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 (King James Version)
When the verse Hebrews 12:1 is ‘preached,’ most often the emphasis is about laying aside the sin. My emphasis in this brief thought has to do with laying aside the weights.
We all have weights that hold us back. By weights, I mean mindsets that were often planted in our psyches when we were very young. You may have been told by a coach that you just cannot hit a fastball. And, lo and behold, you cannot. A teacher, by spoken words or unspoken behavior, may have communicated that you are not college material or not capable of being creative or original. Even your parents may have sent the message that you are not as smart or capable as your overachieving eldest sibling, and, consequently, you have a feeling of inferiority or looming sense of dread or doom as you attempt new things. The list of possible ‘weights’ that we all carry is endless. And the sad truth is that these weights often determine outcomes.
As a statistics instructor, I have been told by countless students that ‘I just cannot do math.’ These students go into a difficult class already defeated and, true to their words, they struggle. One way I address this very real problem is with this devotional on Hebrews 12:1. I point out that the vague feeling of dread they feel is a weight holding them back. I tell them to identify it and set it aside and that such weights are not necessarily the truth about ourselves. More importantly, these weights are among the many things from which God wants to deliver us.
The very first time I shared this devotional, a man in his 30s, literally with tears in his eyes, told of an instance in junior high where a teacher refused to believe that a poem he had written was his work alone. Ever since that moment, he dreaded any classroom situation that could result in such embarrassment and humiliation. He refused to put himself ‘out there’ again. I think the fact that he recognized the situation as a weight he had been carrying for over 25 years was the first step in the process of laying it aside.
In a recent blog post titled “It’s Time for You to Lay Aside Every Weight,” Rex Renner (2016) more fully explains what laying aside means:
The words “lay aside” are taken from the Greek word apotithimi, a compound of the words apo and tithimi. ….the word apo means away and the word tithimi means to place or to lay something down. When these two words are compounded together, it gives a picture of someone who is laying something down while at the same time he is pushing it far away from himself. It means to lay something down and to push it far away and beyond reach. Thus, this word implies a deliberate decision to make a permanent change of attitude and behavior.[i]
What is Weighing You Down?
Note that weights are not the same as sin, though both are listed in the Hebrews 12:1 verse. We are to continually self-reflect and pray for forgiveness for any sin that besets us, even asking God to show us our unknown sins, as David did (Psalm 19). But we are also “to run the good race” by laying aside all that hinders us—those things that unnecessarily weigh us down.
Each of us knows 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 bad 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.[ii]
Decide this day to lay down all that is an unnecessary, burdensome weight—and push it away, beyond your reach. “For freedom, Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1, English Standard Version), and “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
[i] Renner, R. (2016, February 24). It’s time for you to lay aside every weight. [Web log post]. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.renner.org/attitude/its-time-for-you-to-lay-aside-every-unnecessary-weig/
[ii] Brayley, E. (2008, January 1). Lay aside every weight. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.timothyministry.com/2008/01/lay-aside-every-weight.html