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The Easily Besetting Sin

by J. Edward Boyd

(Reprint from 100 Years Ago in Word and Work Magazine)

     “Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1).

     “In many things we all stumble.” We are all beset by various temptations—some by many, others, perhaps, by few; and that which has little or no appeal to one may to another be a very sore temptation. Against any sin which we see has thus a strong attraction for us we should be especially on our guard. However, the Scripture before us, it seems to me, rather applies to some single, specific thing which tends to exert a strong downward pull on us, everyone of us; and which, together with every weight, we should earnestly endeavor to lay aside, lest we be greatly hindered in our running. And that there is just such a thing which may be spoken of as “the sin which doth so easily beset us” seems evident both from the general tenor of this epistle to the Hebrews, and from some remarkable illustrative incidents to be found in other portions of the Scripture.

     These Christians were in serious danger; and the nature of this danger appears in the very solemn warning in chapter 8: “Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in anyone of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God.” Unbelief—that was it. And how strange that then should be susceptible to its power! For they once had faith, strong faith, so strong that they had taken joyfully the spoiling of their possessions, in the full assurance that there was a better possession and an abiding one which was theirs.

     In the history of Israel there are many incidents which show how easily unbelief besets God’s people. In Egypt they had seen His power manifested on their behalf in the wonders done by Moses and Aaron. Yet how quickly was it all forgotten! On the shore of the Red Sea, when Pharaoh’s pursuing host came in sight, doubt and despair seized them and they were sore afraid. Then they had a further proof of God’s power and grace, when He opened for them the way through the sea and saved them from their enemies.. Surely they could not doubt now, whatever might be the circumstances! Especially when there were added other evidences: the defeat of Amalek, the sweetening of the bitter water at Rephidim, the giving of the manna, the thunderings and the lightnings and the voice of the trumpet and the smoking mountain at Sinai. But at Kadesh-Barnea they refused to obey w7hen the word was given, “Go up, take possession, as Jehovah, the God of thy fathers, hath spoken unto thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.” “We are not able.” they said, and indeed, “they were not able to enter in because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19). How easily it beset them, and with what fatal consequences!

     But an even more remarkable instance, perhaps, is recorded for our learning in the eleventh chapter of Numbers. Even that man through whom many signs and wonders had been wrought, who was indeed a faithful servant in God’s house, who had been in close communion with God on the mount, the leader and lawgiver of Israel—even Moses, was on one occasion affected by unbelief. The people had complained bitterly because they had no flesh to eat; and the Lord had announced to Moses that they should have it; “not for one day, nor two days, nor five days; neither ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month.” This was a tremendous thing,—supplying such a vast multitude of people with such a quantity of meat, and that in a barren wilderness. Moses was staggered at the proposition. But why should he have been? In Egypt, at the Red Sea, in this wilderness—anywhere, —had he ever seen the Lord’s power fail? Oh, it must be because this thing, unbelief, so easily besets us. No wonder the Lord in answer to the questions of doubt propounded by His faithful servant, spoke this stern rebuke: “Is Jehovah’s hand waxed short? now shall thou see whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”

     One thing that is calculated to cause surprise is the lack of faith so frequently exhibited by the apostles while the Lord was with them, even after they had witnessed many of His miracles. When He said, on one occasion, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” they reasoned among themselves that it was because they had taken no bread with them. As if He would be concerned about food! “0 ye of little faith!” Why should they doubt? They had seen water turned to wine, the cleansing of lepers, the opening of the eyes of the blind, the casting out of demons, the feeding of five thousand with five loaves and of four thousand with seven—they had every reason to believe, yet they doubted. It is so easy to doubt.

     Nor is it a danger peculiar to those days; we need to guard against it now. The inducements to faith are abundant and undeniable. Yet of the few who do believe, how many are often harassed by fears and misgivings. We have the blessed promises and assurances of God’s word; and many can see in their personal experience the loving care of the heavenly Father. They have been right up against a wall; there was no way through, nor over, nor around; it may be their faith almost failed. But in their extremity they cried unto Him; and somehow—they hardly know how^—He got them past. And yet, even with such assurances and after such experiences, how quickly we forget! For when there are again difficulties, and troubles; and dangers, which seem too great for us. doubts and misgivings arise; we look too much at the tossing billows and too little at Jesus; fear arises, faith fails, and we begin to sink. Let us keep His word in our hearts, “looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

J Edward Boyd (deceased) was a Church of Christ Minister and College Bible Teacher.

One Response to “The Easily Besetting Sin”

  1. Carroll &Evon says:

    Bro.Boyd spoke the truth in love.

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