Recently I was talking to a friend about a missions trip I used to lead for college students called “Road Rules”. It was a unique trip in that the folks going didn't know where they were going to be working from day to day. Instead, we hopped on a bus, and headed into different cities and towns to see what sort of service work God opened up for us. Each person was allowed to bring one backpack for the 14 day trip, and at most places where we stopped, we ended up staying in either homeless shelters, or on the floors of the places we served at. The trips were a great experience, as we lived completely by faith, and trusted God to provide for all of our needs.
We took a total of six of these trips, and each time I was amazed at how much folks could squeeze in to their backpacks. Even though most folks were good at streamlining what they brought, each trip there was always at least one person who overpacked. And every year, about half way through the trip, that person was ready to start tossing stuff out of the bus window because the pack they were carrying was too heavy.
But to be fair, it wasn't just the “over-packers” who struggled. By the end of the trip, even the lightest of packers was ready to be done carrying that extra 20 or 30 pounds on their back everyday. What we all found was that the lighter we traveled, the easier it was to stay joyful and focused on serving God.
As I was talking through all of that with my friend, I was reminded of Hebrews 12:1, which says: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” This verse takes what we were experiencing physically on those missions trips, and applies it to our spiritual lives, as it tell us that, when we’re running the race of life that God has set out for us, we need to run without unnecessary weight.
The problem is that, just like those “over-packers” on the missions trip, we try to run the race while dragging a lot of excess junk along with us. Sometimes, it's easy to see the things that are weighing us down because they are words, actions, and attitudes that God has told us stay away from. However, there are also things that are harder to see as weights in our lives because they aren’t things that are sinful in and of themselves - things like relationships, or work, or how we handle our resources. Those are all things that can become weights in our lives if we put them ahead of our relationship with God. And of course, wounds and hurts from life can be weights that hold us back from fully running for God.
The reality is, there is no shortage of things that we can pick up in life that end up weighing us down, and keeping us from running the race that God has set before us. That’s why it's good for us to periodically take stock of our lives and see if there's anything in our lives that's slowing us down in our spiritual progress. So today, let’s do that. Let’s take time to ask God to show us very clearly the excess weight that we're trying to drag along on our walk with Him. And as He reveals those things to us, let’s ask Him to help us cast them off so that we can freely run the race He's laid before us - staying focused on serving Him with joy.