I’ve participated in enough school track meets in my life to picture well the moment a runner prepares for an upcoming race. Off come the jackets and warm-ups. The runners aim to run light, laying aside every weight possible. Stripped of all but the essentials, they step up to the line.
Scripture compares the Christian life to running a race. We picture an athlete in a race, muscles taut, skin glistening, arms pumping and legs pounding with grueling effort. Whether or not we are athletes, we can relate to the illustration with its demanding exertion because it mirrors our life experiences.
Where Does the Bible Say, 'Lay Aside Every Weight'?
Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “lay aside every weight” and run the race set before us.
The race described in Hebrews 12 sets itself up after a list of Biblical characters in the previous chapter. Hebrews 11, often called the faith chapter, recounts events from people of faith like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, and Jacob, whose lives testify to us. They faced enormous obstacles, yet their trust in God remained strong. They say to us that we too can be victorious in our run.
The author of Hebrews calls on the image of competitors in ancient races who laid aside every weight of clothing. The competitors wore only a bare minimum, so added incumbrances didn’t defeat them. In the spiritual realm, unnecessary weights can compromise our endurance and outcome.
On the heels of those listed in Hebrews 11, who experienced suffering (and some even martyrdom), we are given some practical advice. If we want to run victorious as they did, we must also lay aside inhibiting loads and look to the finish.
What Weights Might Be Holding Us Down?
The ability of the runner correlates directly to any unnecessary weight he bears. Laying aside every heaviness is a vital component of an athlete’s endurance. Every believer running a spiritual life race must also streamline how they run. The passage directs, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” We need to take off every burdensome load as we pursue Christ.
What weights might hinder us in our race? The author of Hebrews distinguishes between “weight” and “sin” in the original Greek language. While sin violates God’s law (and without a doubt should not be a part of our run), weights might be considered impediments or hindrances. Lay both aside.
Sin undoubtedly drags us down. When there is unconfessed, un-dealt-with sin, our walk with Christ is hampered. Those things in the Bible that God has deemed as sin are incompatible with running the race. Rid yourselves of them.
How do we distinguish what we should not be carrying?
The Jews felt the weightiness of Levitical law, burdened by a litany of regulations. Legalism wore like a heavy cloak. A never-ending cycle of performance resulted in hypocrisy and insecurity. Trusting in Jesus for salvation rather than trying to earn it brought freedom. The believer in Christ joyfully lays aside the weight of trying to earn eternal life.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 6:23 that sin’s payment results in death, but eternal life is a gift of God through Jesus Christ. It is His doing, not ours.
What other weights might be hindering your race? Have you prayerfully analyzed your use of time? How often are you online? Does social media occupy too much of your life? Money and finances can become weighty. Dark and difficult days add emotional burdens. Physical or unhealthy habits might weigh us down. Addictions or some types of entertainment may need to be laid aside.
Sometimes even good things may hinder God’s best for us. Overinvolvement throws us off balance. Responsibilities may need paring down. Even the best causes need to be prayerfully considered before adding them. Placing cares at the feet of Jesus rather than carrying them on our shoulders helps us day by day to run well.
Laying aside every weight includes learning to bear only what Christ desires. Jesus assures us in Matthew 11:29-30 that His burden is light. He provides the rest we need to complete the race and the strength to sustain what we need.
How Do We Lay Aside Every Weight?
“It has been said that he has the most need of righteousness who least wants it. In other words, if you think, I am really doing well. I don’t really know that I need more righteousness, then you are in greater need than you realize.
The apostle Paul, after years of walking with the Lord, said, ‘I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me’ (Philippians 3:12).
A real mark of a spiritual person is they are always hungry and thirsty for more and more and more. But there are certain things that spoil our appetite. Sometimes we feed on spiritual junk food and diminish our spiritual appetites. They are not even bad things in and of themselves, but some things just take the edge off our appetite.
So periodically we need to ask ourselves a question: Is this thing I am engaged in—this relationship, this pursuit, this activity—making me more or less hungry for spiritual things? Does it draw me closer to God, or does it in some way keep me away from Him? Is it a wing or a weight in the race of life? Does it speed me on my way, or does it slow me down? Hebrews 12:1 tells us, ‘Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.’ If you are really hungry and thirsty for righteousness, you will find it. Because if you really want something, then you will put yourself in that place where you will get it.”
Taken from “The Mark of a Spiritual Person” by Harvest Ministries (used by permission).
How Does Jesus Call Us to Aside Every Weight?
Laying aside every weight has an end purpose. Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, beckons us forward (Hebrews 12:2). He wants us to look to Him at the finish line.
Sometimes we find ourselves squinting, unable to see, out of breath, and needing refreshment. The final victory seems far away and impossible to reach. Like the great list of faithful followers in Hebrews 11, we can also trust God in our race. We know Who waits at the finish. He compels us to run light, leave behind whatever weighs us down, and pursue Him with our every breath and step.
Tips and Prayers for Laying Aside Every Weight
1. Start with a heart of humility and confession. Take time to be quiet before the Father. Are there sins you are involved in which grieve the heart of God? Are there actions or behaviors you know are wrong? Ask Christ to open your eyes to sins you need to confess. You might begin with this prayer:
Father, I bring to you my sins, these things which grieve Your heart (name them). I confess them and ask you to please forgive me. Help me break this cycle. I don’t want these sins to trip me on my Christian race. Transform my heart and change my behavior for Your honor.
2. Ask Him to reveal weights you need not carry. Identify and name them. You might even try writing them down and reading them as you pray. Laying down involves trust. It means believing you don’t have to be in control of that weight because Jesus is capable of handling it better. You might pray something like this:
Dear Jesus, I bring these weights I carry and lay them into your capable hands. Forgive me for putting these burdens on myself when they belong to You. Help me not carry them anymore or pick them up again. You alone are Sovereign, and before you, I lay these things down. Give me discernment and grace to run this race.
3. Spend time in God’s Word. Consecrated daily time in the Bible brings awareness and wisdom. Layers of guidance, encouragement, and instruction come from pouring Scripture consistently into your life. This spiritual habit transforms how you run and gives impetus to keep going. You might go to Jesus this way:
Father, thank you for Your Word. I want to know how to run well in my spiritual life. I know this Book brings wisdom so I can run pleasing to You. Guide my steps. Open my eyes and help me understand what I read. Help me put it into my life and practice.
4. Keep your eyes on the goal. Jesus is our focus. When our eyes stray, we stumble. When we look elsewhere, we get off track. This prayer may encourage you to look toward Jesus:
Dear Jesus, help me keep my eyes on You today. If my attention wanders, please bring me back to focus on You alone. When I face difficulties, bring me back to You. If I get tired or discouraged, help me look to You for the strength and courage I need. Thank You for giving me this race to run. I am so glad You are waiting for me at the finish line.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Olga Strelnikova
Sylvia Schroeder loves connecting God’s Word with real life and writing about it. She is a contributing writer for a variety of magazines and online sites. Sylvia is co-author of a devotional book and her writing is included in several book compilations. Mom to four, grandma to 14, and wife to her one and only love, Sylvia enjoys writing about all of them.
Her love for pasta and all things Italian stems from years of ministry abroad. She’d love to tell you about it over a steaming cup of cappuccino. Connect with Sylvia on her blog, When the House is Quiet, her Facebook page, or Twitter.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
Listen to our Daily Bible Verse Podcast Now!
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.