Dumb Criminal & Christian Endurance

Probably many of us by now have heard a number of “Dumb Criminal” stories that make us chuckle as well as shake our head. Such as, did you hear about the criminal that the police were able to easily follow in the dark until they caught him? He had forgotten that he was wearing his sneakers that blink a bright red light every time you take a step. Or how about the bank robber who wrote, “This is a holdup,” on the back of a personal check that had his home address on it.

These stories sound both ridiculous and funny at the same time, don’t they? It really is amazing how some people can do the most foolish things, and also try to get away with things that ultimately will only hurt them in the end. Here is another story that illustrates this point:

David Posman 33, was arrested in Providence, R.I, after allegedly knocking out an armored car driver and stealing the closest four bags of money. It turned out they contained $800 in PENNIES, weighed 30 pounds each, and slowed him to a stagger during his getaway so that police officers easily jumped him from behind.

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Now consider what one person said after reflecting on this story:

David Posman is not the first person to make the mistake of trying to run while being weighed down. In fact, it happens spiritually all the time. The Hebrew writer talks about sin being a weight that keeps us from effectively running the Christian race. We can get bogged down with things that pull us away from God. And, by the way, as with Posman, those things that are weighing us down are not worth nearly as much as we thought they were when we grabbed hold of them.

And here is the verse in Hebrews that the person was thinking of:

“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)

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As we look at this verse in Hebrews, we will notice that there are three important aspects in this verse. First, there are the “witnesses” that surround us. Secondly, there are the things that weigh us down and the sins that ensnare us and hinder us from running a good race. And then finally, there is the aspect that we need to run our Christian race with endurance.

So who are these “witnesses” who are watching us as we live out our Christian lives? Many have felt that this is a spiritual reference to God and all the angels who are watching us here on earth. Textually, these witnesses could refer back to all of the “heroes of the faith” of whom we read about throughout Chapter 11 of Hebrews. Others have thought that this could simply refer to the people around us.

In any case, whichever interpretation we might agree with, there is one more imagery aspect that I want to highlight at this point. The idea of others watching as we run our race creates the image for us that we are in an Olympic type event surrounded by many spectators who were cheering us on to cross the finish line. That image helps us to understand the powerful point that the writer is trying to make here.

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Imagine an Olympic marathon runner wearing heavy shoes, extra layers of clothes, and carrying a heavy backpack. There is no way that runner could ever win the race, let alone even finish the race. And that is what our spiritual lives are being compared to if we allow sin or otherworldly distractions to keep us from focusing on our goal of winning the prize of being called to be children of God here, and inheritors of eternal life in the hereafter.

But not only are we called to live godly Christian lives, Scripture tells us that we are to run this race with endurance. That implies that it will be hard work, there will be sweat, and there very likely will be some pain and sacrifice involved. We must remember, that godliness is pursued and grown over an entire lifetime. The Christian life truly is a marathon, not a sprint.

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Personally, I have some great memories of being a long-distance runner when I was in school. I loved the feeling of being in good physical shape, and being able to run very long distances. And I also enjoyed the thrill of the competition of running against other athletes. As I said above, it did take a lot of work, dedication, and sacrifice to get to those competitions.

And even when we experience great pain or trials in life, we are called to keep pressing on. I still remember how that in grade 9, the night before the big competition, I sprained my ankle. The next day, I convinced my coach that if he put a tensor bandage tightly around my ankle I would still be able to run the race. And so I ran. And it hurt terribly. But I still came in third across the finish line. The next year, I won the inter-school competition of the 800 m run and was able to go all the way to the Calgary city finals.

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And so my friend, how are you doing in your Christian life today? Is there anything weighing you down in your spiritual life? Do you realize that other believers, God and all the heavenly angels, and perhaps even the “heroes of the faith” may be watching you and cheering you on to run this race.  May you have the strength and the courage to lay aside whatever it is that is keeping you from running this race well.

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