Years ago, my family vacationed in England. Towards the end of the trip, we spent a couple of days in Oxford. When it was time to head home, we checked out of the apartment we had rented and took a taxi to the train station. The train would take us back to London for our flight out of Heathrow. As we were standing in line at the train stations, my wife looked at our tickets, and I heard her gasp. "We bought train tickets for the wrong day," she said.
I took a look at the tickets and confirmed our mistake. To make matters worse, all the computers were down at the train terminal. The ticket agent's advice was to board the train and hope for the best! We boarded the crowded train with our three young daughters. As the conductor approached us, checking each passenger's tickets, our hearts were beating in our chests. Should he put us off the train, we would have been stranded in the city with no place to go.
With tears in her eyes, my wife explained our situation. Thankfully, the conductor had compassion on us and said, "Well, we have proof you have purchased the tickets. I'll let you stay on the train." We breathed a collective sigh of relief. Our mistake threatened to hinder the long journey from Oxford, England, to Southern California.
Small mistakes can slow down a great trip. The same is true on our spiritual journey. Reflecting on the experience, I'm reminded how seemingly, little things can hinder our spiritual growth. It's vital that we "check our tickets," so to speak, to ensure our progress as Christ-followers is not held back.
In Hebrews 12:1-2, the Bible says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."
Look again at the phrase... "let us throw off everything that hinders..."
Here's a powerful prayer for us today, "God show me the things that hinder my spiritual progress."
Four common hindrances can impede our spiritual growth.
Apathy - Spiritual coldness and indifference can occur in anyone's life if we are not careful to pursue intimacy with God. The key to restoring this closeness with God is to remember what God has done in your life. Renew your commitment to God and become intentional in your daily pursuit of a close relationship with the Lord.
Distractions - It seems we have never been busier or more distracted than we are today. Even good things can keep us from intimacy with God. Do you ever feel as if you never have the time to do what you want to do? The things you need to do? So many people genuinely want to pursue spiritual things; they just can't find the time. Only an assessment of our priorities will lead us to make real changes in our schedules. The growth that occurs is worth it!
Fatigue - Author John Ortberg wrote, "Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap." Our spiritual progress can be hindered by simply being overwhelmed and overworked. When your physical and emotional tank is running low, you are likely spiritually empty as well.
Unconfessed sins - When we willfully continue in sin, and our hearts are unrepentant, we cannot expect to make spiritual progress. The only way forward is through confession and repentance. We must yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to find peace with God.
As we examine our hearts, let's pray Psalm 139:23-24 - "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
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