“Put Off Every Weight”
WHEN Jehovah God said to the Serpent in Eden, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” it constituted a declaration of war. War that was to last down to the final battle of Armageddon, when Christ the seed of God’s woman would bind the satanic serpent in the abyss. Then, according to God’s promise, the Seed will bless all families of the earth. But until that time the servants of God would always be at enmity with the seed of the Serpent, with that demonic one constantly throwing pressures, weights and obstacles into the pathway of the servant of God to cause him to turn aside, stumble, fall and break integrity.—Gen. 3:15; 22:18; Rev. 20:1-3.
Down through the centuries the struggle has run. Like contestants in a race the faithful witnesses of Jehovah have kept their eyes upon the goal of his final vindication and new world blessings. As distance runners, men of faith insured final victory by sticking to the fight, laying aside every weight, side-stepping obstacles the wily foe put on the race course.
The perfect example of the one who laid aside every weight to engage in the centuries-long struggle is Christ Jesus. By no stretch of the imagination could we see him burdening himself down with the religious traditions and doctrines of the scribes and Pharisees. No subtleties of Satan could convince him that he should take upon himself the responsibilities of the Roman political rule. His carpentry business was set aside when he reached the age of thirty years; no contracting business was to interfere with his engaging fully in the godly combat. As a free, unencumbered young man, he would not even consider taking on the responsibility of a wife and family. No self-desire or selfishness of any kind was to weight down this Seed of God’s woman. True to prophetic utterance, he was at last bruised in death by the Serpent, and the enmity between God’s woman and the Serpent raged on.
Pointing to this perfect example, the apostle Paul urged Christians on in the race for God’s approval and life by faithful fighting in the hotly contested issue. Throwing the mind of his readers back up the long corridor of years, he reviewed the fight, beginning with Abel. Down the see-sawing battle front of forty centuries the hostility of the Serpent is shown; but faithfully these valiant upholders of Jehovah’s supremacy beat back the assaults on their integrity. They “waxed valiant in fight”. (Heb. 11:4-40) Then to Christians Paul continues: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the leader and perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Heb. 12:1, 2, NW) Paul could very appropriately write thus, for in this race he won: “I have fought the right fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.”—2 Tim. 4:7, NW.
Now the contest mounts to a climax. Christ took his Kingdom power to reign in 1914, and thereafter war in heaven spelled a major defeat for Satan. Now the reigning Seed of God’s woman has the angry Serpent cornered, down at the footstool earth, for the crushing of its head at Armageddon. Filled with wrath and rage, knowing his time is short, Satan as a roaring lion seeks whom he may devour. Woes he pours upon all mankind, but especially upon God’s servants does he bring weights and pressures to crumple their integrity. (1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:1-17) But the faithful witnesses of Jehovah have their battle orders. Declare the day of God’s vengeance! Comfort all that mourn! Preach the Kingdom gospel in all nations! Preach the Word! (Isa. 61:1, 2; Matt. 24:14; 2 Tim. 4:2) To win out as the battle approaches its final stage, as the race enters its final lap, Christians must lay aside every weight that unnecessarily burdens their activity.
WEIGHTS BE LAID ASIDE
But what are the weights and burdens that must be laid aside to continue on in the fight and run the race through to victory? Foremost among the burdens that Satan has weighted upon man is false religion. Hiding Bible truth concerning human death and resurrection, demon religion has blasphemed God with its teachings of purgatory and eternal torment, both of which are based upon the pagan philosophy of human soul immortality. Denying God’s purpose for the earth and human habitation of it in paradise conditions, false religion has ridiculously taught that Jehovah is going to burn up this planet that he prepared for man’s home. Rejecting the supremacy of Almighty God, orthodox religion champions a pagan doctrine of a trinity of gods, not one supreme God, but three coequal ones. On and on one could go pointing out the errors of Christendom’s religions—Christian in name, but actually as pagan as ancient Rome, Greece and Babylon whence her religions have been drawn. What a tremendous weight these religions have been, that divide men into hundreds of quarreling and fighting sects and cults, that keep men from following Jehovah’s pure worship as outlined in his Word the Bible!—Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:4; Eccl. 1:4; Isa. 45:18; John 14:28; Matt. 23:4, 13.
