One more illustration: in Hebrews 12:12-13 the writer says, “Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” He is talking in images here of their spiritual condition: weak hands, feeble knees, crooked paths.
Laying Aside Every Encumbrance
That’s the condition of the church. That is the background of Hebrews 12:1b, “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.” This command does not come out of the blue. This is the point of the whole book. Endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don’t drift, don’t neglect, don’t be sluggish, don’t take your eternal security for granted. Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection. And show your faith the way the saints of Hebrews 11 did – not by coasting through life, but by counting reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (11:26).
So the main point of this text is the one imperative: RUN! (12:1). Everything else supports this – explains it or gives motivation for it. Run the race set before you! Don’t stroll, don’t meander, don’t wander about aimlessly. Run as in a race with a finish line and with everything hanging on it.
To this end, verse 1 says, “lay aside every encumbrance, and sin which so easily entangles us.” I remember the effect this verse had on me as a boy when I heard someone explain that we must lay aside not only entangling sins, but “every encumbrance.” That is, every weight or obstacle. Things that in themselves may not be sins.
This was revolutionary. What it did (and I hope it does the same for you) was show me that the fight of faith – the race of the Christian life – is not fought well or run well by asking, “what’s wrong with this or that?” but by asking, “is it in the way of greater faith and greater love and greater purity and greater courage and greater humility and greater patience and greater self-control? Not ; Is it a sin? But: Does it help me run! Is it in the way?
As a boy I was mightily helped by having my very categories changed in the way I lived my life. I commend it to you young people especially. Don’t ask about your music, your movies, your parties, your habits: What’s wrong with it? Ask: Does it help me RUN the race!? Does it help me RUN – for Jesus?
Hebrews 12:1 is a command to look at your life, think hard about what you are doing, and get ruthless about what stays and what goes.