Summary: This sermon encourages Believers to place their faith only in Christ.
Part Two: “Naked Faith”
Hebrews 12:1-2, 12-13
It’s interesting that some of the most difficult trials we endure are the ones that often shape our character and form our memories. I know from talking to people who lived through the Great Depression that theirs lives were shaped and influenced by their experiences of living with a lack of money and food and perhaps even basic shelter. Men and women who have fought in armed conflict be it WWII or Korea or Vietnam or the Gulf War and now Iraq and Afghanistan come back with stories that shape the rest of their lives.
While I haven’t lived through the Great Depression or been engaged in armed conflict I have been to the U.S. Army’s Officers’ Candidate School. Granted, it was Chaplain OCS, a kinder, gentler OCS, but it was OCS none-the-less.
One of the things we had to endure while in OCS was a three day field exercise. We, a bunch of chaplains and chaplain candidates, preachers in real life, had to pack for the field, including tents, gear, food and everything else we needed, load it into a deuce and a half truck, travel to the field packed into buses like sardines and then unload, unpack and set up camp.
I never realized how useless most preachers are until I tried to pitch a tent with ten of them.
One of the memories ingrained in my psyche is that of sleeping in a mummy bag one extremely cold night. The first night in the field, the temperature dipped into the single digits and I nearly froze. I got little if any sleep and was complaining to my fellow chaplain buddies when one of the NCO’s walked up.
He said, “How were you dressed when you crawled into your bag, sir?”
“I had on everything I could find to put on and I still nearly froze.”
“Well, Chaplain, that’s the problem. You were wearing too much. If you’re going to sleep on a cold night, you have to strip down to nothing. To survive the cold in the field, you have to get naked at night.”
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed getting that information. But, the next night, instead of layering up, I stripped off. And guess what, my NCO friend was right. I survived the experience by stripping off as much clothing as I possibly could.
When we face particularly difficult situations in life, it is our human tendency to do as I did when facing a bitter cold night in a tent; we want to “put on” as much protection as we possibly can.
When we are hurt by someone we love we want to place a shield of protection around us, wanting to avoid any more pain.
When we have been through financial hardships we tend to become people who store up for a rainy day not wanting to experience the lack of lean times again.
If we have been hurt by the church, or by the members or the pastor of a church, we put up walls to protect our emotions and feelings because we never want to be hurt again.
This stuff we pick up along the walk of life is sometimes referred to as baggage.
As natural as that reaction to life might be, it is not biblical. The author of Hebrews must have known something of the baggage that comes with life. For after describing the lives of many people of great faith from Israel’s history, he urges his readers to run the race set before them (and us) with endurance by setting aside any and every thing that hinders or holds back the pace, especially, we are reminded the sin that hinders our progress.