Sailing the Seven C's - Cast Off What's Holding You Down

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And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
— Acts 27:18-19

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us there’s a season for all things, and in our lives, we would do well to realize that there’s a time for casting away anything and everything that is holding us down or holding us back. The only way to stand fast in this life is to get rid of the things that hinder us day after day. Even the book of Hebrews testifies to this point.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
— Hebrews 12:1

I’ve read that verse so many times, but it wasn’t until recently that I distinguished between the words “weight” and “sin.” I always assumed they were the same. You know, our sin is the weight that easily besets us, but that’s not what the passage says, and it’s important to identify that. The verse clearly tells us to lay aside every weight and lay aside every sin. Lay aside all things—both good and bad—that are hindering you from serving God to the best of your ability.

I don’t think I need to spend a lot of time discussing what sin is and what it means to lay it aside. The Bible clearly states we should flee from the devil and abstain from sin. The Scriptures also do an admirable job of identifying what sin is, and for those things that are not explicitly stated in a “thou shalt not” command, there is I Corinthians 10:31 which declares that anything we do should be done to the glory of God. So, with that verse as our guide, if there’s something in our life that is not pleasing to God, it is a sin and needs to be cast away. It’s that simple.

Where things get confusing—at least, for me—is the other “weight” spoken of in Hebrews, as I believe it is talking about things that are not bad in and of themselves. In fact, they could be good things, but even good things can get in the way of better things or the best thing that God has in store for us.  

Remember Martha? Busy Martha. Serving Martha. Moody Martha. Obviously, at the point where her attitude grew sour, Martha moved into the realm of sin, but before that, Martha was doing a good thing. She was serving in the kitchen. She was preparing a meal for Jesus Himself. She was positively using her gifts and talents. But when the sibling rebuked Mary (and even Jesus), He had a rebuke of His own:

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
— Luke 10:41-42

One thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good part. For many years, this response of the Lord baffled me. To this every-busy, always-looking-for-a-way-to-help, roll-up-your-sleeves woman, Mary was the one at fault. She was lazy while her sister slaved away in the kitchen, caring for their guests. It wasn’t until later in life I realized that Jesus wasn’t saying that Martha’s desire to serve was bad. He was reminding her that there is a time and place for everything, and sometimes, we have to cast away the good so we can focus on the best. Martha was so concerned with physical food she lost sight of the spiritual food before her.

Moses had a similar predicament. After leading the children out from Egypt, the Bible tells us that when the cloud by day would stop over a location, the Israelites would cease travel and make camp. During that time, they would line up and bring their complaints to Moses. For days at a time, Moses would have to act as judge and jury for this whiny group of travelers. Somebody had to do it, right? Besides, isn’t it a good thing to keep the peace? Moses thought so, but his father-in-law, Jethro, disagreed.

And Moses’ father-in-law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
— Exodus 18:17-18

Jethro saw what Moses didn’t and told him as much. “This is not good. It’s too much, and you will wear yourself out before you even begin.” I’ve heard similar lectures from my dear husband when I take on another task or commit myself to a project I have no business being a part of. Not that the tasks or projects are bad. It may not even be that they’re bad for me. But I’ve found that I need to stop and ask, “Lord, is this what’s best for me?” After all, I’m only one person, and I can only do so much. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and I have to sleep at least nine of those if I am to function with any semblance of focus and clarity. Plus, there are health issues to factor into the equation. Yes, the Bible assures me I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but it also has a lot to say about resting in the Lord. It’s a matter of balance.

So, I ask you, “What’s weighing you down? What’s holding you back from doing the things you know the Lord wants you to do?” It could be a relationship or passive entertainment, like too many hours in front of the television or too much time on social media. How about habits, possessions or unmet expectations? Even unanswered prayers (by which we mean prayers that haven’t been answered according to our desires) can be a stumbling block and hinder us from moving forward in this race.

Whatever it is, we must identify those things and cast them away. Get rid of them. Push them as far away as possible and don’t look back. And, often, we’ll find that we have to do this time and time again as more things slip in unnoticed and threaten to weigh us down again.  

In our passage in Acts 27, they cast out the tackling of the ship, but they weren’t finished. Before the end of the chapter, we’ll see them lightening the load even more. We need to do the same. Once we’ve identified one thing that’s holding us back, we need to be on the lookout for others, continually searching for more ways to lighten the load so we can find the “best” God has for us instead of settling for the “good.”