I went to the park today to watch my son run in the first practice of the district meet. There were lots of kids running from lots of schools. As I waited for my son, I sat in the shade of a tree near the last leg of the course. As I watched, you could see the kids coming. Some were exhausted, some discouraged, some strong, but all were confused when they got to this point of the run. Here the track turned and was marked off by little pylons to go through a grassy knoll before they reached the finish line. The problem was that the kids hadn’t run this course before and they didn’t know that they had to run a little farther. Many of them saw the crowds of parents hanging about and thought that the race was over. They would slow down or even stop running. As one lady saw what was happening, she took it upon herself to direct them as they came by. It didn’t matter if it was her child coming or the kids from her favorite school, she simply stepped out as she saw any child and started cheering them on. She would call out, “You’re almost there, just a little further! Run through the pylons, keep going!” As I watched her I couldn’t help but cry. I felt foolish tearing up in a public park while I was just sitting there waiting, but I was overwhelmed by the idea that we all need that cheerleader in our lives.
Some of us have run strong and are simply confused about what direction to go from here. Some of us have the energy to carry on, but not the will as life has left us discouraged and hopeless. Then there are the rest of us, who have given the race our all and have simply run out of steam. All we want to do is stop so we can toss our cookies along the side of the track. Without the cheerleader, none of us may actually complete the race or win the prize. It reminded me of the encouragement we find in the scriptures:
Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
And Paul’s charge to Timothy:
2 Tim 4: 2-3a, 5-8: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
We all have been given a race to run. We must gather the strength now to press on and sprint to the finish. As my son was coming up to this last leg of the course, his friend, who had finished the race ahead of him, ran back to find him and run with him to encourage him to press on. Can’t you hear the voice of the Spirit calling out, “You’re almost there! Keep going!”? Don’t you feel Him running with you when you are about to give up? There is an urgency is His voice to pick up the pace. But sometimes we don’t hear Him. Sometimes the negative thoughts or the noise in our heads or the cookies in our tummies drown out the voice of the Lord. Sometimes we need God to speak through someone who will hold our hair back on the side of the trail.
Paul admonishes us in Hebrews 10: 23-25 and 36-37:
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.””
Time is limited. There may not be second chances or opportunities to pray for someone, to reach out to someone, to encourage someone to keep fighting, or to tell someone of the good news of Christ. Seize the day. Lift your eyes to Jesus and press on. The finish line is in sight. Don’t give up! You’re almost there!