Charles Spurgeon famously said, “There is a sermon in every flower.” He believed that, if we pay close attention to the things around us, and the events that happen to us, we will detect illustrations of a biblical truth. This was true for me this past Saturday.
To observe my sixtieth birthday, I decided early in November that I would run 60km on the day. It seemed like a good idea at the time; not such much 18km into the run. At that point, my left hamstring, which had been a problem the previous two weeks, became very sore and it looked like I would not be running much further. At that point, a brother-runner from the church saw me and ran with. As we approached the church office, I was surprised and deeply touched to see a large group of church members, complete with “Happy Birthday” signs, held by many who were in running gear. They joined me on my run. At about 21km my hamstring seized and, again, I thought it was tickets for my run. But when you are surrounded by brothers and sisters, all rooting for you, giving up is hard to do. Though sore, the hamstring settled down and, like the Pied Piper, over the next couple of hours the crowd of runners grew, along with others who greeted me along the way. What a blessing, and what a help, as I ran “my race.”
At 47km, I felt that I had little left. Not only my hamstring, but other muscles began to cramp. One brother massaged my calf, which was in spasms, and we set off down the road. A kilometre or two later, I told the group running with me that I was going to stop at 52km and then ride a bike for the remainder. Without shaming me, they expressed sympathy while gently encouraging me to continue. But I was not interested in being persuaded! Yet, for some reason, at around 51km, I blurted out, “Let’s do this.” The response was something like, “Hooray!”
We kept running, and eventually finished the 60km at my house, greeted by more well-wishers. With the aid of brothers and sisters, the goal was achieved. Joy replaced agony.
There is no way I would have finished without these brothers and sisters staying alongside me in the race. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for all those who helped me to run my race. Even now, I remain emotionally moved by their encouraging assistance. I doubt I will forget the lesson reenforced that day: We need one another for the race of faith. Hebrews 12:1–2 was profoundly impressed upon me: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” As we seek to run the race of “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” we need others to help us along the way.
As our spiritual muscles cramp, as we become burdened to the point of fatigue, as the long and winding road of both trials and the mundane seem endless, we are tempted to despair. We want to throw in the towel. It is just then we need faith-filled friends to fuel our failing faith. As they speak into our lives, with loving encouragements, patient admonitions, and wise reminders of truth, we find ourselves being given a second wind to be able to say, “Let’s do this!” But notice: “Let’s” as in “let us.”
Brothers and sisters, we need help from others, and others need our help, as we run the race, perhaps particularly in these days.
Perhaps some are despairing as the pandemic lingers and finances are scarce, fears mount, family is far away, and faith is assaulted. It is precisely now that we need to come alongside one another in this ultra-marathon, encouraging each to persevere giving the assurance that we will be with them until the end.
Brothers and sisters, we are going to finish the race, and the joy will be worth the pain. So, “Let’s do this!”
With you along the way,