The word euperistatos (εὐπερίστατος) only appears once in the Greek New Testament. The word means “to easily surround,” “to encircle,” or to “thwart.” It carries the connotation of something that overpowers you, grabs hold of you and prevents you from moving forward.
In the King James Version, this word is translated “beset.” Here is the passage:
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,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Two Book of Mormon prophets also spoke of sin in similar terms:
I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
(1 Nephi 4:18)
Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction.
Why do sins and temptations beset us so easily? I think there are at least two reasons:
- Because our mortal bodies have desires which are not in harmony with righteousness and happiness. (See Mosiah 3:19, Ether 3:2.)
- Because this life is a time of testing. When you’re designing a test for someone, you don’t choose problems that they can easily solve. You choose problems that will challenge them and stretch them (2 Nephi 2:21, Alma 12:24, Alma 42:4, 10, 13.)
Both the prophet Alma and the apostle Paul urge us to “lay aside” the sins which easily beset us. If these sins have such a stranglehold on us, how can we simply set them aside?
Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ:
And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.
(2 Nephi 2:26)
So it’s true that sin can easily entangle us and halt our progress, but it’s also true that, with the Savior’s help, we can cast those sins away and continue moving forward.
Years ago, when Clayton Christensen was serving as the bishop of a student congregation in Boston, he heard a college sophomore deliver a sermon about repentance. Here’s how Clayton described what he learned from that sermon:
I still remember his key point: “We often view repentance as a slow process. It isn’t. Change is instantaneous. It is not changing that takes so much time.” I had been struggling to overcome a particular bad habit; and I resolved that I would change my behavior right then and there – to quit “not changing.”
(“Why I Belong, and Why I Believe,” claytonchristensen.com)
Three and a half years after the First Vision, Joseph Smith was troubled by his own sins:
I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.
(Joseph Smith—History 1:28)
But his frustrations with his own behavior did not cause him to lose hope. Even though he felt “condemned for [his] weakness and imperfections,” he reached out to God in prayer with “full confidence” that God could help him (Joseph Smith—History 1:29). As a result, he received a divine manifestation and a reassurance that God had a work for him to do.
Today, I will trust God to help me overcome my shortcomings. Rather than become frustrated with myself when I fall short, I will learn from my mistakes, resolve to do better, and move forward, remembering that Jesus Christ has made it possible for me to set aside every sin.