What to Lay Aside for Endurance
“let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely” Hebrews 12.1
-The race is a metaphor for the life of faith
-True faith is enduring faith
-Endurance means to stand under the burden
-Middle voice. To put off from one’s self. Our choice
1) Extra weights. Athletes trained to keep weight in check and competed naked. Our weights can be cultural, temperamental, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Such as past failures, unconfessed sin, unwilling to forgive others, wasting time, materialism, fear of man…
2) Sin which skillfully surrounds us. Causes us to drift Hebrews 2.1. Appeal to our senses, appetites and minds.
-By looking at past examples of endurance in the past
-By looking to your reward in the future
-By putting away weights and clinging sins
-By determining to endure at any cost
-By looking to Jesus for power
What are the weights and sins in your life that keep you from endurance in the race of faith? Ask God.
What to Lay Aside for Endurance Hebrews 12.1-4
We have been thinking together about our theme verse, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus”. The author uses the metaphor of running a race to express our daily life of faith and says that it is through endurance that we are to live by faith each day. True faith is enduring faith because it continues to believe God, obey God and stand on God’s side to the end, no matter what the personal cost.
We learned last week that endurance means to stand under the burden of trials, persecution, troubles, resistance, while continuing to obey God and do His will.
Then we saw the author encourage these Jewish converts to continue on in their faith in Christ by giving them two examples – the example of faithful enduring saints of the past, and the example of Jesus going to the cross.
The endurance of these Jewish converts and our own endurance is part of a larger picture of God’s plan for the Church. Each one of us is to run our part of the race. Others will follow until God’s plan is complete. We are to endure even as Jesus endured, not enjoying the endurance, but looking ahead to receiving the great promises of God, “the joy set before him”.
Finally we realized that God calls us to much endurance, endurance we may not feel we can bear, and yet God will give us the will and strength we need in every circumstance. The very act of calling out to God for help to endure is endurance in action.
There are certain things that prevent endurance in running the race. We are commanded to put certain things aside so that we do not fail in our endurance and fail to finish the race. The author points out two of those hindrances to endurance in running the race of faith. He says we are to lay aside these hindrances. In the NT the verb to “lay aside” is found only in the middle voice and means to put off from one’s self. It is an action we do to ourselves, not something God does to us, or others do to us, but what we do to ourselves in order to run the race without hindrance and with endurance.
The author mentions two hindrances that will hold back endurance.
1) First he mentions extra weight. The word used here means bulk, mass, a burden, weight or encumbrance. The athlete is to put aside anything that might keep him from running the race with full effectiveness.
The athlete trained for many months and ate to keep his weight and strength at the best possible level. I saw an interview with Michael Phelps the Olympic swimmer and they asked him about a rumor that he ate 12,000 calories a day during training. He said that was not true and that he ate what he needed to keep his body at prime weight for swimming.
The athletes also competed naked. Not even the weight of clothing was to get in the way of running the race with endurance. Today the clothing of athletes is designed to minimize air resistance and weight to give the greatest benefit in their competition.
For the Christian the weights that prevent us from endurance in the life of faith are not physical. They can be cultural, temperamental, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Endurance can be hindered by past failures, depression, unconfessed sin, unwillingness to forgive, materialism, and just plain busyness. We may fail to endure because we are not feeding our spirits and mind on the Word of God each day and are getting spiritually lazy and sluggish, without vision and motivation and hunger for God. Part of endurance is the daily maintenance of putting aside those things which hinder us from endurance in daily faith.
If your past failures are weighing you down in the race then deal with those past failures by putting them behind you where they belong. Deal with the past, then forget about it and move forward. Paul writes in Philippians 3.13, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”. Put the past behind you where it belongs and stop letting the past be a weight in the present that prevents you from fully living the life of faith.
If you have sins you have never confessed then confess them to God and to the appropriate person if needed and move on. If you are refusing to forgive someone you are certain to get tripped up in your faith. When I was a young Christian I was taken through an exercise for which now over 30 years later I am still grateful. I was told to take time alone before God and to write down every sin I could remember and the people I had sinned against. Then I was to confess each sin to God and ask God to forgive me for each sin. Then I was to write to each person and ask for their forgiveness, or talk to them face to face, and confess my sin and ask for their forgiveness and make restitution if needed. One of the things I had to do was go to Canada Customs and report that I had smuggled a suede coat into Canada. I paid the customs duty on the coat and left with a clear conscience. What this exercise did was remove any handle where the Devil could take a hold of me and keep me from running the race before me. The Devil could accuse me of nothing for I was fully forgiven and reconciled both to God and to man. No sin was hidden from God or man. I could walk by faith in the light.
If your life is too busy for God to have any place in your daily life then get less busy. Some of you are spending hours and hours each day wasting your life on TV, video games, and social media, and then you wonder why your life is so empty and fruitless. You are carrying much too much weight to run the race that God has set before you. God wants you to be focused on Him and to run His race. We do some things that society tells us must be done but they have little to do with running the race that God has set before us.
Ask God what the weights are in your life and then get rid of them so that through endurance you can live the life of faith and fulfill the purpose God has for your life.
2) The second thing we are to lay aside is the sin which clings so closely. The word translated as “clings so closely”, “so easily entangles”, “so easily besets us”, means to skillfully surround. What immediately comes to mind is the thorns in parable of the sower and the seed. “And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mark 4.18-19). Sin is allowed to grow and it skillfully surrounds the heart of the Christian and chokes out a passion for God and a determination to live all out for God. The result is no fruit of Christian character and no lives changed by God working through us.
The problem for most of us is not gross sins but those small sins we allow into our lives through neglect and preoccupation. The author or Hebrews warns us, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (2.1). The problem is allowing ourselves to daily drift on the current of worldliness by following after the flesh which constantly calls us to follow the lusts and lies of the world. We are to consciously and deliberately put off the sins which we so easily fall into.
Each one of us has particular sins which we are prone to fall into. We should be aware of those sins and what draws us into those sins and what we need to do daily so that these sins do not skillfully surround our hearts and choke out the life of God in us.
Some of the sins that so skillfully surround us appeal to our sensual appetites. Those appetites must come under the control of the Holy Spirit. This requires discipline, setting boundaries, fasting, an accountability partner, and seeking God daily.
Some of the sins that so skillfully surround us appeal to our minds. Paul commands us to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We renew our minds with the truths of the Word of God and by taking hold of wandering thoughts. Again this requires discipline and daily seeking God.
Some of us are just plain lazy. We want what we desire by the easy route and are willing to compromise to get it. Enduring faith is hard work. The shortcut that promises fruitful life at little cost usually bogs us down in the muddy field of sin.
Let me remind you again of how Hebrews 12.1-2 is arranged. The sentence begins by pointing us back to past examples of endurance and encouraging us to the move forward in enduring faith. Then the sentence commands us to put away from ourself what weighs us down and the sin the skillfully entangles us. Then having looked at past examples of endurance and having stripped ourselves of all hindrances, we are through endurance to run the course that God has set before us, looking to Jesus who is both an example of endurance and the power at work in our life.
The point is that we are to make every effort to move forward to be and to do what God has purposed for us in Christ. We are to have true faith. True faith puts off what hinders, and endures trials, circumstances, and obstacles. Through these verses in Hebrews 12, and by this message this morning, God is calling each one of us who belong to Him to put aside excuses and sin for enduring faith in the race that He has set before us.
Have you determined in your heart to put aside what is hindering your endurance, your determination, to run the race of faith? May we become more and more a people with one passion, to lift up Jesus Christ, and with one authority, God and His Word.
Next week I want to look at the race that God has set before each of us.