In sports, the role of a coach is significant. He lays down the ground rules, sets the pace and direction of the game, instructs the athletes and directs team strategy. While he can be the best coach in town, the athletes under him will not win the games unless they cooperate and follow his instructions. There will still be times when the athletes will commit all kinds of blunders and errors, but they will remain competitive as long as they align themselves with their coach’s guidance and instructions. It is when they goes against him that those errors will bring real trouble to them. This is what the apostle Paul was referring to as the “sin that so easily entangles” when he said, “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” (Heb. 12:1).
Indeed, there will still be many hindrances, blunders and errors that we will encounter in our spiritual walk, but we can overcome them as we avail of God’s forgiving grace provided in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” However, there is one sin mentioned in Heb 12:1 that can easily entangle us so that we can fall beyond recovery. What could this sin be? This sin is none other than the sin of unbelief. We must remember that we are saved because we believe in God. The moment we start living in unbelief, then our salvation is at risk. Even in John 3:16, we are told that though God loves us, we must believe for us to be saved.
Unbelief is the root cause of all sins that we can possibly commit. People kill because they do not believe that God will make them accountable for their deeds. This is true about stealing, lying and all other sins that are mentioned in the Bible. This is also the reason why people do not do good; they do not believe that God will reward them. They become corrupt and wicked. These are the people that King David referred to in his Psalm, “Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, ‘He won’t call me to account?’” (Psalm 10:13).
There are many reasons why a person who believed in God eventually drifts away and starts to live in unbelief. One of the reasons is ignorance. They do not know God. Through the prophet Hosea, God said, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). They do not know and understand how God works because God’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And because they believe that they were created in God’s image and likeness, they treat God as an ordinary man. “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
The other reason for unbelief is the deceitfulness of sin. The apostle Paul warned, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:12-13). We cannot discount the power of sin. Constant exposure to sin’s temptations will harden the heart and eventually we will fall into sin. This was the case of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Freshly minted and not knowing of any sin, their constant exposure to the temptation of the devil led them to unbelief, and they blatantly disobeyed God’s command for them not to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree. They reaped the consequences of their actions and were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3).
Another reason for unbelief is worldly wisdom. Many people operate based on the standards of this world and they do not seek God. But again the apostle Paul warned, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’” (1 Cor. 3:18-19). If we do not understand the ways of God, that should not cause us to live in unbelief. It requires faith to believe in God. In fact, the beginning of true wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
Unbelief is more than what we say with our mouth. It is the condition of the heart. It is manifested in our words and actions. Therefore, let us believe in God from our hearts and thus avoid the sin that so easily entangle. Then we can run our race with perseverance and be saved. Hallelujah!