Lay Aside the Weight


Are late-night refrigerator raids and hamburgers-on-the~run sapping your spiritual vitality? You’re not alone. I recently learned that the devil was trying to kill me-with food.

What would you do if you knew you were being stalked by a secret assassin? How would you react if you came face to face with a
formidable serial killer who was preying upon ministers all across this nation?

Beneath our strong assertions of faith and courage, we are still human and comprised of clay. We want to see the Lord–but most of us are not anxious to do so prematurely!

After all, there are many souls to be won and much to be accomplished in the church. And quite truthfully, many of us just want to live. As the old adage goes, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.”

If you are one of those church leaders, like myself, who is not eager to become a statistic, please take a moment to consider that people in our profession are at a particularly high risk of heart attacks, hypertension, diabetes and a few other atrocities–a terrible fraternity of murderers fast gaining access to ministers and destroying ministries.

Of course, every thief needs an entrance. These particular assassins enter our lives through bad eating habits, insufficient rest and poor exercise.

Wait! Don’t tune me out. Before you dismiss this as one more sanctimonious message by a radical health fanatic, consider that this author is a relatively young man who has had a lifetime membership in the Fat Boys’ Club of America. I was not and am not now a health nut who lives off seaweed and alfalfa sprouts.

I am a minister who feels like his assignment is not over–and who recently found himself wrestling with health concerns as increasing age and weight began adding up to hypertension and physical fatigue. It’s one thing to hit the ol’ racetrack so you can look good on the beach. It’s another thing altogether to recognize that too many pieces of Fudge Overboard might drive you to a ventilator and make you miss your child’s graduation. We as ministers miss enough events due to church responsibilities without eating our way out of our family’s lives.

Those of us who pastor, travel, teach, visit, marry, bury and entertain guest speakers at 12:00 a.m. are particularly vulnerable. We have created a church culture that favors sedentary, high-fat, late-night eating habits. Add to those late night, chicken-winged, meatball-clad, apple pie-filled socials a heaping helping of stress and anxiety over budgets, business, deacon boards and constant IRS changes, and you have a heart attack waiting to happen.

Our occupation is dominated by (but not limited to) men bombarded by loving church ladies who think they’ll receive a prophet’s reward if they bake the pastor a peach cobbler. We are at an all-time high risk for serious health problems. Let’s face it: Most guys will eat whatever is set before them, even if it has enough fat grams to last a week–like a fully-loaded nine-inch pizza.

We might look jolly now, but it is going to be hard to be happy when we are walking around with renal failure and pacemakers. I know sickness and disease may strike no matter what we do. But I propose that we work from the standpoint that we are going to do all that we can to survive these serial killers.


Several years ago, I was preaching in Chicago when I saw one of the other guest ministers jogging down the street in front of our hotel. He was really working up a sweat. Later, when I heard him coming down the hallway, I poked my head out of my room and asked, “Do you exercise like that every morning?”

“Just about,” he answered, somewhat out of breath. “I read to exercise my mind. I pray to exercise my spirit. And I exercise to strengthen my body.”

“Two out of three ain’t bad,” I responded and hurriedly shut the door. Little did I know I would soon have an urgent need to increase my percentage to three out of three.

I was a whopping 340-plus pounds when I started seeing the side effects on my health of a robust frame that was becoming increasingly weary of cooperating with my schedule and my weight. It didn’t take long, once I noticed my ankles swelling to the size of my thighs, for ‘ol Fat Boy to get a revelation: If you don’t lose weight, you are going to die early like your dad did.

My father died at 48. I can tell you that 48 seems a lot younger to me now that I am in my forties than it did when I was in my teens! But even as a teen-ager, I knew that Dad was too young to check out of the hotel and leave his family hurting and alone.

Still, it happened; and the next thing I knew we were staring at a dark brown casket with brass handles–all because Dad’s tendency to hypertension (typical among African Americans, but an increasing concern to all ethnicities) was exacerbated by factors of stress and weight.

