn’t look back.
Anger is a powerful emotion that can tempt us to do the unthinkable. It is a dangerous emotion that desires to control us. It is like a furnace burning within us that continuously heats up the more we feed it. It begins to consume our mind, our thoughts and eventually our lives. I was at the point that I couldn’t sleep. My anger was burning so strongly that every time I closed my eyes to sleep, all I could imagine was the situation that created my pain and my heart would begin to race. I began to be consumed with how I could get revenge.
Let me be clear, anger in and of itself is not a sin. It is an emotion that God has given each one of us. I believe it becomes sin when it begins to control us. Psalms 4:4 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent” (NLT). Too many times we have a knee jerk reaction of retaliation when we get angry. We scream, we curse, we throw things, we fight or do something else. The Psalmist here suggests that instead of reacting, we should proactively step away, remain silent and think about it.
Many times in my life, my anger hasn’t frightened me away from sinning. Instead it has lead me right into it. As Christians, we need to understand that uncontrolled anger leads to sin. Instead of letting it have its way, we need to step away, think about it overnight and remain silent. In many cases, our anger will dissipate and we will be kept from sinning. It is possible to be angry and sin not as the scripture says. We just need to learn to be proactive with our anger instead of reacting with it.
When I was little, my mom said, “Don’t touch that. It’s hot.” What did I do? I touched it and got burned. When I got a little older, she said, “Don’t eat mushrooms in the back yard.” What did I do? I fed them to my younger brother and I got spanked. A few years later, she said, “Don’t talk that way.” What did I do? I said a few choice words and got my mouth washed out with a Ivory soap. Each time I disobeyed, I suffered the consequences of those actions whether it was through her punishment or the physical result of disobedience.
In the Garden of Eden, God said, “Don’t eat of that tree in the middle.” What did they do? They ate from the tree and were kicked out of the garden. God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments. What have we done since? We’ve broken them and suffered the consequences. In my own life, I’ve known what God has said, and I’ve lived in violation of the way He has said to live and I’ve suffered the consequences.
Several years ago, while suffering with the consequences of my choices, God was using them to try to bring me back into right relationship with Him. The more I pushed back, the more it seemed I suffered. I eventually surrendered, but had to live with the consequences. The pain of that time has been a constant reminder to me to follow God’s will and plan. Do I do it all the time? No. I still disobey at times, but those times are getting fewer and I’m learning to repent faster.
All of us face the consequences of our sins. It’s designed to help us remember to obey much like my punishments when I was younger. Psalm 119:71 says, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (NLT). We don’t like the suffering from our consequences, but it helps us remember in the future to walk in obedience to what God says. God sets life and death before us. Oh that we would obey His Word and choose life. It’s a much less painful route.
To abandon someone is to quit supporting them or to give up on them. If you’ve ever been through some of life’s toughest circumstances, you know what it’s like to be abandoned by some of your family or friends. You find out that there are people in your life that you can count on, and there are people that you can’t. When you’re looking for advice, a place to regroup, or just a shelter from the storm, some people that you seek out will abandon you. Some of the ones who you thought would support you through thick and thin give up on you.
David was a person who knew a thing or two about being abandoned. He was forgotten by his father, disrespected by his brothers, shamed by his wife, chased by the king, and dishonored by his son. The people in his life that he should have been able to count on, turned their backs on him at some point in his life. He knew a thing or two about rock bottom. He looked for those he could count on in times of trouble.
In all of his searching, there was one who never abandoned him. God. David wasn’t a perfect man either. He cheated on his wife, had a man murdered, and did some unthinkable things. Yet when he sought after God, he knew that no matter what he had done, God would not abandon him. He knew that there was nothing he had done that God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive. When others gave up on him, God never did. In fact, God said he was a man after His own heart.
You may have walked David’s shoes. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by those who love you or you’ve abandoned the things you know are right. Either way, if you will seek God, He won’t abandon you. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know you, Lord, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you” (GNT). It doesn’t matter what’s been done to you or what you’ve done to others, you can find shelter, hope, and forgiveness in God when you seek Him out.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers had us open the cover of our Bibles. He then told us to write, “This book will keep you from sin. Sin will keep you from this book.” What a powerful message. Every time I opened my Bible, I read those words. They challenged me to read it daily so that I wouldn’t stray from God. To this day, I hear those words, even though I no longer open a physical Bible, and they challenge me.
When Moses was giving the final instructions to Israel, before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, he gave them instructions for their future kings. In Deuteronomy 17:18-19 he said, “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees” (NLT).
God knew then that His instructions would keep us from a life of sin. He not only wanted them read daily, He wanted them to write them down too. Imagine if you had to hand write the Bible and then carry that manuscript with you daily. The time and effort that would take would cause you to value His Word more. Then reading it daily would teach you how to follow God’s path.
David, who would have written it out and carried it with him, wrote something very powerful in the longest chapter of the Bible. In Psalm 119:11 he wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” David didn’t just read God’s Word, he hid it in his heart. He studied it, memorized it, and applied it. Were there times he failed? Yes. It was God’s Word that put him back in right standing with God.
He knew what you and I need to know. The more we know who God is, the more we see Him as a loving father who doesn’t expect perfection from us. He forgives our sins and loves it when we come clean. The enemy wants us to hide our sin like Adam and Eve, but God wants to create a clean heart in us. His Word will not only keep us from sin, but lead us to forgiveness when we do. Don’t let sin keep you from God’s Word. Let God’s Word keep you from sin.