As you know, I love Heb. 12:1-2, not simply because I'm a long distance runner, but because of the text's absolute beauty and grandeur, which I've documented here and here. But one expression in this passage sometimes puzzles me. What is meant by "the sin that so easily trips us up"? I imagine it could refer to that sin in your life, or in my life, that is unique to us. On the other hand, perhaps the writer is talking about that one particular sin that hinders all of us, and that is the sin of unbelief (see the previous chapters of Hebrews). How can we tell if our "easily-besetting sin" is unbelief? Here are some symptoms of this disease:
- Unbelief about God. Doubting God and living by faith are mutually contradictory.
- Unbelief about our sinfulness. "I'm not all that bad, after all."
- Unbelief about God's wisdom and providence. "Does he really care about me?"
- Unbelief that he knows what's best for me. "Is he really in control?"
That mindset then entangles our feet and, if we're not careful, can change us from runners into quitters.
I won't lie; I'm not immune to this sin. I love diving into questions for which there are no answers. Belief is not easy, but it is simple. We can trust rather than doubt -- if we allow God enough elbow room in our life to do what he's best at: turning impossibilities into possibilities. To put it quite literally, Christ went to hell and back to become the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith and to pave the way for us as we each run our own race. I love how Dwight L. Moody put it:
I prayed for faith and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the 10th chapter of Romans, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." I had up to this time closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since.
For those of us who struggle with the sin of unbelief, isn't that why we find ourselves so often in the word? There God doesn't promise us risk-free living. But faith loves and follows the One who leads: Jesus Christ.
I'll add one thing: True faith always involves action. "Faith by itself isn't enough," wrote James. "Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless" (James 2:27). If you're struggling today with unbelief, put your faith to the test by loving others actively and practically. Get involved in other people's lives. That's why Hebrews says Christ's life is an example for us. By being faithful to his pattern of living for others, others are bound to see Christ in you -- a sure proof of genuine faith if ever there was one.