Home sick today with a hum-dinger of a respiratory bug. Normally these things come on slowly. I felt fine most of the morning on Wednesday and an hour into the afternoon, I was as stuffed up as a turkey on Thanksgiving! I was able to go to work yesterday - but today there is no voice - not good for a music teacher - so lots of hot tea for me today!!
There is an old story about three men and their sacks . Each man had two sacks, one tied in front of his neck and the other tied on his back. When the first man was asked what was in his sacks, he said, "In the sack on my back are all the good things friends and family have done. That way they're hidden from view. In the front sack are all the bad things that have happened to me. Every now and then I stop, open the front sack, take the things out, examine them, and think about them." Because he stopped so much to concentrate on all the bad stuff, he really didn't make much progress in life.
The second man was asked about his sacks. He replied, "In the front sack are all the good things I've done. I like to see them, so quite often I take them out to show them off to people. The sack in the back? I keep all my mistakes in there and carry them all the time. Sure they're heavy. They slow me down, but you know, for some reason I can't put them down."
When the third man was asked about his sacks, he answered, "The sack in front is great. There I keep all the positive thoughts I have about people, all the blessings I've experienced, all the great things other people have done for me. The weight isn't a problem. The sack is like sails of a ship. It keeps me going forward. "The sack on my back is empty. There's nothing in it. I cut a big hole in its bottom. In there I put all the bad things that I can think about myself or hear about others. They go in one end and out the other, so I'm not carrying around any extra weight at all."
What we carry around affects our spiritual life. The writer of Hebrews uses the metaphor of a runner to illustrate the spiritual life. Living the spiritual life is like running a race. We cannot imagine a marathon runner running with a sack on his or her back. That will hinder their running. A runner will do everything they can to reduce the excess weight. The writer of Hebrews advises us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” in order to run the race (Heb.12:1).
Unfortunately, many of us are like the first man. We keep before our eyes all the bad and horrible things that has happened to us; our poor relationships with other people, our bad experiences and unfulfilled expectations in church, and the horrible events that scarred our lives. What is out of sight is out of mind. We do not remember the good that others have done for us. Our focus is on the bad things which crowd our thoughts causing anger and bitterness. It is hard to run forward when there is so much negative emotional burden. The heaviness of these burdens causes some of us to drop out of the race, like those marathon runners falling by the roadside. Once down, we are contented to stay down and refused to get up. Others leave the church not realising that they are bringing their sacks with them. Still others struggle for spiritual growth yet not bearing fruits and making progress because their souls are being poisoned by bitterness and unforgiveness.
The second man keeps his achievements and things that make him feel good in front of him. He revels in his accomplishments, his wealth, his fame, and in his sacrificial service for the church. He always reminds others of his contribution to the church, and the favours he has done for others. He turns a blind eye to his mistakes, his imperfections, his idolatry, and his pride. All these he throws into the sack behind him so that he does not see them. Unfortunately what the eye does not see remains in the subconscious. The prick of conscience is a constant thorn in his side and the sacks remain heavy. Such people need great effort to run. Some can hardly walk. Every step is a struggle because of the weight of the load of the sacks they carry.
The third man fills his front sack with positive thoughts, gratitude and appreciation for people around him, and the blessings he has received. For all the gossips, slanders, and bad experiences, he forgives and forgets. He throws then into the sack at his back which has a big hole in the bottom. Thus the back sack is empty, and he is freed from bitterness, hatred, and anger. He only feels the goodness of this life and of the blessings of God. All these make his sack to act as a sail. The Holy Spirit who is like a wind blows the sail and helps him forward as he runs the race. Running the spiritual race is so much easier if we get rid of bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger. That is what Jesus is giving us when He offers us His yoke. Many of us are running like the first man or the second man. Our sacks are heavy with our burdens and they wear us out. Jesus offers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Being yoked with Jesus is like the third man. He is like Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner in the movie Chariots of Fire who said, “God make me fast. And when I run fast, I feel His pleasure.” For Eric Liddell, however, the Olympics were not the ultimate race. The son of Scottish missionaries to China, he saw his whole life as a race: a race for the kingdom of heaven. That is why, two years after taking the Olympic gold, he sailed to China, to become a missionary himself.