Running the Race
3. The third point to be considered is the apostle's advice, to "lay aside every weight." By this he means that we must give up everything which is really hurtful to our souls. We must act like men who throw off all their long and flowing garments, as an encumbrance, when about to try their speed in running. We must cast away everything which hinders us upon our road towards heaven - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; the love of riches, pleasures, and honors, the spirit of lukewarmness and carelessness and indifference about the things of God, all must be rooted out and forsaken if we are anxious for the prize. We must mortify the deeds of the body, we must crucify our affection for this world; we must look well to our habits and inclinations and employments, and if we find anything coming in as a stumbling-block between ourselves and salvation, we must be ready to lay it aside as if it were a millstone about our necks, although it cost us as much pain as cutting off a hand or plucking out a right eye. Away with everything which keeps us back; our feet are slow at the very best, we have a long course to run, we cannot afford to carry weight, if we are really contending for everlasting life.
But above all we must take heed that we lay aside the sin which doth most easily beset us, the sin which from our age, or habit, or taste, or disposition, or feelings, possesses the greatest power over us. I know of two which are always at our elbows, two sins which try the most advanced Christians even to the end, and these are pride and unbelief - pride in our own difference from others, pride in our reputation as Christians, pride in our spiritual attainments: unbelief about our own sinfulness, unbelief about God's wisdom, unbelief about God's mercy. Oh, they are heavy burdens, and sorely do they keep us back, and few really know they are carrying them, and few indeed are those who will not discover them at the very bottom of the chamber of their hearts, waiting an opportunity to come out.
Bu there are particular besetting sins, of which each separate Christian can alone furnish an account: each single one of us has some weak point, each one has got a thin, shaking spot in his wall of defense against the devil, each one has a traitor in his camp ready to open the gates to satan, and he that is wise will never rest until he has discovered where this weak point is. This is that special sin which you are here exhorted to watch against, to overcome, to cast forth, to spare no means in keeping it under and bringing it into subjection, that it may not entangle you in your race towards Zion. One man is beset with lust, another with a love of drinking, another with evil temper, another with malice, another with covetousness, another with worldly-mindedness, another with idleness; but each of us has got about him some besetting infirmity, which is able to hinder him far more than others, and with which he must keep an unceasing warfare, or else he will never so run as to obtain the prize. Oh these bitter besetting sins! How many have fallen in their full course, and given occasion to God's enemies to blaspheme, from thinking lightly of them, from not continually guarding against them, from a vain notion that they were altogether cut off! - they have been over-confident and presumptuous; they have said "We are the temple of the Lord, and we cannot greatly stumble," and they have forgotten that hidden root, that branch of the old Adam; and so day after day, little by little, shoot after shoot, it grew, it strengthened, it filled their heart, it blighted their few graces; and suddenly, without time to think, they have slipped and fallen headlong in the race, and now they are hurrying down some stream amidst that miserable party, the backsliders, and who can tell what their end may be? But what was the simple cause/ They disregarded some besetting sin. Go, child of God, and search the chamber of thine imagination: see whether tho canst find there some seed of evil, some darling thing which thou hast tenderly spared hitherto, because it was a little one; away with it- there must be no mercy, no compromise; no reserve: it must be laid aside, plucked up, torn up by the roots, or ti will one day trip thee up, and prevent thee running thy race towards Zion. The gates of heaven are broad enough to receive the worst of sinners, but too narrow to admit the smallest grain of unforsaken sin!
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 9)