When God’s witnesses perceived that Jehovah and Christ were the true “higher powers” to whom Christians must be subject, another heavy and grievous weight was lifted from the shoulders of his people. (Rom. 13:1) No longer did corrupt politicians wrongly occupy that position in the minds of God’s servants, and when such politicians pompously demand that the witnesses of Jehovah halt their preaching God’s servants answer back: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your decision. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29, NW) Nor do they become involved in politics.—Matt. 4:8-10; John 6:15; Jas. 4:4.
But some wise enough to side-step the trap of worldly religion, alert to the folly of supporting the weight of politics, are nevertheless snared in the pursuit of material gain, which is commerce, and carry around on their backs the staggering load of business obligations. So loaded down are some with the seeking of material possessions that they have little or no time to carry out their battle orders to “preach the word”. In the godly race they stagger and stumble, and many fall under the weight of commerce. They may never pick themselves up.
Follow the course of an individual from real life. A young man, raised in godly surroundings like young Timothy, knowing the Holy Scriptures from youth. (2 Tim. 3:15-17) Quickly his school years pass. Wonderful opportunities in Kingdom service lie ahead. Unencumbered, he is in position to heed the Commander’s invitation, “Come and follow me.” (Matt. 19:21) But a call comes from the old world also. A place opens for him in a business establishment. Self-desire and seeking after material possessions take hold of him. Not all of his time, at first. He preaches, some.
But gradually as he advances in business his theocratic activities suffer. He is getting to be somebody in the commercial firm. Most of his time is taken up by the growing weight of business responsibility. What little street witnessing he does becomes embarrassing. Business associates chide him. And what if he should run into his boss in the door-to-door work? Moreover, necessary social contacts with fellow employees bring him into the dangerous waters of the loose moral standards of this world. Before long the once free and unencumbered young man staggers in the fight. No, he is not out of the truth; he still comes to meetings occasionally, and engages in the service work spasmodically. But his conscience is heavy within him.
As was the case in Paul’s day, so is the case today: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10, NW.
“SEEKING FIRST THE KINGDOM”
Even necessities of life, if put before service, can weight us down. Jesus said: “You cannot be slaves to God and to Riches. On this account I say to you: Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing? For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:24, 25, 32, 33, NW.
Sometimes consecrated servants of God lose sight of this important counsel by Jesus. They fail to practice the admonition to seek first the Kingdom. First in their lives comes a new home, new car, radio, television set, and procuring the wherewithal to keep up the payments on these “necessities”. So to the daily treadmill they go. But it is not enough. Get a better-paying job. Still not enough. Go into business for themselves. Ah, that is better. Now that they are their own bosses, they reason, they will have lots of time for service. As soon as the business gets going they can pioneer. It is longer getting going than they thought. Financial burdens increase along with material possessions, and less time instead of more is spent in gospel-preaching. Yes, they own a business that has given them a nice home, a shiny big car, a television set, fine food and clothes—everything. Everything, that is, except peace of mind, happiness and prospects of eternal life. Better put, they do not own a business, house, car, television, and so on; these things own them.
Other servants may have such things, but rather than letting these possessions burden them down they control their use or even make such instruments an aid to them in service. They have not made such things their goal in life, having first call on their time and energy and concern. It is a great burden, this love of worldly possessions, “because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17, NW.
