Or, as the New Revised Standard Version has it (a bit more
accurately), "...let us...lay aside every weight and the sin that
clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that
is set before us." I like the way Eugene Peterson renders that
in his wonderful paraphrase, The Message:(1) "Do you see what this
means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans
cheering us on? It means we'd better get with it. Strip down,
start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat..."
This is the time of year when we hear a LOT about fat. The
annual January challenge. Get rid of those pounds you put on
over the holidays. On the internet the other day someone posted
a dieter's version of the 23rd Psalm:
Strict is my diet, I must not want;
It maketh me to lie down at night hungry,
It leadeth me past confectioners,
It trieth my willpower,
It leadeth me in the paths of starvation,
For my figure's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the aisles of the pastry department,
I will buy no sweet rolls, for they are fattening.
The cakes and the pies they tempt me.
Before me is set a table set with cottage cheese and fish.
I filleth my stomach with liquids.
My day's food quota runneth over.
Surely calories and weight charts will follow me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in fears of scales forever.(2)
A lady was approached by a beggar with hand out - "Madam, I
haven't eaten in six days."
"My goodness," she said, "I wish I had your willpower."
According to researchers the number one New Year's
Resolution this year AGAIN is..."I have GOT to lose some weight!"
Well, my friend, if you really want to lose it, you have
come to the right place. I may not know much about anything
else, but I know plenty about losing weight - I have been on
diets since I was twelve, for years weighed in at over 250
pounds, and, over time, have gained and lost about a ton. I KNOW
about losing weight, and I know how tough it is.
So what has this to do with our lesson? "Therefore, since
we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...those
exceptionally faithful folks like Noah and Abraham and Moses that
the author of Hebrews has just listed in chapter 11...", let us
throw off everything that hinders...every weight...and the sin
that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the
race marked out for us." Did you notice the link there, the
parallel? Scripture uses WEIGHT as a synonym for SIN. If our
lesson links "weight" and "sin," then perhaps as we put those New
Year's resolutions about taking care of our bodies into practice,
we can learn something about taking care our spiritual lives as
Think about it. If we want to lose weight, the first thing
to do is DECIDE TO DO IT. Nothing will happen until we set our
mind to it. It is the same with sin - the things we DO as well
as the things we do NOT do that we know we should. If there is
something in our life that we KNOW is not as God would have it,
the first thing we must do is DECIDE to get rid of it. The
theological word for it is repentance - repentance means more
than simply being sorry about something; it means being sorry
enough to change. Without that initial decision, nothing will
The next thing is to set a REACHABLE goal. Now, I emphasize
REACHABLE because if your goal is to lose fifty pounds in two
weeks, you will end up terribly discouraged unless you cut off
major body parts. You will finally quit all together. But if
you choose no goal at all, you will drift off into your old
eating habits and, after losing a few pounds, you will gain them
back again (and then some) and experience no lasting benefit.
It is the same in our spiritual life. If you are convinced
that you have not been communicating with God or letting God
communicate with you properly, that you have not been living as
God would have you live, and your goal to correct the situation
is to memorize the entire Bible in a year, you will most likely
be a crashing failure. But a REACHABLE goal might be to at least
READ the Bible through in a year. If your goal would be to spend
at least five hours a day on your knees in prayer after you have
not been spending five MINUTES up till now, that would be an
unrealistic goal. However, a REACHABLE goal would be to set
aside a certain prescribed amount of time each day (and
preferably at a FIXED time each day) to spend time in prayer.
All right, move on. If we want to lose a few excess pounds,
we know that we have to EAT PROPERLY. We cannot continue
scarfing up all the candy, cookies and cakes that were typical of
the holidays. We will have to limit our intake to things that
are nourishing and good for us and cut out the things that got
our clothes bursting at the seams in the first place. Common
sense. Not EASY, but common sense.
It is the same spiritually. If you want to improve your
spiritual condition, you will start FEEDING your spirit properly
by spending time in God's Word, by taking some of the time you
have been spending with people or things that not only may not be
profitable to you but, in some cases, are downright harmful, and
spending it on things that will HELP...serious Bible study,
participation in the fellowship of the church, and not just for
Sunday worship. You WILL be a part of Sunday School. You WILL
take part in opportunities for growth like our midweek Kirk Nite.
Then you will begin to get the spiritual nourishment you need to
get rid of those things in your life, those spiritual excess
pounds, that "sin which clings so closely."
There is another aspect to losing weight...exercise. I
confess, exercise has always been one of my most UNfavorite
things. It takes time; it takes energy; it is work. But, I have
found, surprisingly, that exercise begins to lose some of its
UNattractiveness when I do it REGULARLY. It only becomes a chore
when I exercise just in fits and starts, and when I try to do
more than my middle-age body is really capable of handling. It
becomes even more enjoyable when I start to see results...more
muscle tone, more strength, better body proportions.
Again, it is no different in the spiritual realm. Spiritual
exercise means regular times of Bible reading and prayer, regular
involvement in the life of the church, a regular program of
proportionate giving to God's work, a regular search for ways to
be of service to the Lord. Yes, it is work; yes, it takes
energy; yes, it takes time. But the more you do it, and the more
consistently you maintain the routine, and the more you see
yourself making real progress, the more fun it becomes.
One more thing about losing weight. For myself, if I got no
encouragement whatever to STAY ON my diet, I would soon give it
up. If I could not get on the scale in the morning and see a
positive result; if I could not begin fitting into clothes
better; if I could not look into a mirror and see a difference, I
would quit. Fortunately, that encouragement IS there and the
result is that I am able to keep on with the program.
In the spiritual realm, again, it is the same. You WILL
feel a difference from your prayer and Bible study, from your
increased faithfulness in being a part of the church, from more
faithful giving, from really making an effort to show Jesus
Christ in your life. You WILL feel closer to the Lord; you will
feel closer to your family and friends; you will begin to
understand more about what God would have you do; and people
around you will begin to notice. The encouragement, the help you
need, will be there. Remember the words: "...let us throw off
everything that hinders...the weight...and the sin that so easily
entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out
for us. LET US FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS, the author and
perfecter...the A to Z, the beginning and the end...of our
faith." You see, we have HELP with our spiritual diets...Jesus,
the friend who "sticks closer than a brother," the friend who
understands our daily battles, the friend who cares so much about
us that he even offers himself to nourish us.
In the comics Dagwood says to Blondie, "My New Year's
Resolution is to go on a diet. No more big meals! And no more
Blondie replies, "That's wonderful, Honey! This calls for a
To which Dagwood responds delightedly, "You bet! I'll whip
up a pizza and some meatball sandwiches!"(3) UHH!
Losing weight...it takes an initial decision to do it, a
reachable goal, proper diet, a disciplined program of exercise,
and some genuine encouragement. As we come to the Lord's table
this morning, we can celebrate the fact that the spiritual
"battle of the bulge" we fight to rid ourselves of the "sin that
so easily entangles" is already being won...because we have
help... because we have Jesus.
1. Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress Publishing, 1993, p. 477
2. John Sehring, via PresbyNet, "Eculaugh," #8520, 12/30/02 quoting C.T. Kuntzlemand &
D.V. Runyon, The No Diet Fitness Book
3. © King Features Syndicate
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