Have you ever wondered what “lay aside every weight and sin” means and how it is relevant to your Christian life and health goals?
It’s an important principle to practice. After all, why make life harder than it has to be? Life is hard enough!
When I ponder Hebrews 12:1-2, a scene from one of my favorite movies comes to mind.
In “The Princess Bride” from the 1980s, a criminal named Vizzini kidnaps a princess with help from a gentle giant and a Spanish swordsman.
At one point, the giant has to climb a rope up a cliff with the princess, the swordsman, and Vizzini clinging to him.
Vizzini, the boss, yells at the giant to hurry up because another man is climbing up the rope behind them – and gaining.
But the frustrated giant replies, “Well, I’m carrying three people, and he’s only got himself!”
Many Christians make life harder through carrying the weight of anxiety, worry, distractions or secret sin.
In this article, learn how the principles of Hebrews 12:1-2 can help us remove these weights so that we can finish our race well in the Lord.
Our Marathon of Faith
First, let’s take a look at Hebrews 12:1-2 in the New King James Version:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”– Hebrews 12:1-2
The God’s Word Translation paraphrase makes verse 1 even clearer:
These scriptures give us a clear perspective on how to view our Christian lives: We are running a faith-empowered race on a daily basis – not a sprint, but a marathon.
Marathons require endurance; every race has a finish line!
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the apostle Paul compares believers in Jesus to athletes. He tells us the importance of keeping the finish line in mind each day, remembering what is at stake, as well as the prize that awaits us:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
We are exhorted to run our race to win, not only for our own sake but for those with whom we can share our faith in Jesus!
Hebrews 12 gives us key principles to implement to help us win:
- Remember our Faithful Forerunners
- Put Off Weight and Sin
- Look to Jesus to Finish Well
Remember our Faithful Forerunners
Hebrews 12:1 makes it plain that we are part of an honorable line of Godly heroes who ran before us and finished well.
These witnesses were willing to leave behind their comfort zone because they believed God’s promise of a better future for His people.
The faithful forerunners have passed the baton to us and now is our time to run our leg of the race!
We must believe that our destination is better than the old life we have left behind.
The writer says of these faith examples in Hebrews 11 (New King James Version):
“And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (verses 15-16).”
Do you have a “heavenly country” to which you want to go? Can you picture it in your mind?
Let’s relate this to a natural example. Many people are striving to lose physical weight only to see a number on the scale. But numbers do not move you for long!
Mental pictures stir you up. Get a piece of paper and write down your vision of what a day looks like with you healthy, healed, and whole. Can you see it?
If not, ask the Lord in prayer to give you a new vision.
Include so much detail that this picture of your “heavenly country” is at least as real to you as your current circumstances.
Many people give vague descriptions, like “I’ll feel better” or “I’ll look better.” But I want you to walk me through a day of you living as a fit and healthy person:
- What you will be doing from the time you wake up until you go to bed at night?
- What would your health habits look like then?
Write about the entire day as if it is happening now – not sometime in the future. Use “I am” type statements versus “I will be.” The words “I am” together are powerful!
Does this natural vision inspire you to obtain something better and move closer to it each day?
You need powerful inspiration to stay engaged in your Spiritual marathon also and keep your eyes on the prize.
Put Off Weight and Sin
I mentioned earlier that the weight of distractions or sin can cause us to fall away from our God-given purpose if we do not pay consistent and careful attention to these matters because:
- Worldly cares choke us
- Sin hardens us
The Bible gives us clear reasons as to why the weight of worldly cares or indulging in sin can be so detrimental in our goal to finish our race well in the Lord.
Worldly Cares Choke Us
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus compares the word of God to a seed; whether it flourishes depends on the soil quality on which it falls:
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.
Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.
But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”– Matthew 13:3-9
Here is how Jesus explained the meaning of the seed that fell among thorns:
Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”– Matthew 13:22
This tells me that we must be diligent to follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7 as believers:
having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you (New American Standard version).”
Interestingly enough, the Greek origin of the word “anxiety” means, “to choke.”
Be careful that the news you are “feeding” yourself daily, externally and internally through your self-talk, is primarily good news.
Bad news is the default of this world, so it takes effort to bring yourself good news!
Believers are meant to flourish in the fruit of God’s Spirit to glorify Him (see John 15:8 and Galatians 5:22-23).
We flourish in good fruit as we stay connected to Him.
Flourishing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will not only help us finish our race well but bless others the Lord has placed within our sphere of influence.
Sin Hardens Us
We have a new identity in Jesus Christ:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,”– 2 Corinthians 5:17
God changes us by His Holy Spirit. He gives us His word as our wisdom and His Spirit comes to dwell within us for power to do what His word tells us to do:
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”– John 16:13
The Holy Spirit’s role is to lead us in paths of righteousness for the Lord’s sake. He moves on our hearts for a desire to obey God’s word and brings the Word to our minds as confirmation.
However, we have a choice about whether to follow the Holy Spirit or follow our flesh, such as through sexual immorality or gluttony.
To resist the Holy Spirit, the person hardens their heart against His leading.
As the heart grows harder through repeated resistance, then the person goes astray in their hearts.
Their understanding becomes darkened in wrong beliefs, which devolves into rebellion against God: “You can’t tell me what to do!”
Hebrews 3:12-14 warns us about the danger:
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
The only thing powerful enough to soften the heart is the blood of Jesus. Having a teachable spirit, repenting of sin, and accepting the grace Jesus freely offers will enable us to overcome sin in our lives.
This is what the Lord says about the new person we have become in Him:
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”– Ephesians 4:17-24
Living in this manner is not a “one and done;” it is a daily decision we make to set our hearts and minds on following the Lord. The default of this world is following the flesh.
Whatever we choose, it will have eternal consequences!
Look to Jesus to Finish Well
Henry Ford, the automobile inventor, once said: “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are right.”
If we look to ourselves for strength to finish our race well, we are doomed from the start; however, if we look to Jesus, we will have everything we need to finish well.
He endured because He had a vision of the joy that would come from seeing sinners restored to a relationship with the Father.
When we accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we exchanged our weakness for His strength, our sin for His righteousness.
In natural man’s eyes, dying on a cross was a shameful thing. However, Jesus thought little of the shame but sacrificed Himself willingly because paying our sin debt was the only way to justify us before the Father.
The Father’s desire was for Jesus to be the firstborn of many brethren. We are now accepted in the Beloved!
Jesus did not promise that the journey would be easy; in fact, just the opposite! He said:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”– Matthew 7:13-14
Because we have a relationship with Jesus, who is the way, truth, and life, we have the opportunity to draw closer to our dear Savior each day on our life’s marathon – and experience freedom in Him!
John 8 36 says:
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Our journey is meant to sanctify us, growing us in Christ-like character each day so that we can reflect His glory to others.
Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. We can hold fast to the reward waiting on us at the finish line of our race.
Consider Jesus’ words of approval spoken in the Parable of the Talents:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”– Matthew 25:23
Imagine meeting our Savior and entering into His joy. I’m sure you agree that His reward makes all the challenges we must overcome in the race worth it!
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”– Hebrews 11:5