I try to write very seldom about my favorite hobby, running, which I picked up when our baby, who Pooh Duke has dubbed “Carlnormous,” was still in the womb (This is Carlnormous). Running produces so many wonderful benefits, physically, psychologically, and mentally. Yet, as I have heard said, exercise is only about 20% of weight management. Therefore, until I have recently begun beefing up my “push back” exercises from the dinner table, I have been running at over 200 pounds for much of those 17 years. I am 15 pounds lighter than I was this time last month, and Strava does not lie. Today, I logged a 10K at a pace of 8:19/mile (Strava is cool), while listening to a mellow “Fleet Foxes And More” playlist from Amazon Music (Will Fleet Foxes reunite?)—not exactly heart-pumping exercise music. This time last month, I was about a full minute slower per mile. Since today I’m inevitably older than I’ve ever been, the difference has to be the fewer pounds I’m dragging around. Hopefully, I’ll drop more weight, and if I do I anticipate that my pace may quicken and I’ll feel even better doing it.
New Testament writers use the running analogy on several occasions, but consider what the writer of Hebrews says: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:1-3). The NASB says “encumbrance” (NKJV, “weight”), and the word means “that which serves to hinder or prevent someone from doing something—‘hindrance, impediment’ (Louw-Nida, 13.149). While the implication is “of an athlete stripping himself of clothing which would impede his performance” (Ellingworth, NIGTC, np), how much more does something like 15 pounds “impede”?
This passage encourages endurance with at least three ideas.
Laying Aside The Weight Is Meaningful. It helps one with endurance as it helps eliminate obstacles to a successful run. It shows up in a better quality of life. It impacts more than just the run you are on that day. The effects are enduring and they impact such vital areas as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. So it is spiritually. This is about defeating sin, staying faithful, endurance, and overcoming. In line with the thrust of the whole letter of Hebrews, it is about not falling away and leaving Christ! We do not want to hang on to anything that interferes with that eternal prospect.
Laying Aside The Weight Is Measurable. I can tell the difference in myself when I have or have not lost that extra weight. Certainly, the same is true spiritually. When something is weighing me down, distracting, depressing, deceiving, or drawing me away, I can tell. I can see it in my devotional life, it shows up in my speech, my attitude, my ethics, and countless similar ways. Other people can see it, too. I know that God sees every bit of it!
Laying Aside The Weight Is Motivational. By laying aside the encumbrances and entanglements, I feel better and improve my physical quality of life. The Hebrews’ writer tells us about a transcendent motivation which follows lightening our spiritual loads of sin problems. Removing the impediments, I am better able to fix my eyes on Jesus and His example while not growing weary or losing heart.
Past experience tells me that weight can be picked up even easier than it can be laid aside. This is an ongoing discipline. But it is so worthwhile! Oh, that I can remember that as I run the course of earth toward eternity.