Photo by earl53 on Morgue File.
Do you ever get up in the morning and just feel, blah? Do you ever feel that something is weighing on you? That something is weighing you down?
I remember a friend of mine in seminary would often comment, when he had put on a couple of extra pounds, he felt as though he had a spare tire around his waist! Do you ever feel as though you have a proverbial spare tire around your waist?
In our spiritual lives, there are things that can weigh us down. There are things that can encumber our walk and slow our progress . . . and no, not all these things are sin. Of course sin will do the same thing. But, there are other things in life, things that are not sinful in and of themselves, that can impede our walk and cause us to sit out of the race.
I have a friend that liked to carry weights (like the ones in the picture) as we walked. He would walk at a brisk pace, the whole time pumping those weights up and down with his arms. The only problem was he would get about half-way through our walk and then want me to take over the weights, so his arms could rest. I did not want to carry the weights! I thought I was doing well enough just walking! There was a noticeable difference from walking with your hands free to walking with weights. No matter how taxing the walk was, it was always far more strenuous with weights in hand.
Continuing on in our conversation of Hebrews 12.1-3, we now come to the second participial phrase.
As I did yesterday, I will put the participles in bold font so they will be easier to see and I will underline the main verb:
Having a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, laying aside every weight and the sin which easily ensnares us, with endurance let us run the race set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith . . .
The writer has exhorted us to run the race with endurance. Again, the main verb in the passage is the finite verb run. To this, the writer has added three subordinate clauses, each of which begins with a participial form. In our last post, we discussed the first one, today we will look to the second.
Remember, these participial clauses are given by the writer, via inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to qualify and extend what he means when he exhorts us to run the race.
We could see these three phrases as answering the question how? How do we run the race?
First, we run the race by learning from the examples of those men and women who have gone before us. Those men and women who have passed the baton to us.
Second, we run the race by laying aside every weight and the sin . . . .
What does this mean?
Many runners, when they train, will train with weights on their ankles or wrists. In modern times, athletes will train with ropes tied around their waist or with parachutes on their backs. Why do they do this? I mean, the point of running, of racing is to be as fast as one can be, right?
Well, that is exactly the point. While training, they wish to become as strong and fast as possible; so that, when race day comes they will be ready and in tip-top shape.
Resistance, provided by the weights or rope, will make their legs stronger. They will develop their muscles and endurance. Resistance is a great training aid for the runner, preparing him/her for the race.
But, when the race time arrives, it would be foolish for the runner to leave the weights on. It would be absurd for the rope to still be tied to their waist with a person on the other end serving as resistance.
When it is time to race, the runner wants no resistance at all. She wants to be free from anything that would slow her down. Anything that would take away from her speed; thus, causing her to lose the race.
There is a time for training and then there is a time for racing. The weights are great for preparation, but would be a poor choice for the performance itself.
As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, the analogy of the Christian life to that of a race breaks down a bit at this point. The Christian life is a constant race! So, we train and race at the same time.
While we may have periods of rest and training, we are never totally out of the race. We may think we are. We may want to be. But, we are not.
The race is ever before us. It is constant and we must be prepared to run it.
A person who wishes to be a runner and compete in races should think long and hard before entering the fray. There is far more work involved then simply showing up on race day with a new pair of Nike running shoes, some nice aerodynamic clothing and a cool pair of sunglasses.
The race is won, not so much on race day, but on all the days of training: the days of sacrifice, of sweat, blood and tears. Behind the scenes when no one is watching, when there is no crowd. When there are no reporters or cameras flashing your picture. When there are no cheers from supporters. It is just you, in the wee hours and late nights. It is just you drenched in sweat, muscles aching and body tired.
It is no small wonder why the sentiment of Jesus, to any who were considering a life of discipleship, was to be sure they had counted the cost. While that truth applies on many levels, it certainly applies here, using the athletic metaphor of Hebrews 12.1-3.
Notice the writer did not compare the Christian life to vegging on the couch! He did not compare it to a nice, cool afternoon Sunday drive with the top down and the breeze rustling through your hair. He did not compare it to being entertained. He did not compare it to playing with toys or taking a nap.
No, he compared it to a race. A thing of effort. A thing that pushes its contestants physically, emotionally and mentally. A thing that takes training and dedication. A thing, to use our writer’s word, that takes endurance!
I know we have all heard sermons admonishing us to lay down the sin that besets us; and while there is truth to this, as the writer himself says in our pericope, this is not the only thing that can and does weigh us down.
He is basically saying, Anything that weighs you down. Anything that hinders you. Cast it off and be free from it and run the race!
Are there things in my life that hinder me from running the race God has ordained and set before me? Things which I may consider good and needful? Things I may even consider to be God’s blessing, but which have rooted themselves in my life and now weigh me down?
Maybe we need to downsize. Maybe we need less commitments. Maybe we need to back off the intensity. Maybe we do not have to do everything. Maybe we do not need everything our neighbors have. Maybe our kids do not need to participate in everything that comes along.
Maybe we have over committed ourselves to the point we can no longer focus on our true, eternal commitment: following Christ.
There are things we cannot lay aside. We cannot lay aside our family, our wife/husband and kids, this would not be God honoring. We cannot lay aside our commitment to our local church and our fellow believers. There are some non-negotiable things.
Maybe it is not God’s will for me to take the promotion at work. Just because I am offered a promotion (and some, without prayer and thought, assume this must be a blessing from God) does not mean it is what God has set before me. Instead, it may be a snare, a trap by the enemy. Will the promotion cause me to spend less quality time with my family? Will it cause me to be absent from church? Will it cause me to have to give up that Sunday school class I teach or the prayer meeting I host? Is it God’s will? Prayer and thought are necessary in such decisions.
Whatever it may be that hinders our running, with God’s help, lay it aside and run the race!
Three Things to be Gleaned:
1.) There are things that weigh us down. It is not a question of if there are things that weigh me down and hinder my running of the race; but rather, a question of what are my weights? What is the thing (or things) that are slowing me down? Whether they be good things or sin, they must be put aside for the higher calling of following Christ.
2.) I am to know what weighs me down. Knowing that there are things that weigh me down, generally speaking, is one thing; knowing what those things are, specifically, is another. Trust me, if you are unsure, God will help you with this! You may not like what he points out to you, but it will be the truth! Self-evaluation, aided by the Holy Spirit, is a necessary part of the Christian life. We are to be vigilant in checking up on our spiritual health. We cannot turn a blind eye to those things that are hindering us. With the power of Christ, we can lay them aside.
3.) I am to faithfully run the race. Yes, I know this point has been made on the last couple of posts. No, I am not becoming forgetful and needlessly repeating myself. Again, the main verb of the paragraph is let us run. So then, we should keep this ever before our mind’s eye. Everyday we should be reminded that we are running a race. Keep your eyes on the prize . . . but we will discuss that in another post!