Florence Chadwick, according to Leadership Journal, was a brave and strong young lady. She waded into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean on a July morning in 1952, to do something no woman had ever done—swim the twenty-six mile stretch of water between Catalina Island and the California coast. She was a veteran of long-distance swimming, but that July swim in the Pacific presented come terrific challenges: sharks were trailing her and had to be driven off several times. A fog then settled on the channel. Florence swam for fifteen hours before taking her last stroke. She was tired, cold, and discouraged. And she couldn’t see the shoreline. Shortly after being dragged into the boat it was discovered that Florence was less than a mile from the shoreline. Florence failed her challenge because she lost sight of the goal.
As followers of Jesus, we have a goal set before us—being made into the likeness of Jesus (see Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). All-too-often, I get distracted and lose sight of the goal. God knows this tendency is real, so He coaches me to “get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed” (Hebrews 12:1-2, The Message).
Let’s take a look at these two distractions specifically mentioned by the author of Hebrews.
1) Parasitic sins / sin that so easily entangles: Like parasites, these sins are slowly and constantly sucking the life out of us. There are a lot of little things that we accept as “normal,” like a critical spirit or gluttonous lifestyle, but they are making us anemic, tired, out-of-shape, and so unlike Jesus.
For some of us, there may be some BIG things that are tripping us up, like running through a field of kudzu. It could be sin that has never been dealt with properly. Or sin that has been forsaken, but we are lying on the sideline with our feet wrapped up in weeds, out of the race because we have never found the release and cleansing that comes through repentance and confession.
2) Extra spiritual fat / weight that slows us down: These are things that are not wrong in themselves, but they can distract or even become our focus. Paul stepped on my toes when he wrote about people who act religious but reject the power that could make them godly (see 2 Timothy 3:5). Been there; done that! The healthy disciplines of Christian growth—Bible reading, prayer, meditation, service, and the like—can easily become the goal themselves. When that happens, these very things that should make me adequate to finish the race well turn into “extra spiritual fat” leaving me tired, frustrated, and ready to quit. In those chapters of my life, I had been with every good thing but Jesus.
Which camp do you find yourself in at the beginning of this new year? Struggling with a sin or focused on good things in the wrong way?
Get up, and get on with it. Strip down. Don’t let the spiritual sharks and parasites or spiritual fat keep you from the true goal—being made in the likeness of Jesus. That’s what people need to see! And that’s really what I want to be. Let’s help each other overcome the distractions!