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The following is a part of our weekly devotional series, which is a companion to the 2013 Foursquare Life Journal. This week’s Bible reading comes from 1 Tim. 5-6; 2 Tim. 1-4; Titus 1-3; Philem. 1; Heb. 1-13; James 1-5; and Jude 1.

“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” (Heb. 12:1-2, NIV).

Do you remember what it was like when you first entered ministry? Do you recall the passion, the drive, the focus you had as you began the new journey serving God? To compare ministry to a race we are running, we sprint out from the blocks and often discover that ministry is not a 100-meter dash, but more like a marathon. It doesn’t require short bursts of vision and energy, but rather perseverance and focus.

Running the marathon of ministry requires a long-range perspective. Scripture tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” There is something so freeing about the idea of “throwing off” hindrances and entanglements! Yet, many times we have carried these things that slow us down and trip us up.

On my journey as a pastor, I have spent countless hours attempting to define what God placed me in ministry to accomplish. There have been many well-meaning people on the sidelines who have weighed expectations, traditions and demands on me, and I have felt their hindering effect on my life.

This launched me into a season of discovery where I asked God: “What is really important for me as a pastor?” and “What am I expected to do?” This season opened my eyes to all of the baggage I had been carrying, and is setting me free from the demands of the people I shepherd.

If we are not careful as leaders, these unaddressed hindrances lead us to the sinful entanglements that cause us to drop out of the race prematurely. They can affect the way we love and the compassion we have for the people we shepherd.

Expectations and demands that we attempt to fulfill can detour us, and cause resentment and ungodly attitudes to grow in our hearts toward the people we are called to love and lead. These are the entanglements that often place us and our ministries in holding patterns and leave our people with an unhealthy mindset.

It is easy to listen to the voices of the people and fix our eyes on them, because we love them and care about their spiritual development. There is, however, a “race marked out for us” that takes us as leaders and everyone we serve to the finish line. To follow this path, the unrealistic expectations and demands must be “thrown off” so that we can run with perseverance the race that God has specifically designed for us. There are future opportunities waiting for us and for our people, but the only track that gets us there is the one that God delineates.

Each of us is running a race today. I want to encourage you to search your heart and allow God to uncover the excess baggage that has been slowing you down. I pray that the Holy Spirit reveals the condition of your heart so that nothing will trip you up as you run your race with perseverance. Finally, I challenge you to fix your eyes and ears on the Creator of the race: the pioneer and perfecter of faith. He is the only one who can lead us to the finish line.

By: Steve Noel, senior pastor of Good News (Covington Foursquare Church) in Covington, Va.

Download the yearlong reading plan (PDF, 80 KB), or sign up for the full, online version of the Life Journal. To purchase a Life Journal for your own use, or to place a bulk order for church-wide use, visit Learn more about Foursquare’s 2013 Life Journal project.

is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Orlando, Fla.

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