“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 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, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)
The last three years, I have trained for a marathon. I have logged hundreds of miles and have seen most of Pampa and the surrounding areas. Each year though, I have fallen short of my goal. Each time I would make it further, but ultimately injury would win the battle.
This year, I had been training and doing quite well. I had made it 16 miles in my training and I was coming up on my race. I was getting nervous and excited. The holidays slightly derailed me, but I thought I could adjust my training to get back on track. The next big hurdle was a twenty-mile run. I as looking forward to the challenge and wanted to conquer it. I had my water, some snacks, and all the right clothes. The wind was out of the south, so I ran north.
I had made it ten miles and had begun thinking of running further than the twenty miles. I felt great. Honestly, I hadn’t felt that good in a while. So I pressed on. That’s when it happened. Something popped in my hip and in my knee. I began to limp a little. So I stopped at the red school-house north of town to stretch and refuel. I hoped that it was just a tight muscle, but I knew better. After a few minutes, I walked across the highway to continue my run. At this point, I was stiff and hurting. I took off running, hoping to push through. I was at thirteen miles and something popped hard in my knee. I almost fell. I limped a tenth of mile so that I had at least ran a half marathon and stopped. That was my setback.
In the verse above, it mentioned laying aside every encumbrance. The picture is laying aside anything that slows you down or that could possibly injure you. Many times, we are running along pursuing Christ and something blindsides us. It could be a verbal assault from someone, burnout, an unexpected family crisis, or a lost loved one. No matter what it is, it takes our feet out from under us. The reality is that we are hurt, but we still have a race to run and who knows how long it will take to heal. We have to lay it aside quickly because another setback is looming. If we stay on the sideline too long, we will forget about the race and all the hard work will long be forgotten. You will begin to lose your purpose in life. So, get back up, as quickly as possible, and start running again.
The next day after my injury, it wasn’t my hip or knee that hurt. It was my foot. It was deeply bruised and I could barely walk. I had inflamed an old basketball injury. I had already planned a two-week time off from running to heal up and get back to it. In the meantime, I got a sinus infection that my son had brought home from our Christmas trip to Kentucky. It wasn’t horrible, but made me feel rough. It wasn’t half as bad as what was coming next.
The next line of that verse is the setback to the setback, “And the sin which so easily entangles us.” Whether you realize it our not, you have a specialized sin. It’s your default sin. You never really think about it, but when the time comes for a moment of weakness, this sin will always float to the top. Everyone’s default sin is different. Satan knows what yours is and he always has it in the chamber ready to shoot you at a weak point. A weak point can often follow an injury to your soul, pride, or body. We are down and our guard is not up. Satan, like a roaring lion, is looking at you like a wounded wildebeest. The injury may not be sin, but giving into temptation is sin. When you suffer a setback with a setback, you not only have to heal from your injury, but now you have to be restored from your sin. The race looks almost impossible to finish now.
After healing from the sinus infection, I began running on the elliptical to keep my strength up so I didn’t lose all that I had worked for. I knew I was still injured, but thought this exercise would at least maintain my stamina. A few days passed when I began to feel off. I had a headache, a cough, and was achy. The longer the day went, the worse I felt. You guessed it. I had the flu. It had been years since I had it and I hope it will be years before I get it again (Never again would be preferable). There I was with fever, chills, achy joints, delirious dreams, and mucus in my lungs. It was all I could do to walk to the bathroom. I was running thirty something miles a week three weeks earlier and now I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the toilet and back to bed. The thought of running just made my body hurt. I wasn’t sure that I would survive this, let alone run again. This was a full-blown case of a setback that suffered a setback.
Thankfully, I am over the flu, but the first injury still lingers. I ran outside for the first time in a while, yesterday. Three miles. I may have gotten passed by a tumbleweed a time or two. But, all that mattered was that I was back to running. We have a race to run. We are following Jesus until we are with Jesus. We need to think like Him, love like He loved, treat people well, and seek to glorify the Father in all we do. Jesus is the finish line and the reward. Don’t let injury and sin keep you from running and finishing well. Get back up and fix your eyes on Him. This life is too short to be sitting on the bleachers watching life happen. Get in the race or get back up to run on.
Grace and Peace to you as you overcome setbacks. Life is a marathon not a sprint, so pace yourself.