Have you ever been running (or walking) and a small stone gets in your shoe? Not one of those sharp ones, but a stone just small enough to cause a little bit of irritation but nothing worth stopping to take off your shoe in order to get it out.
I was running this morning and such a stone arrived in my shoe. I had done 12 miles by this point and only had a mile and a bit to go before I was going to stop. The stone wasn’t bugging me all the time. It would come and go within my trainer so I figured I’d just keep running and deal with it at the end of my run. And I felt God say that this is what He wants to say to His people all the time, “Why are you content to run with a stone in your shoe?”
We might think that it’s only small and so it won’t make a difference, but actually, the longer we leave these little stones, the more friction they cause and the greater the negative impact.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour…”
Ephesians 4:31 (NLT)
I feel like God wants to say to us - just like the stone, “Why are you content to run with jealousy, anger, pride, malice, bitterness…?” We might think that the odd temper outburst or rude word won’t really affect us so much, but the more we allow these things into our shoes, into our lives, the more damage they will do to us. And ultimately, to those around us.
God wants us to take responsibility. It might seem more frustrating to have to stop mid-run in order to take out the stone, but actually, as soon as you do, you realise just how much it was hindering you. You are suddenly able to run faster and further. You are more free in your running once the pesky stone has been removed. Even if you had become quite used to its presence, it’s not until the stone is removed that you realised just how much it was holding you back.
And, if you get rid of the stone, then you’re less likely to get a blister. The longer you leave a stone in your shoe, the more damage it will do - not just to your foot, but also to its surroundings - your trainers will wear out and get holes. If you leave the stone in your shoe then you compensate for its presence in your gait and the way that you run. Which in turn makes you out of kilter and can cause other issues elsewhere. In extreme cases, the tiny stone in your shoe can affect the way you run so much that your posture is altered to such a degree that you do yourself an injury and you have to stop running altogether.
Just like we can become content to run with a small stone in our shoe, as Christians, we can become content to run our lives with something that God would just rather we deal with and get rid of so that we can run unhindered and free.
“Cease from anger and forsake wrath…”
Proverbs 37:8 (NIV)
“Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.”
1 Peter 2:1 (NIV)
“But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.”
Colossians 3:8 (NIV)
There are whole websites dedicated to getting rid of things (getridofthings.com for example). Everything from weed smell to jet lag to maggots. We had the unfortunate experience not so long ago of a maggot infestation in our garden. I kid you not - it is the grimmest, most disgusting, horrific experience I have had in a while. If you have a maggot infestation then you don’t hang around in attempting to get rid of them. You don’t just carry on as normal and live your life around them. No - you do everything in your power to exterminate them. To obliterate them. To remove them. To get rid of them. You immediately go into action with the boiling water / vinegar / bleach / salt (seriously, I tried everything) and you continue with your efforts until you have succeeded. You put on the rubber gloves and you get to work. Because if you don’t, if you just let the maggots remain, then they will become flies, and they will multiply and give birth to more eggs, and then you have an even bigger problem on your hands.
In a similar vain then, why do we as Christians not take the same ruthless attack with our language or gossiping or temper?
As far as God is concerned - lying, perverse talk, envy, slander… are just as horrific and chilling as a mass of writhing maggots on your doorstep and yet we just accept them in our lives as if they’re a small stone in our shoe. Don’t underestimate the potency of these things listed in the verses.
Let God help you obliterate the maggots and take out your stone.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT, emphasis mine.)
Be ruthless in getting rid of anything that will slow you down or hinder you from running. Ask God to show you any ‘stones’ that are in your life that need removing. But how. How do we get rid of the stones and maggots? Hebrews 12 continues:
“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith.”
Hebrews 12:2a (GW)
We look to Jesus. We cannot always remove the stones and maggots by ourselves. Sometimes we need a strength greater than ourselves to kill off the maggots. We need Jesus - author, perfecter, finisher, source, goal, pioneer, champion - to come alongside and take the stone from us.
So can I encourage you to take the stones out of your shoes? Don’t settle for mediocrity and sub-standard form. Don’t settle for maggots writhing around in your garden. Be ruthless and get rid of every weight that is slowing you down. It’s hindering your progress and if you leave it there too long, it’ll affect your environment causing more and more damage.
Bring the stones to Jesus, He’ll know how to treat the infestation and stop it from spreading any further. He’ll know how to soothe the blister and bind up the wound. All He needs is your permission to get rid of it…