As apostles of Christ…we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us….For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12
“YOU CAN DO IT! KEEP GOING, GIRLS. WE’LL BE UP THIS HILL IN NO TIME. THIS IS WHY WE RUN- IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!” Sweat dripping down my face and short of breath, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other as I ran up the steep hill in my first official race. The shouts of encouragement came from a woman running behind me, directed at several young ladies running ahead. Unbeknownst to this woman, her optimism was helping all those in earshot including myself. As she passed me, I expressed to her my gratitude for her help. She smiled, spoke more words of support and with strength and perseverance conquered the hill and ran on ahead.
After running several miles, I knew the finish line lay just ahead. A young lady I had never met was running in front of me. Like me, she appeared tired and ready to cross the finish line. As we climbed our last hill, I passed her and out of my mouth came the words, “You can do it. We’re almost there- just over the hill.” At that moment, I saw her torso perk up a bit and her head lift. She responded, “Ok, keep going. I’m right behind you.” We crested the hill and as she fell in step beside me, I tried to encourage us both, “Great job. We’re almost there! We’re gonna do this together.” As we crossed the finish line my eyes rested on the older woman who had encouraged me earlier in the race. She had run the race and true to character, was waiting for her younger friends at the finish line. She provided vital support when I needed it and little did she know her example had been caught and passed on. While I was processing what had happened, the young lady I ran with approached me and said, “Thanks for your encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without you.” We exchanged a hug and a smile and she was gone. Reaching my goal of finishing the race was a highlight, but encouraging another one to finish made the run far sweeter.
In the same way, we are running the race of life growing in our love relationship with Jesus. We’re all scattered between the starting point and the finish line. There are those who are running ahead – perhaps older, wiser, a rock-hard faith shaped by the perils of trial, in love with Jesus and knowing what’s truly important in life. Some are just starting the race, experiencing new sights and trying to find their pace. Some are climbing hills of hardship trying to keep their focus and stamina, while others are slowing to rest, drink in refreshment, and refuel. Wherever we are in the race, there are some in front of us and some behind. As men and women who follow Jesus, we have a high calling to reach out to the next generation and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our words, our actions, our love, our very lives. Sometimes we’re in someone’s life for years, perhaps a season, maybe just a moment. But in that moment, God’s Spirit can speak through us and give another exactly what is needed to finish the race. After all, “this is why we run – it’s all about Jesus.”
Look around and pray – who are those younger in your life? Who needs love, support, truth, hope and encouragement? Whom can you begin to invest in? Look around at those older in your life who love the Lord and whom you respect. Will you take a step of faith asking them for wisdom so you can continue to learn and grow?