What to do When Your Faith is Hindered by Sin

In sports like running, cycling, and swimming, every ounce matters.

In the original Greek marathons thousands of years ago, runners trained with leg weights and then removed them on race day. Many of them even ran in the nude or very little clothing to reduce unnecessary weight during the long run. (Thankfully that’s not a thing anymore.)

These days, when marathon runners pick out their shoes, they’re counting not in pounds but in ounces. While most running shoes weigh 10 to 12 ounces, some as light at five ounces.1

Similarly, road bikes are counted in grams, an even smaller margin: Carbon road bike frames are advertised to racers as weighing about 200-300 grams less than aluminum frame bikes. (That’s a difference of half a pound.) And while swimmers don’t worry as much about weight, their “speed suits” are designed to minimize drag while cutting through the water.

This is the clear message: If you’re racing to win, you don’t want anything weighing you down and holding you back.

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Throw Off the Weight

After the famous Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame that we looked at last week, the author begins Hebrews 12 by calling us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” But even before he does that, notice what he writes:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. —Hebrews 12:1-2

As we prepare to run the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, we must first “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Let’s look at each of these phrases in detail.

Throw Off

To throw off something is to identify the source of weight or drag that is slowing you down or holding you back, and to take initiative to take it off, cut it away, or replace it with something lighter.

As Kyle Idleman writes in Don’t Give Up:

“And yes, ‘throwing off’ implies something is on you. You can only know that something’s on you if you feel it, experience it, or see its effects. The challenge is to identify these things in your life that are weighing you down, and take action so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

What to do When Your Faith is Hindered by Sin

Everything That Hinders

What are we to throw off? First, “everything that hinders”: Be specific in what weights or sources of drag need to be eliminated. What unnecessary weights might be holding you down?

Even a small weight or a bit of extra drag will have a significant negative impact on your long run of faith.

Here are some examples to consider:

  • Anxiousness: “Everything will go wrong”
  • Unhealthy relationships: “No one really cares about me”
  • Fear of rejection: “Everyone will hate me”
  • Guilt over past mistakes: “I always do this”
  • Misplaced shame: “There’s something wrong with me”

Sin That Tangles

Of course, not all the things described above are sins. We might rightly feel angry when someone or something we love is hurt, and we might feel anxious or worried about a situation that may cause us harm. When another consistently mistreats us, it may be wise to “throw off” the relationship.

But much of what hinders us is rooted in the sin of pride. This pride can be displayed in many ways:

  • Anger: “If everyone would just listen to me.”
  • Lust: “I should get whatever I want.”
  • Greed: “I should be able to have it all.”
  • Self-sufficiency: “I should be able to do it all.”
  • Envy: “They don’t deserve that—I do.”

The author of Hebrews is wisely instructing us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us. Why? He wants to encourage us—to put “courage in” us.

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Kyle summarizes this well:

“Sometimes we think we need comfort, when what we really need is courage. This is what we’ve learned so far. Sometimes what we want is sympathy, when what we’re really missing is strength. Sometimes we want someone to feel sorry for us when what we really need is someone to challenge us.”

This life is not a casual weekend race; this is a serious run for your life. Identify the weights slowing you down! Throw off the drag that holds you back! Don’t give up!

Transfer the Weight

In a similar passage, the apostle Peter gives us an important image. In 1 Peter 5:7, he writes: “Cast all your anxiety on [God], for he cares for you.”

This is a precious invitation. The verb “cast” here is not implying a release—simply casting away a fishing line. Instead, Peter is telling us to transfer a weight—such as transferring the weight of a fishing lure out into the sea. Consider how this changes the reading:

Transfer all your anxiety onto God—because he cares for you!

As Kyle summarizes: “Let God carry the weight that has been holding you back and keeping you down… So, what are you holding onto that you need to transfer over to God?”

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What Is Weighing You Down?

We are in an endurance race of faith. Author Eugene Peterson called it a “long obedience in the same direction.” It is not a sprint.

What is holding you back? What is weighing you down? What does it look like for you to “throw off everything that hinders”?

What heavy burdens can you transfer onto God? He is strong enough to carry it, and he cares for you—so we know he longs to set us free.

Run your race. Don’t give up!2

1 “These lightweight running shoes are the next best thing to running on air.” Oct 3, 2018, Runner’s World.
2 Adapted from Days 15 and 16 in the Don’t Give Up Study Journal.

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