Afternoon sunshine warmed Sparta Day’s festivities. The one-mile kid’s race drew a handful of red-shirted 5 through 7-year-olds. Parents busied themselves at forming kids’ wiggling bodies into a straight line.
A shrill whistle signaled the runners and spiked adrenalin. Starry-eyed winners, every one of them, were including John Jr., our 5-year-old son, with spindly, over-long legs. Suddenly, I wanted to scoop him into my safe arms. “Never mind.” I pushed away nervousness. “Let him run.”
“Get ready, get set…” Bang!
Parents began chiming, “Run fast!” “Don’t slow down.” “Run faster!”
My husband leapt onto the cinder track about 2 feet from John Jr.’s side, jog-trotting. Just close enough to link hearts.
“Pace yourself. Slow down.” Wise words spoken by a Father experienced at running life’s race.
This man knows full well about starting too fast, full of optimism. Then bam. Everyday pressures, family problems, unemployment, financial difficulties and health issues take their toll. Weariness and discouragement knock him windless.
“You can do it! Keep your pace.” Running too fast for too long will defeat him. “You can do it!” Electrifying words.
One more lap. Fatigue sets in.
“Don’t stop…Dig down deep Johnny!”
Perseverance hinges on encouragement. The world often ridicules courage. It chokes the life out of it by propagating “half-empty glass” views… “Do you really have what it takes?”
Occasionally, encouragement makes you look foolish. One competitive parent snarled at John. “Your son had an unfair advantage. You were running alongside him.”
The world smears lies and insults aiming at despair. Feeling faint, eyes failing to see hope, why not quit?
The Encourager outwits Satan. The Encourager gives “the unfair advantage.”
“Encourage me by your Word!” The psalmist calls. God’s Words… charged supernaturally to revive, refresh and restore the fainthearted. Sweet promises, sweeter than honey, unlike bitter serum the world dishes out. (Psalm 119:103)
“Give me understanding. Truth from your mouth means more to me than striking it rich in a gold mine.” Psalm 119:72 Understanding gives birth to wise strategies essential for the short and the long haul. Wealth and riches offer running power of endless, empty promises. They fizzle out far before the finish line.
Missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham struck it rich, although the world viewed them foolish. They were held captive in a jungle, for a year, by militant Muslims in the Philippians. Craving daily, fresh replenishments of God’s Word, they requested a radio. At their lowest, they searched for a clear signal and heard these words:
“Jesus, who died…who was raised to life…is interceding for you” (Romans 8:34).
God’s Word, an infusion of hope and comfort, assured Martin and Gracia. Jesus had not abandoned them!
“He spoke and it came to be.” (Psalm 33:9) God’s Words energize; unfailing prescriptions for perseverance void of nasty side effects. They’re the unfair advantage.
God sent His Spirit, the “One called beside you” to run life’s race with you and in you until the day you cross the finish line. (John 14:16-17) It’s never a solo run; His heart linked to His followers.
The unfair advantage…Who you know and Who runs with you.
Martin Burnham crossed life’s finish line while still in the jungle; today, he reaps eternity’s, unfathomable blessings. Gracia is still running, clinging to God’s words and the Holy Spirit. She knows them well. She’s not alone.
Father is still running life’s race with his grown son. Miles apart, it doesn't matter; Father still encourages his son “to have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy” (Colossians 1:11 MSG).
God gives His followers the unfair advantage because He longs to see us finish the race, reflecting His glory. He breathes your name… (Isaiah 43:1-3)…“Don’t quit. Dig deeper…”
Are you running life’s race with an unfair advantage?