Principle: “Before entering the tunnel, check your load.”
Driving through the tunnels sends my mind into thinking overtime! The tunnels speak not only of passage into the presence of our Savior, but also about preparation for it. Often, when approaching a major tunnel, there will be signs stating what items are prohibited – items that are not safe to have in the tunnel. Most such items are potentially explosive. Usually these signs are posted miles in advance of the approaching tunnel so there is plenty of time to check your load. In fact, that’s what the signs are meant to do: “Before entering the tunnel, check your load.”
Isn’t that a message for our journey through life as well? Once in the tunnel it’s too late to check the load, so “Before entering the tunnel, check your load.” There are simply some things – many things, in fact – that we cannot take with us. Hebrews states it clearly (12:1): “Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up…” (CEB). The NLT puts it this way: “…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” “Before entering the tunnel, check your load.” There is baggage that not only slows us down and trips us up as we head for the tunnel, but which is also dangerous as we enter the tunnel. There is a lot of baggage we can’t take with us – which is potentially explosive and will disqualify us.
Certainly there are sinful things we do or think that are not allowable in the presence of God. That’s obvious. But note that Hebrews doesn’t limit the baggage only to sin – it’s anything that weighs us down. That implies we lug around some good baggage – but good as it may be in and of itself, it slows us down. When I was entering my final year of seminary education and training, I decided to give up doing radio play-by-play of a local high school’s football and basketball games. Oh, I loved doing it – and I was told was good at it (truth be told, if God hadn’t called me into ministry, I’d probably have spent my life doing sports broadcasting). It also provided a means for witnessing. But it was taking away time I could spend studying and preparing for a life of ministry – and from my young family. There was nothing wrong with broadcasting itself – but it slowed me down and was tripping me up. It was standing in the way of a deeper relationship with Jesus.
What is that baggage for you? Service in the church? Charitable volunteer work? Always being available to others to help them in their need? Pursuing your hobby or special interest with all your spare time? Spending time with family and friends? What are the activities, interests, or pursuits in your life that are good, but not essential – and perhaps distracting – to your relationship with Jesus?
Excess baggage is prohibited in the tunnel. And once we’re in the tunnel, it’s too late; the baggage must be shed before entering. Perhaps the issue to consider is how do we want to enter the tunnel? Knowing that Jesus is coming to greet us and carry us through, to take us to be with Him, do we want to crawl, walk, or run to Him? I want to run! How about you? “Before entering the tunnel, check your load.” The apostle Paul had this idea firmly implanted in his mind and heart: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27) Eugene Peterson captures the point well in The Message: “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” “Before entering the tunnel, check your load.”