Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].
When Olympic marathon runners get ready for a race, they give plenty of attention to their gear. The race may be long, but often only a few seconds separate runners at the finish line. Because every ounce- and every portion of an ounce counts, the runners find every possible way to eliminate excess weight. In fact, it’s an obsession for them. Shorts and shirts are made of the thinnest, lightest material. Most of them don’t wear socks, and if they do, the socks are very lightweight. Their shoes, the heaviest item in their wardrobe, have gone through technological transformation so they are as light as can be. Nothing is going to slow down these runners.
The writer of Hebrews compared the Christian life to a long-distance race, and he told us to get rid of excess baggage and sin in our lives. Many of us carry around baggage of neglected areas that have become bloated or weak, such as how much money we spend, a lack of exercise, too little time with our families, or watching too much television. Our sins are areas of disobedience that weigh us down with guilt and fog our vision of God’s purpose in our lives.
What do we do about these things? First, we need to recognize the negative impact they have on us. Yes, we’re still running, but not as far or as fast as we could run without them. When we look to Jesus and are free from the weight of baggage and sin, we can run toward Him and His purpose for our lives even faster.
It is cynicism and fear that freezes life; it is faith that thaws it out, releases it, and sets it free.
Harry Emerson Fosdick
It’s easy to get weighted down with things. Somehow, little by little we collect things to carry around with us, often unaware that our load has increased. Disappointments, failures, hurts, and frustrations can gather like dust upon our hearts and because most of the time, by themselves, they seem so insignificant we can add them to the load without realizing they are in reality adding to our burden. Like the old proverb, “The straw that broke the camel’s back” we aren’t conscious of the weight until that last little ounce is too much. Ziglar describes the runners who make it their business to be conscious of even a fragment of unnecessary weight and the writer of Hebrews wants us to become conscious of the things that weigh us down. Most of us carry burdens that aren’t ours to bear. Sometimes we not only try to carry our own unnecessary weights but to also shoulder the loads of others. Whenever someone shares a need with us it’s easy to make it our responsibility to help them carry the load. We might even call it our responsibility to do so. Parents feel duty bound to carry their children’s burdens even after they’re grown. Leaders feel the responsibility to carry their teams and pastors feel the weight of every member of the congregation. We have forgotten the invitation of Christ who invites us to bring our burdens to Him and to yoke up with Him. He said that His burden was easy and His yoke was light. When the writer of Hebrews tells us to strip off every unnecessary weight, he’s not suggesting that we drop every responsibility and ease through life with no care. As we continue to read the passage, the writer tells us to look unto Jesus. There is the secret to being unburdened. Every burden and every care that come our way gives us the opportunity to bring it to the One who can not only carry it but also has the power to address it. Peter says it this way: “Casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you!” God hasn’t designed life to be one of constant struggle, trying to run the race dragging extra weight. Instead He invites us to stop by Calvary and unload our burden there.
Some of us still carry the guilt of our past not realizing that it’s not ours to carry. Every confessed sin has been removed from us and cast as far as the east from the west to be remembered against us no more. Regret can be a heavy weight, but the truth is, it can never change the past. It can however affect our future. When we live in regret, we find ourselves listening to the voice of the devil who convinces us that we can never be fully a forgiven, adopted child of God. Regret builds a wall between us and all the blessings and joys God has in store for us. It erodes our faith and builds up our doubts. It is like shackles around our ankles so even when we are in the race, our pace is limited. If you’re living in the prison of regret, let me offer you a weight reduction program. Begin by confessing to God the sins and failures of your past. Even if you’ve done so before, confess them now again to God. Confession breaks the power of the shame and reproach that leads to regret. Ask God to forgive you and to wash you with the precious blood of Jesus. If necessary and possible, ask the person(s) you wronged to forgive you. Make no excuses for your past actions. Make no justifications or rationale for why you acted the way you did. Acknowledge the wrongness, the sinfulness of those actions. Come clean with yourself and with God. Now that’s your part. You have given permission for the Holy Spirit to cut the shackles and to unload your burdens. 1 John 1:9 declares that when we confess our sins, He(Christ) is faithful to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That’s God’s part. We confess, He forgives. We come to Him, He cleanses us.
Scripture teaches us that through Christ we can be completely liberated from our sins and our past.
Jesus answered, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, everyone who practices sin habitually is a slave of sin. Now the slave does not remain in a household forever; the son [of the master] does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.
There’s the key to having our weights stripped off and our sins removed. When we bring it to Jesus, He doesn’t set us partially free, leaving us the regret or the responsibility; He makes unquestionably free.
Now these little things of life will repeatedly come and attach themselves to us. Anxieties, fears, doubts, wrong feelings and wrong actions will sneak into our backpack. So we then must constantly ask the Holy Spirit to detect and remove these little weights and the sins that work with them. David taught us to pray this daily effective prayer:
Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
To those reading this writing today and feel like there’s a mountain sitting on your shoulder I invite you to come to Jesus. For those who have become entangled in sin, maybe wondering how in the world you came to this place, I invite you to come to Jesus. For those whose past is holding with the grip of an octopus and the harder you try to let it go the tighter it seems to hold you, I invite you to come to Jesus.
I give you the words of a song that expresses it better than I could say it:
In the Presence of Jehovah,
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended
In the presence of the King!
Don’t keep going through life weary and worn and exhausted. Come to the One who offers living waters so that you will never thirst again.
Dr. John Thompson