here may be some of us whom the Enemy tries to lure into that slough of

 despond where we become so depressed, discouraged, and disgusted with ourselves we just want to lie down and die.


But the Evil One is clever enough to know that with most of us, if we found ourselves in such a miserable state, it would be just the thing to wake us up. We'd soon be calling out to God, and in no time we'd be closer to God than ever.


So, his approach with us is more subtle.

- He doesn't want to take us through any "dark night of the soul."

- He doesn't want us to feel that deep pain of despair that might drive

  us to God.


Instead, the Enemy is going to do everything he can to help us function pretty much as believers.

- We pray, more or less.

- We think of ourselves as followers of Jesus.

- Once-in-a-while we share the gospel with someone who's

  crying out for life.


But beneath it all there's a numbness in our souls, an unreality about our prayers, a lingering, irritable, sour, cynical mood at the back of our minds, a weariness in our bodies. Nobody observing us can prove that we're spiritually dead. But we know that we're not exactly alive.

Then the Enemy begins to whisper,


"Who do you think you're kidding? How long are you going to keep up the pretense? You're in a rut and can't get out!"


You look at yourself. You try to shake yourself to life a few times. "Man, he's right! I am in a rut and I can't get out of it."


- You try praying extra hard - that doesn't do it.

- You go to meetings hoping to get hold of that old

   enthusiasm, and you leave more irritable than when

   you came.


Nothing seems to have the power to break through that invisible wall of cotton which surrounds you, especially when you're among believers.

The annoying thing about being in this condition is that it's all so vague.


You're not really dirty and you're not really clean.

You're not really asleep and you're not really awake.

You can't say you're miserable, but you have no joy.


"Well, things could be worse. Maybe I should settle for this and quit fighting it." And soon, you're sliding through the years in a state of growing spiritual death that's so subtle, so painless, you don't realize how far you've slipped; until there's no strength or desire left to find your way back to God.


The person who wrote the book of Hebrews knew all about this rut. This book, as no other book in scriptures, speaks of the disease of spiritual vagueness and cyni­cal aloofness which affects so many of us. It contains tremendous help for believers who are gradually drifting away from the light, slowly hardening their hearts.


We would all do well to go through the book of Hebrews and underline and circle words and phrases that speak to our condition.


- God will teach us as we read this book.


- The Holy Spirit will visit us and refresh us and help us

   clean house.


As a start, let's look at two verses at the beginning of Hebrews 12.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him en­dured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


In these verses we are told four things to do that will help us out of our rut. It doesn't take two years to get out of that rut. Maybe it took you two years to get into it, but you can get out of it before this day ends.


l. If we want to get out of our rut, it will help us to know that we are surrounded by a cloud of wit­nesses who believed God and made it, and are now rooting for us from the other side of death.


Hebrews 11 is a catalogue of saints who were just as fragile as we, but who made it all the way. They pressed right on through to glory.


- Not by some fantastic strength of will.

- Not by some superhuman discipline.

- Not by some narrow-minded brain-washed fanatical fervor,

- but by simply trusting God.


Abel made it. Enoch made it. Abraham made it. Sarah made it. Moses made it. Rahab the harlot made it. And countless others passed through this world to the City of God and they weren't any smarter than we are.

Their message to us is: trust God!


At the bottom of every failure is our unwillingness to trust God. So the Spirit of God pulls back the veil and gives us a glimpse of this cloud of witnesses - spirits of just men made perfect — who tell us to hang on. Don't be afraid or discouraged, you're going to make it.


2. If we want to get out of our rut, we need to lay aside every weight and every sin which clings so closely.


There are weights that drag us back from doing God's will. They may not be sinful in themselves, but we can't run the race with these things hanging on us.

- People we're attached to.

- Dreams.

- Ambitions.

- Security blankets.


Of course God wants you to love your mate and your child. But if your attachment to this loved one grabs hold of you every time the Lord tells you to move, you've allowed it to become a weight.


Some of us are absolutely bowed down to the ground under the weight of our own importance. You can't run the race when you're so important. First your importance must be laid aside. And what a relief when it is laid aside!  Our importance is always an illusion.  We are certainly special to our heavenly Father, but not "important" as we regard importance.


And there are sins - flat out sins - that cling to us like leeches.


"Yes, I know it's a sin. But it's such a little sin

and it isn't hurting any­body."


That little sin that you tolerate and defend, as if it were your pet cat, is keeping you in a rut. You'll not get out of the rut until you lay aside the sin. And you can lay it aside. You can see that sin for what it is - something that drags you back, holds you down. And you can break with it with God's help right now. And you can be delivered from the power of that little sin. And as soon as you've put it aside, you'll dis­cover that that little sin was fifty times bigger than you are.


3. If we want to get out of our rut, we need to run the race with perseverance.


Notice how often the words "patience", "endurance", "perseverance", appear in Hebrews.


God has given us a path to travel, a race to run, a life to live. But,

- we'll never make it if we run in fits and starts,

- we'll never make it if we have to be revived every two months.


That rut we're in is a rut of good intentions, endless promises to ourselves that we're going to do this and we're going to do that - always thinking and talking about what we're going to do and never doing anything.


We need to come down to reality and just persevere,

- in season and out-of-season,

- when we have companionship on the road and when we're alone,

- when we feel God's presence and when we feel nothing.


Just keep running the race, even when nothing around us makes any sense, with our eyes up ahead, on Him who gives us hope.


Which brings us to the final step.


4. If we want to get out of the rut, we need to be looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


Get our eyes off ourselves.

Get our eyes off our brothers and sisters.

Get our eyes off our favorite Christian.

Get our eyes off our enemy,


and fix them on Jesus.


Immediately we'll see him as the one who pioneered our faith. He was a flesh and blood person just as weare. He partook of all the frailties of flesh and blood. He knew what it was to be tempted to settle for the half-baked life. And he opened a road for us that is not half-baked. It burns with God's presence from be­ginning to end. Jesus keeps that road open for us with his blood. And when the enemy tells us to give up, Jesus washes us with that blood and gives us a clear conscience.


But he isn't only the pioneer of our faith, he's the per­fecter. He is able to bring us all the way through. From the right hand of God he pours out the Spirit upon us even this day, so that we grow and increase in the power to do God's will.


Jesus doesn't call us to forsake all and follow him and then make us trudge for thirty years without a word of help. He teaches us,

                                                           guides us,

                                                           shows us new things all along the way. That's what he's doing now if we'll only look to him.


The message of the Spirit of God is that there is no need for us ever to be in a rut. If we're in one now, we can come out of it now.


God help us to see that cloud of witnesses.


God help us to lay aside every weight, ever sin.


God help us to persevere.


God help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as he leads us on, in the power of his resurrection, from his cross through our cross to glory ..... glory that we can see, and taste, every step of the way.