Several years ago, I ran a 10K race. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I almost quit after five miles, but thanks to a friend running beside me, I finished the race. Jenny wouldn’t let me quit, and she spurred me on step by step that last mile. Painful? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The Christian life is a race, and there are times we want to quit running and sit on the sidelines. So how do we finish the race and run it well when we’re tempted to quit?

The author of Hebrews talks about running the race in Hebrews 12:1-2. 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 key to running the race well: lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

If I want to run the race well, I need to be aware of those things that have the potential of hindering me on the race. Some of the encumbrances I need to lay aside are:

1. Fear

Fear of change, fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of rejection, fear of what others will think.

Fear can be my greatest friend if I let God use it to draw me into a deeper dependence on Him as I trust Him in that fear. But it can be my greatest enemy if I let it paralyze me and keep me from stepping out and moving forward in the race.

I almost let my fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown keep me from taking this job as the Women’s Ministry director in Memphis. I was comfortable with my life in Dallas. Why would I leave comfort and move to a new city, a new job, new friends, a new church? What if I disappointed the church? What if I couldn’t do the job? What if they don’t like me?

Those fears ran through my mind over and over, but I’m so glad I didn’t let those fears entangle me and hold me back from following God’s leading.

2. Busyness

Life seems to get busier and busier every day. I find myself running from one thing to the next without much time for slowing down and resting. Busyness can get me off the course God laid out for me. Sometimes I have trouble saying no, and I get distracted and take a detour. Busyness can lead to burnout, and if I burn out, I won’t be able to run the race as God intended. I have to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and follow His course for me, not the side courses that tempt to distract me or the courses others want me to run.

3. Discouragement 

Discouragement is a master trick of Satan to tempt us to quit running the race. He would love to get us so discouraged that we  give up and sit on the sidelines.

I get discouraged when others criticize me or when things don’t go as I had hoped. I get discouraged when I fail at something  or I’ve sinned. My tendency is to beat myself up. Discouragement holds me back from running the race because I feel there’s no reason to keep running.

If we want to run the race well, we have to be aware of those potential things that will entangle us. Lay them aside, confess them, and ask God to give the strength to run the race He’s designed for us.

Just as I needed my friend Jenny to help me finish the 10K race, we need each other to spur one another on to the finish line. Let’s run the race God has set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

What are some other encumbrances that would hinder us in running the race well?

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