Have you ever started the day cheerfully, full of good intentions, and by mid-morning you’re in a puddle, pouring your heart out to the Lord in frustration over your sad turn of events? Have you ever said to yourself, “What happened? I started the day well; I spent time with the Lord; I even got up early to do so, but something went wrong. How did this happen?” Galatians 5:7 reads, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Ahhh, what a question! Taking the time to answer that question will help us the next time we find ourselves wondering, "How did I end up here?"
In leading up to Galatians 5:7 we see that Paul has been addressing a particularly pernicious issue plaguing the Galatian church in which the Judaizers were teaching the new believers that their faith in Christ alone wasn’t enough to be made righteous. Galatians Chapter 5 begins with Paul pleading with the Galatians not to subject themselves to the slavery of the law system again when Christ had already set them free from the Law’s demands of perfection. The Judaizers were saying believers needed to be circumcised and keep the Law to gain righteousness. Paul counters that idea by saying if believers begin to keep parts of the law to gain righteousness, then they are “obligated” to keep the whole Law (Galatians 5:3).
Over and over Paul points out the Christian life can’t be lived according to the old Law system, only through faith in Christ whose righteousness is applied to us. That's why Paul says it's through faith that we are “waiting for the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5).” It’s at this point that Paul quizzically asks the Galatians, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7)?”
It probably seemed so logical to them to begin keeping the Law again. God had given the Law, they had come to believe in His Messiah, and now the Law and faith in the Messiah could be joined. Such a little thing, they supposed, in retaining the vestiges of the Law to gain righteousness. Yet the Galatians failed to understand the far-reaching consequences of those “little” choices.
What Hinders You From Running Well?
Now it’s implied in the context of Chapter 5 that the Galatians allowed someone else to hinder their obedience. Isn’t that often the case? We allow others to hinder us from running the race we know we should run. I know it's easy for me to get derailed when I compromise obedience because of someone I love or because I’m afraid of conflict. Sometimes we get off the path because we’re not as knowledgeable about the Scriptures as we should be so we’re easy targets for someone’s misinterpretations of God’s Word. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy and actually pull ourselves out of the race and hinder our own obedience. It’s worth considering. Who or what has hindered you from obeying the truth found in God’s Word today, this week, the last month, the last year?
God Doesn’t Hinder Us From Running Well
Paul tells us in Galatians 5:8, “This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.” If you’re off somewhere, guess what, that’s not from the Lord. If you find yourself off the path and no longer running in the way you should, you need to know that you didn’t get to where you are because of the Lord. The Lord never leads us into paths of unrighteousness; He leads us in paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3; James 1:13).
Hindrances Can Have Far-Reaching Effects
There’s an urgency to recognizing we’re off the path sooner rather than later as Paul explains in Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” Just a little sin can lead to further ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:16-17; Proverbs 19:27; Hebrews 12:15).”
So what do you do if you find yourself in a “You-were-running-well-what-hindered-you” kind of day?
1. Getting back in the race is far easier than it was getting out of the race. The very first step is to stop, take stock of what’s happening, and cry out to the Lord in confession and repentance (1 John 1:9; Acts 3:19; 26:20; Revelation 2:5).
2. Recognize that turning away from sin, from wrong thinking, from any kind of defiling influence is crucial if you want to get back in the race. Look at the counsel we’re given from the author of Hebrews, “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 (Hebrews 12:1).” Lay aside every encumbrance; lay aside that sin that entangles so easily, and run. And run. And run.
Paul gives similar counsel in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Again, cleansing comes when first we confess our sin and trouble to the Lord and in repentance turn away from it, desiring to get back in the race. That’s what Paul means by “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
3. Come up with a plan for handling hindrances. Maybe it means talking to your roommate who plays Rock music as soon as you get your Bible out for your quiet time. Maybe it means preparing ahead of time to keep your temper in dealing with your kiddos by memorizing Scriptures, leaning on the Lord, getting enough sleep. Consider those things that may be hindering you from obedience, from running well, and then come up with a plan to circumvent their power.
4. The key to running well is fixing your eyes on the goal—look to Jesus. The author of Hebrews says, “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 (Hebrews 12:1-2).” Charles Simeon said, “Shall I not run with all my might now that I see the end in view?”
Oh, to get to heaven and to hear Jesus say, “You ran well! Nothing deterred you from the goal (Philippians 3:14). You made it home!”