There is no question that we are being urged to get healthier from every direction. From TV, magazine, and email ads, to billboards and government recommendations, we are being urged to look at exercise and eating habits. Research is continually putting out new studies about fats, carbs, and proteins. If you read very much of this sort of thing, you also discover research results are changing.
I remember when eggs were taboo, but now they have been welcomed back into our diets (especially if they are cage free). Non-fat was the absolute goal in everything that entered our mouths, but now research is showing us the fallacy of that. Our bodies actually need healthy good fats to function well. Our brains are nearly all fat and if we starve it of “good fats,” we are less healthy.
There is a great deal to keep up with regarding health and weight loss. Some programs seem to work for some people for a time, but once they stray everything slides to worse than before the program started. Some programs seem to work for no one.
Then there are the issues of how each decade adds new challenges. We keep trying to hold back the tsunami effects of hormonal changes and each new decade, but keep losing the battle many times. Few of us will have bodies that look or function like they did when we were 20 or 30 when we reach 60, 70, and beyond.
I wonder if we are as concerned about the other weight we carry.
The writer of Hebrews 12:1 talks about laying aside another kind of weight, doesn’t he?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
The Passion Translation of Hebrews 12:1 reads like this:
“As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.”
Clearly, the writer has chosen the metaphor of a race and there is always a great deal of physical training and exercise and diet regimens when a big race is ahead. But the writer uses that to talk about another kind of race and another issue of “weight control” that can hinder us in that race.
The race the writer of Hebrews speaks of and that Paul often refers to is the race we run in our spiritual lives. He makes note that too much weight there can bog us down as well, but I don’t think I hear many of us talking about a weight program to deal with that kind of weight.
What would a weight loss program look like for the spiritual race?
Matthew Henry identifies two parts of the program in his commentary on this verse. He clarifies what the “weight” is that we are to deal with as “all inordinate affection and concern for the body, and the present life and world. Inordinate care for the present life, or fondness for it, is a dead weight upon the soul, that pulls it down when it should ascend upwards, and pulls it back when it should press forward; it makes duty and difficulties harder and heavier than they would be.”
That spells it out very specifically for us. These are things that do challenge us on a daily basis in our personal, work, social, and cultural life. Every one of these areas push to keep us focused on the seen world and that world is pretty messy, depressing, and scary. If our focus remains there, we can lose hope.
Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV) speak directly to this challenge:
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The “seen” world shouts for and seduces us for attention.
When our focus is shifted there, we can become angry, anxious, and ambivalent. We can have difficulty sleeping and our eating habits change as a result of those stirred emotions.
The second part of the weight loss program we need to address from Hebrews 12:1 is “the sin that clings closely.” What sin is that? It’s the one that has the greatest advantage over us based on our lived experience, the circumstances we are in, our overall constitution, and the company we keep.
Sometimes that sin is one we can quickly name, but sometimes we don’t want to name it because if we’re honest we aren’t sure we want to give it up. It has become a habit that in some way gives us back something we like, want, or think we need.
Yet it is in this area that we add to the weight noted in the first part of the weight loss program Mathew Henry identified. We now add the weight of guilt from unconfessed sin as well as shame that causes us to hide when we most need to be vulnerable with God and other safe people in our lives.
There is no doubt we should take our physical health and well being seriously by stewarding our bodies well. But if we neglect this more serious “weight loss program” related to our spiritual life, the consequences will last beyond this life.
The Word offers healthy “essential” building blocks for the “spiritual weight loss program.” Here are just a few:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12: 2 (ESV)
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 (NIV)
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
How is your spiritual weight loss program going?