Lack of sleep is often an indicator that not all is well with your soul. Perhaps you’re holding onto things better left alone, or left in the past, or left at the Lord’s feet. Is your tossing and turning at night a symptom of physical struggle? Or is it spiritual? The Book of Hebrews states:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Are You In the Race?
Note where this passage states, “let us lay aside every weight.” I’d like to discuss something that weighed me down for many years – the past. I was fourteen when a street evangelist led me in the sinner’s prayer. Before I knew it, I had been inducted into the infamous Jesus movement of the seventies. Yes, I had become a bona fide believer. You might even say I was a Jesus freak. But…
I wasn’t running it. Honestly, I could barely walk. Weighed down by yesteryear, I remained benched on the sidelines. What happened? It seemed that friendly evangelist forgot to wave his magic wand when reciting his dandy little prayer. I’m sure I repeated it word for word. Unfortunately, it did little to heal my heavy heart. In all honesty, my burdens exponentially increased after my conversion. The account is included in my memoir ‘There & Back: A True Story of Innocence Lost and Innocence Found’. The short of it is that an adult church member sexually abused me. I wish I could say the church was there for me during this painful time, but such is not the case. Rather than dispatch a rescue team, Pharisees were sent with a wrecking ball, one that damaged me further.
The abuse I suffered grew increasingly heavy on me, especially in those wee hours while I lay upon my bed. My pillow became a punching bag. I’d toss, turn, cry and scream, “Why me, Lord?” I was in no shape to run any kind of race. Too much weight… Too much pain… Not enough sleep. I was tired. And angry. Eventually…
I was on my own, with no place to rest. That was my life for many years. And with each passing day I grew more restless and reckless. Bad memories and bad choices piled on me like a stack of anvils until I crushed under the weight of them.
It wasn’t until I was twenty-two years of age that I cried out to the Lord for help. This time it wasn’t a formula prayer. It was straight from the heart. I truly wanted Jesus to save me. So, in the quiet of my bedroom, I surrendered my life to Him. We made a trade. He took my yoke. I took His. He claimed my burdens. I claimed His peace. It wasn’t a fair transaction. Jesus got the raw end of the deal. I accepted nonetheless. How could I not? It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. This offer goes out to you as well. Jesus said:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
You’ve been hurt, betrayed or abused. Trust me, I know your pain. I know that moving on doesn’t come easy. I also know that parking in yesteryear only adds to one’s burden. The only way to distance your self from it is to run! You must get in the race and leave the dead weight behind, in the dust.
They make it virtually impossible to run any distance at all. But what if you could break free? You can. The key is forgiveness. I realize it’s a stretch, but it is within reach. Unless you try, the weight will remain with you for always. There will be no rest from it. Self-pity will be your only ally. The constant licking of wounds will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. I’ve been there and done that. Life wasn’t much fun back then. It was one miserable existence.
He calls us to the abundant life, not the bummer life. He’s our biggest fan, our greatest cheerleader. ‘Get in the race!’ He cries out. ‘Move forward! Don’t let the past catch up to you! Quit playing the victim! Victory is yours!’ It’s true!
We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who loves us (Romans 8:37). In Him, we’ve got this race beat. But as in any race, we must cut weight. We’re in no shape to run when we’re clinging on to old baggage. We must let go of past hurts to lay hold of the prize. Victory can’t be had any other way. There’s no way around it. There are no shortcuts. Forgive or forfeit. Those are our choices. It’s one or the other.
It’s a killer. As any runner will tell you, a healthy heart is a must. The race we have before us as believers is no exception. One cannot endure with a calloused heart, or one filled with bitterness. You’ll only be a sore loser in the end. This is why forgiveness is stressed so often in scripture. It frees us of deadly weight. It also eliminates unnecessary pain.
Weight lifters often say, “No pain, no gain.” That may be true if you’re trying to build bulk. As for runners though, the most important muscle is the heart. Pain only weakens it, especially the self-inflicted kind. That’s why it’s essential to forgive. Forgiveness not only keeps us in the race, it enables us to finish well. And when the ribbons are handed it out, it won’t be speed we’re rewarded for. It’s our hearts that will be judged. Only the pure get the gold. This means we must identify those impurities that can only be purged through forgiveness. Bitterness is one of them. It’s a symptom of holding onto the past. For this reason Jesus taught:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5: 23-24)
I’m convinced this is why Cain’s offering wasn’t well received. His heart wasn’t in the right place. With all that bitterness he harbored toward Abel, how could it have been? God gave Cain opportunity to get a grip, but his anger only festered.
“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
We all know how the story ends. Rather than rule over it, Cain allowed bitterness to rule over him. He grew so angry he did the unthinkable, murdering his own brother. It’s important we learn from these stories. They weren’t printed just for our amusement. They’re recorded in God’s Word to teach us. The lesson here is: bitterness kills. We must rule over it before it rules over us.
And our offerings to Him are cheapened. In other words, He gets shortchanged. That’s why He says, “Rule over it.” That’s why Jesus says, “First be reconciled to your brother.” It’s because of Jesus the door to the altar remains open. But we can’t let sin pile at the threshold while offerings are given. Sin must be kicked to the curb. The only way to give it the boot is through reconciliation. Forgiveness stops sin dead in its tracks. It sets you free to run the race. If you’re hanging onto past hurts, take a load off. Forgive. You’ll feel a whole lot better once that burden is lifted. I’ll see you at the finish line.
Sunday Morning at 9:30 & 11:30am
Wednesday Evening at 7:00
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Calvary Chapel of Austin Church
1601 Pecan St., Pflugerville, TX 78660