Some weights and responsibilities, once taken on, cannot be rightly laid aside. Once assumed, they must be carried. A servant can deliberately pick up weights because of giving way to “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes”. To illustrate, here is another sad page from real life. A lovely young pioneer sister, six years ago, happy and carefree in the battle daily preaching the Word. Ahead of her were Gilead training and foreign missionary service, with all its added blessings. Today her plight tugs at one’s heart. It started innocently enough. But no point in relating details—your imagination can fill them in. Today the weights upon her are almost beyond endurance. A worldly husband, finally hospitalized with incurable cancer. Three young children, one born a cripple. How much running in the godly race do you suppose this once-free pioneer now does? Looking years older than her age, from morning to night it is drudgery to carry the responsibility she must shoulder. No time at all now for service, completely inactive and knocked out of the battle. Still she struggles to get back into the race, but the load she carries will make the future road very difficult to travel. With tears in her eyes she said, “I’d give anything to be that free young pioneer again.”
Example after example could be brought forth to show the sorry results of giving way to self and self-desire, rather than laying aside that weight and keeping to the fight at hand. Self in any form, self-gratification, self-importance, the self that makes you and your desires come first, ahead of the race to be run. That is the big weight to lay aside. The self that is discontent to the point where it causes quarreling, dissension and disunity among fellow runners in the race. The self and selfishness that produce envy, gossip, quick temper. The self that leads into immoral and bad practices, the self that always caters to the flesh and the works of the flesh, rather than following the spirit and its works. Such weights cannot be carried across the finish line and into the new world. They must be laid aside.
“BY MAKING YOUR MIND OVER”
But how to lay aside the weights and burdens that hinder and slow down? In the same way as we laid aside the weights of false religion and politics, by learning of their evilness through a study of God’s Word. Gladly and willingly we laid them aside as weights when we learned that they were Satan’s tools to prevent us from knowing and serving God. We changed our mind concerning them. So with respect to all other worldly, selfish practices, you must “quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God”. (Rom. 12:2, NW) It is by study of God’s Word that we renovate and transform and make over our mind, train it to recognize and cast off needless weights.
To win in the race we must follow the rules, and it is God’s Word that lays down the rules: “No man serving as a soldier involves himself in the commercial businesses of life, in order that he may meet the approval of the one who enrolled him as a soldier. Moreover, if anyone contends even in the games, he is not crowned unless he has contended according to the rules.” (2 Tim. 2:4, 5, NW) The rules require that we do not get tangled up in pursuit of selfish gain. The rules require that we preach. The rules require that we walk according to God’s spirit, and not according to sinful, selfish, fleshly desires. Walking by the spirit, that is the way to remove weights. “Keep walking by spirit and you will carry out no fleshly desire at all. For the flesh is against the spirit in its desire, and the spirit against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.”—Gal. 5:16, 17, NW.
To run the race through to final victory, every weight must be laid aside until the servant of God is stripped like a runner in a marathon. Describing the wise course, the apostle Paul says: “Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it. Moreover, every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:24-27, NW.
Even so, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” (Eccl. 9:11) The victory comes to those who make over their mind by Bible study and submit themselves to the leading of Jehovah’s spirit. His spirit will help us in stripping off the weights that hinder and hold back, and he will uphold us under the burden of weighty responsibilities that cannot be rightly set aside. “Cast your burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain you. He will never let the righteous totter.” (Ps. 55:22, AT) Christian brethren may assist one another by “bearing the burdens of one another”. (Gal. 6:2, NW) And if faith the size of a mustard grain will move a mountain, then no mountainous burden or obstacle exists that cannot be removed or overcome by exercising faith. (Matt. 17:20) Faith is shown by work; so increase your faith and show it by increased activity.
The closing years of the sixty-century enmity between the seed of the Serpent and the Seed of God’s woman are upon us. Every consecrated servant of God will feel that enmity more and more as the final hurdles are taken before the victory at Armageddon. To take those hurdles in stride we must keep at the work assigned, taking up our part in the struggle alongside the faithful servants of God in past centuries. As Paul wrote, “Take your part in the same struggle that you have seen me engage in and that you hear I am still keeping up.”—Phil. 1:30, AT.
The race course is still ahead, the cry is still forward, the battle orders are still “Preach the Word”. So fix your eyes upon the goal, learn the rules of the race, and abide by them. Put off every weight. Strip down to bare necessities and run the race. Run as though your life depended upon it. It does!