Be An Encourager
by Stephanie Olson, Co-founder Set Me Free Ministries
Those of you who read the blog know that I am a runner. I talk about it quite a bit in regards to my relationship to Christ for two reasons, primarily. First, when I am running, it is such an amazing time of connection between Christ and myself. Second, I find running and our Christian walk are so very similar. Even Paul compared our walk in Christ to running more than once. I truly enjoy running races. My favorite are half marathons, but I love to run a good 5K or 10K too. Until last year I had never wanted to run a full marathon. It simply didn't appeal to me. Every time I would complete a half marathon, I couldn't even imagine saying, “Halfway through!” But when registration for the Lincoln Marathon came around for the 2011 race, I realized that as a runner, I may regret it if I never ran a full marathon, 26.2 miles. I also decided that I’m not getting any younger, and if I was going to run one, this would be the time. So I registered.
The training was truly the most time consuming thing I have ever done. There were times when I would be on a run for three or more hours at a time. Who has time for that? And then came race day. I was a bundle of nerves, but I knew that I was as prepared as I would ever be. I had trained hard, and the moment had arrived.
The Lincoln Marathon is one of the best races I’ve run, because the people (the supporters) come out in droves. There isn't a section during the first half of the race where there aren’t people cheering you on and telling you how great you are doing. The first half is run all together, both half marathoners and full marathoners; however, at around mile 12, those lucky half marathoners split off to go finish their race. There was a a moment when I thought, “Okay, here's my chance to not have to say only halfway through.” But I continued on. As the half marathoners leave, so does the stream of supporters. Although there are still some, the droves of people get much, much thinner. Not a ton of people stay to cheer on those crazy full marathon runners. The encouragement really must come from somewhere else.
Truthfully, the first 20 miles were not that bad. I had trained up to 20. At mile 18, I was going to see my family at a designated spot. That was something I was looking forward to the entire time. When I pulled up to the spot where I thought they were going to be, they weren't there. I kid you not, tears welled up in my eyes. The mind does some crazy tricks on you after running nearly 18 miles. Oh, but at mile 19, there they were! My husband, all three of my kids, and my parents, cheering me on! It was wonderful, and it gave me the boost I needed for a couple of miles. But mile 21 through 26.2 were absolutely torture. There were times (every 30 seconds) when I wanted to quit. Every movement was excruciating. I hated running, I hated myself for doing this, and I hated Lincoln for holding this race.
I hit mile 26. Only 0.2 to go (which doesn't sound like much, but after 26 miles, it may as well be another 26). I was ready to quit. I wanted to give up. Then all of a sudden, a little boy around 9 years old said, “You're almost there! You can make it!” I was the only runner around at that moment. He didn't know me at all, but he knew I needed encouragement on my very last leg of the race. He knew I was weary and ready to be done. He knew I needed to know I could make it.
That is what we must be like with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let's face it. The race can get extremely weary! Obedience to Christ is a daunting task at times. There are pressures in the world that will tell us we’re crazy and stupid for following God. There is so much deception in the Church that there are times when we can even feel alone within the Body of Christ, because when you stand for Truth, even the Truth in love, people will reject you, even brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus tells us in Mark 13:12-13, “Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Last night I was discouraged and weary. I was ready to give up the ministry and this race we're running. And then a beautiful sister in Christ encouraged me to continue. Just like that little 9-year-old boy, she said, “You’re almost there! You can make it!” We need to be those encouragers to each other in the Body of Christ. That doesn't mean we tell them that they can do whatever they want and sin doesn’t matter. Quite the contrary–we need to tell them that through Jesus Christ, they can do anything God calls them to do! They can make it. It’s going to be hard and painful. At times we may even feel like giving up, but we can make it in the power of Christ.
The training is critical. We have to study the Word daily and spend time with Him in prayer, because the race is hard. We can't make it to the end on our own, but we can with the encouragement of others and we have Jesus! The prize is not here on earth; we have an eternal reward. Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” In our weakness, Christ is strong! We need to remind people of that, be an encourager!