"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us 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." - Hebrews 12:1
The verse before us, Hebrews 12:1, gives the Christian a very practical application for winning the spiritual race that is "set before us", the race of faith which occupies every aspect of our lives. We often have a tendency to overlook key portions of Scripture to our great loss, and in this familiar verse the focus of our attention usually centers upon "the sin that so easily besets us", yet I'm afraid that such a focus has actually "beset" us from the deeper and more practical application of this passage.
Notice the division the Spirit makes between "weight" and "sin": "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us". Without carefully reading, these two are often blurred together as one, but it should not be so. The Bible is speaking of two very different hindrances that bog us down and prevent us from running in such a way "that ye may obtain." (1 Corinthians 9:24) Most of us are well aware of the meaning of sin and its frustrations, but are we just as aware of this other besetter indicated here by the inspired apostle?
WHAT IS A WEIGHT?
A weight is anything and everything that slows us down from our prescribed run. The expression "every weight" tells us that weights are manifold; there can be many, and they can be diverse.
A weight is not sin. There are many things we do as Christians that hinder our run even though those things in and of themselves are not wrong. The apostle Paul put it this way: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." (1 Corinthians 10:23) There are no rules about how you must dress when participating in a race, but simply because it is lawful for you to wear what you will, that certainly does not advocate donning a heavy coat and cumbersome footwear! Such choices, while legal, do nothing but oppress the runner from running to win.
Each of us know the things in our lives that are weighing us down from the race God has called us to. Perhaps you are wearing the heavy coat of an unhealthy friendship, or the burdensome shoes of idle entertainment. Perhaps it is your overzealous work ethic, or your all-too-undisciplined bed habits. Such things drain our physical, mental and spiritual energy. These things, while not sin themselves, keep us from fulfilling the will of God in our lives, and may become gateways that lead us into sin.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LAYING ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses..." Let us learn a lesson from the lives of past saints. For every man or woman who fought the good fight of faith, finishing the race with glory and honor, not one can be found who did not live a life of discipline and devotion to the God who had called them. The late John Bunyan, who himself exemplified this kind of a life, wrote, "Surely Abraham, David, Paul and the rest of the saints of God lost all for this glorious kingdom." We are surrounded by witnesses who laid aside every weight to win that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Let us too, with them, so run, that we may obtain!
It may be that if we do not obey this command of Scripture to "lay aside every weight", who knows that we may become so burdened and stumble under its heavy load? It is not inconsequential that the Spirit makes mention first of the "weights" before the "sins". Sin does not "so easily beset us" when we are free from the weights that restrict our maneuverability. We must, as David, remove the impediments of restrictive armor before heading out to face Goliath, otherwise we will indeed be quick prey. Oh, for a company of liberated able-bodied Christians!
"And let us run with patience the race that is set before us." The word "patience" tells us that the race itself will be a long and difficult one, requiring the full dedication of every faculty by the runner. Only those runners who, from the very beginning, are resolved to run the race with perseverance will actually cross the finish line. Unlike the foolish builder who starts building his tower without sufficient resources, or a foolish general who goes to war without considering his force of arms, these runners have counted the cost and know what it will take to achieve victory. It will require the laying aside of all those weights that would spoil their race and take their crown.
LOOKING UNTO JESUS
When Jesus faced the lonely cross, He had emptied Himself of every weight that might have kept Him from obeying His Father's will. The life of our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect example of one who ran the race and won, and He is our forerunner. "Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus." (Hebrews 6:20) This new year, think about some of the 'weights' in your life that you need to lay aside, obey the Father, and run for the prize.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run." (1 Corinthians 9:24-26)