Friday, November 18, 2011

Weights

 “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 (KJV)

I love this verse.  I have heard it quoted and preached on countless times throughout the years.  But, I only recently understood one part of it that I had almost completely overlooked before.  Most of my pondering on this verse focused on laying aside sin in my life so I could run this Christian race unhindered.  And that IS a very important part of the message here.  But, what about the part just before it talks about sin?  It is important, too, but often overlooked…at least it had been by me until recently.

The word “weight” here comes from the Greek word “ogkos”.  It means “whatever is prominent, protuberant, bulk, or mass – hence a burden, weight, encumbrance.  Refers to weight and bulk that may be oppressive or a load that is heavy.”   The writer of Hebrews is instructing us to lay aside the things in our lives that we identify as oppressive and that are weighing us down and making us sluggish in our Christian walk.  Sometimes, it is very difficult to do.  Sometimes it takes us walking away, at the expense of being misunderstood.
The beginning of today’s verse talks about “wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…”  Witnesses.  People who have already seen God’s glory first-hand and are now enjoying the rest of the redeemed in Paradise.  They’ve already made it!  Many of them are mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  Many of them are people we have read about in other books.  Some of them are people you and I have known on a personal level who have lived faithful lives for God and died in the faith.  Since they ran a successful Christian race all the way to the finish line, the writer here is saying, there is hope for you and me to make it, too.

But, we are going to have to do what they did to get there.  They had their individual issues to deal with and overcome.  So do I.  So do you.  That is why in addition to being told we are to lay aside sin, we are also instructed to “lay aside every weight”.  I guess you could say that over the past several months of my life, I have been in the “laying aside weight” phase. 

During this time of God opening up this verse to me, I have been forced to really take a long, hard look at Cheryl.  Like I said before, I understood the “sin” part of this verse…I got that when I was real little and it was being repeated to me so often.  I knew right from wrong and I tried my utmost to follow all of the rules and be good.  But, the “weight” part?  I guess I had pretty much always skimmed right over that.  In order for us to “lay aside the weight”, we must first identify what it is.  What is dragging us down, unnecessarily, and impairing our progress?  God is taking me through a very difficult passage in order to pound this truth home to me in ways I can understand.  

I don’t like looking in mirrors!  I don’t like to even peek when passing a reflective glass while walking…I absolutely do not like what I see.  I don’t like the visible reminder that my physical frame is carrying around 60 pounds of excess weight that needs to be laid aside!  Mirrors are true.  They’re honest.  They’re accurate and precise, and they simply and sincerely reflect what is placed in front of them.  Whether I choose to look into a mirror or ignore it doesn’t change the fact that I look the way I do.  I don’t mysteriously become skinnier by avoiding mirrors.  The only thing I accomplish by not looking is to continue to stay in denial about the facts and pretend they aren’t happening.  Unfortunately, looking in the spiritual mirror is pretty painful, too.

In Revelation 3:18, Jesus was giving John instructions concerning the church at Laodicea.  They were a congregation who were blinded and in denial concerning their true spiritual condition.  At the end of verse 18, Jesus told John to tell them to “anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.”  Whew!  What if I don’t want to see?  What if I want to ignore the excess emotional and spiritual weights?  Do I really think if I don’t take an honest look and acknowledge them that they will all just roll off of me and go away? 

As hard as it is, I have begun to pray for God to give me spiritual eye salve to identify life-draining weights and problem areas.  Shouldn’t I go ahead and face them now?  I certainly don’t want to wait until the Judgment when I stand before God, and it will be too late to make adjustments.  

It has taken some pretty severe eye openers to make me see my excess spiritual baggage…weights, if you will…that I have been carrying around.  Oppressive, bulky burdens that I need to “shed”, let go of, and lay aside…for the sake of my own spirituality, my own family, and my own well-being.  Weights that God does not want, nor has He ever required, me to carry.  I remember during one period of soul-searching, I was very unsure of what to do concerning a “weight” that I knew God had shown me to lay aside.  I didn’t have a clue as to how to go about it.  It was a big decision, and one that would affect the future of all three of my family’s lives in a very profound way.  During that time of anguish and begging God to make it clear to us, God allowed some hurtful and very disturbing things to happen in our lives.  Two especially troubling things happened to Zachary, and as any parent can relate, that really got our attention.  God made it crystal clear that we had carried the “weight” for too long, that it was time to lay it aside, and He made it clear how to go about it.

II Peter 3:9 tells us that God is, “not willing that any should perish…”  He wants each of us to make Heaven our home.  He sees our hearts and lives, and He knows how hard we try.  He knows what is too heavy for us.  We tend to try to carry too much, and many times, it is at our own expense and to the detriment of our selves and our families.  The excess weights we carry do not only have an unhealthy effect on us, but they also adversely affect the ones who love us.  It took me seeing the damage our own child was suffering due to some of the weights we were carrying to give me the courage to lay them aside.

As I am letting go of the weights, one by one, I am feeling less and less under bondage and more and more free to run my Christian race.  It is definitely a work in progress, and I am not finished.  But, I am finding relief in releasing and letting go....a little at a time.  Spiritual weights that we carry are heavy, burdensome, oppressive, and they hinder us from running at top-speed and doing our very best for God.  They rob us of our joy and happiness in serving Jesus, and they cause us to bring reproach upon Him as the world sees the sad, miserable way we are representing Him.  Imagine our country's embarrassment if one of our Olympic runners entered a race with a backpack load full of bricks on his back! 

What about you, my friend?  Are you encumbered with unhealthy spiritual weights?  Are they dragging you down and impairing your spiritual progress?  Have you taken on too much?  Are your spouse, children, and/or other loved ones suffering and feeling your “weights”, too?  It is time to let go and lay them aside.  It is okay....believe me, it is necessary.

I have found through hard experience that God will not wrench the weights out of our hands.  He will not force us to turn them loose.  He will faithfully show us and give us the tools to identify things too heavy for us, and then we have to make the choice to lay them aside and let certain things go.  It is not easy, I’ll warn you.  There will be those who will never understand why you had to do what you did.  Just turn a deaf ear and follow Jesus….in Him you will find sweet relief.

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