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 endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Jesus has called you to run a race. It’s a faith race. It’s long-distance and multi-terrain.
And you’ve been trying to run but you’re wondering why it’s so hard. Why do you get winded so quickly? Why are others running at a faster pace? What’s wrong?
Could it be that you’re not taking this race seriously enough? You can tell by how much extra weight you’re trying to run with.
“Jesus has called you to run a race. It’s a faith race. It’s long-distance and multi-terrain.”
An endurance race is hard enough when you’re running light. But it’s far harder, and often impossible, if you’re trying to run while lugging around extra stuff. Competitive long-distance runners lay aside everything except what’s absolutely necessary.
That’s what you need to do too. Because the stakes of winning or losing this race are far higher than an Olympic marathon.
Winning your race is going to require intentionality, focus, and training. That’s why Paul wrote,
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly . . . [but] I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Run so that you may obtain the prize. To do this you must carefully examine what you’re wearing and carrying. The weights and sins the author of Hebrews is talking about in Hebrews 12:1 are wrong beliefs. The whole book’s exhortation could be summed up in Hebrews 2:1:
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
Pay close attention to what you’re believing. Wrong beliefs weigh down your heart, entangle your feet, distract your attention, and deplete your energy. They will take you out of the race. You must identify what your weights are and resolve to do whatever it takes to lay them aside.
You can’t run aimlessly. Though all Christians share similarities in their races, the Lord gives each of us a unique race to run. And not everyone’s weights are the same. Remember, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). And God has assigned to each of us the measure of faith we need for our respective races (Romans 12:3). What may be a weight for you may not be a weight for someone else. So be careful comparing.
You’re responsible for your race. “Understand what the will of the Lord is” for your race (Ephesians 5:17), be content with the race you’ve been given (Hebrews 13:5), and focus hard on how to win it.
Serious runners discipline their bodies. They “[train] by constant practice” to discern how best to run their races (Hebrews 5:14). Laying aside weights and sins isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a skill acquired through constant practice. So don’t be discouraged that you haven’t mastered your race yet. Don’t give up. Keep at it. Do it again. And again. And again.
“Laying aside weights and sins isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a skill acquired through constant practice.”
And even the most skilled runners need coaching. We aren’t always the best judge at identifying our weights and sins. God will provide you with coaches if you ask (usually they’re already there in your church). And in the weeks to come we’ll examine in this blog column some common weights and sins and how to lay them aside.
There comes a point when you realize that you’re not going to win the race you’re in if you don’t drop the weights. Be intentional, hone your focus, and get some training. Lay aside every weight (again) today.
This meditation is included in the book Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith.
Trusting Jesus is hard. It requires following the unseen into an unknown, and believing Jesus’s words over and against the threats we see or the fears we feel. Through the imaginative retelling of 35 Bible stories, Not by Sight gives us glimpses of what it means to walk by faith, counsel for how to trust God’s promises more than our perceptions, and the way to find rest in the faithfulness of God.