This sermon originated as I was eating a peach. Rather, it originated as I compared a peach I was eating at the moment with one I had bought the previous week from the same store.
The first peach was a freestone peach. I cut the peach in half and easily removed the pit. I love freestone peaches because the pit is easy to remove.
The second peach, which looked identical to the first, was a clingstone peach. When I cut it in half, it wouldn’t separate. I had to dig around with my knife, practically mutilating the peach in the process, to get that irksome clinging pit out.
My first thought was, “Why does anyone grow clingstone peaches when freestones are so much easier to eat?” Then, I thought, “There’s got to be a sermon in this.” So, here we are.
A verse popped into my mind, found in Hebrews 12:1-4: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.”
The phrase, “so easily entangles us” is what caught my attention. The word translated entangles is from a Greek word that speaks of being thwarted at every turn by a competitor in a race — so entangled as to be ineffective.
Which brings us back to the peach, which holds on to its pit so tightly it can scarcely be removed. What is “the entangling sin” the Hebrew writer is referencing? If we look at the context, it seems to me he is speaking of discouragement. That’s why he challenges his readers to “not grow weary and lose heart.” Sin, because of its clinging and entangling tendencies, can easily discourage us. So, we have to endure or be overcome.
This Scripture contains some wonderful clues on how we cope with the sin of discouragement. The first is to recognize that we have a cheering section. The great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us is made up of those who have run the race of righteousness to the finish line and can now encourage us as we run. They endured and so can we.
Second, we set our eyes on Jesus. There is nothing about faith and faithfulness that Jesus doesn’t know. He endured the cross. He endured it for the joy of bringing salvation to all mankind. Though crucifixion was shameful and brutal, He endured the shame rather than give in to discouragement.
Can we resist sin with the same tenacity displayed by Jesus on the cross? With His help, yes we can.
Finally, we have an expectation placed upon us by our righteous Father. He expects us to resist sin, and its associated discouragement, and run our race with endurance. To what degree should we resist sin? At very least we should resist to the point of shedding blood. Anything less than that is surrendering too soon, since our measuring stick is Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Just maybe, the work put into freeing the clingstone peach of its pit makes the final fruit sweeter. Throwing off the discouraging effects of clinging sin is hard work — but the result is the sweet fruit of victory in Christ Jesus.