The same enemy that stole my father came back 26 years later to claim his son. But I decided that I would not go without a fight! And twelve months and 100 pounds later, I am still swinging.

Is it over? Of course it isn’t over. It is an ongoing wrestling match with time, fast food, late night fellowships and my friends who think that it is rude for me not to eat 80 fat grams a night at their mere invitation.


I have learned a lot about my eating habits. I learned that I can lose weight and control it without being hungry. (Did I mention that I am allergic to hunger?) I learned that it’s not willpower I’ve lacked, but information. Half the struggle is in what we do not know about food. I used to bless whatever I ate–now I try to eat whatever is blessed!

It’s amazing to me that most of the garbage we eat is things God didn’t tell us to eat anyway. He started us out in the garden with a nice plate of vegetables and herbs. We ended up in the New Testament arguing about eating meat.

Somewhere in between carrot soup and prime rib, there is a happy medium that will work for most of us who do not want to rush death but do not feel inclined to chew wet grass for dinner.

I learned to turn my faith loose on my weight. Oddly enough, I had never done that before. I think many of us trust God to help us
overcome everything except what is killing us!

The fact is, half the overeating ministers engage in is the result of stress, and the other half is an attempt to camouflage the loneliness we feel from being on-call 24 hours a day. We don’t drink or do drugs–so we do food.

John 10:10 says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (NKJV). In my case, the thief was stalking my life, robbing my youth and destroying my strength. I walked away from many other lethal life habits, but I overlooked the silent robber of obesity.

How about you? Perhaps some of you will not get to the point of needing to fight weight. If you can maintain a healthy weight, then you have done well. But if you are being robbed in this area, take courage; there is help in the Word.

Temperance, the Bible says, is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a difficult fruit for some of us to manifest. But if we do not master it in one
area, it will rob us in others.

Hence, we have the secret to fasting: When we deny one fleshly urge, we subdue others. Consider the counsel of the wise father who warns his son in Proverbs 23 :19-22 to avoid those who exercise no self-control. He further warns that gluttony, laziness and poverty are related.

Maybe it is because being overweight takes so much strength from you that you either (l) become lazy or (2) inadvertently add stress to your heart by trying to maintain a pace too difficult for such a heavy body. The real truth is simple: Busy people do not have time for the weight!

In fact, Hebrews 12:1 challenges us to lay aside the “weight”–an interesting verse in light of our discussion. The word “weight” there is the Greek word, ogkos, which, similar to another Greek word, carries the meaning of a mass (as bending or bulging by its load), or a burden (hindrance).

What a great description for what I was carrying! One hundred extra pounds is quite a mass–a bulging load that was hindering my life, my loves and my ministry.

Now, I promise I won’t start preaching every week on health issues, nor will I hang out in restaurants trying to peddle my book (Lay Down the Weight, Albury Press). But for those few among you who have unfinished business in the kingdom and who are afraid that your mission might be aborted by your mass, I strongly urge you: Lay aside the weight.


The truth of the matter is that being a minister doesn’t exempt us from having giants to fight. I found I was so busy ministering to everyone else that I was taking absolutely no time for me at all. The giant sneaked up.

Please, let’s start to treat ourselves better. We might not win everybody to Christ today. But if we are careful and wise, who knows? We might be around to preach and teach and have an impact on many others for years to come.

I want to encourage you to live long–so long that your church board has to figure out a graceful way to tell you to retire. Then when your purpose is completed and you have fulfilled all your dreams, fold your legs in the bed, close your eyes, and go to the land of your fathers with a smile on your face. Go home knowing, “No man takes my life; I lay it down.”

I solicit your prayers as I slay my giants before they slay me. And I will pray for you! May the Word give us grace to persevere. And may no secret assassin rush us out of here ahead of our time.*

T.D. Jakes bases his ministry in Dallas, where he pastors the Potter’s House church. His most recent book is Lay Aside the Weight (Albury Press)