‘You can do it, keep going… don’t stop!’ they shouted as the finish line approached. Sweat dropping off the tip of the brow, the sun beating down, those last few hundred metres always seem the hardest. The legs are tired now, so close to caving in, yet the roar of the crowd as the finish line approaches somehow gives a strength beyond imagination. ‘Yes I can do it’ the runner thought, ‘and I will do it’!. The finish line was crossed, the race was over. Looking back… ‘how was that even possible’? I thought I would give up’. The reward, a nice bag of goodies such as sugary sweets and drinks and other luxurious goods. Any reward after a half marathon appears luxurious.
If you have ever ran a long distance, been in other sports events, or just gone for an interview for a new job, you will know what difference encouragement makes. Encouragement holds a power of its own, a power that can give strength beyond imagination. It is difficult to continue when weariness sets it, when there are obstacles to overcome, when we are injured. Thats when we need those words, ‘take heart, don’t give up and be encouraged, your doing well’. Even before Jesus began his mission on earth; before the race began, the father said, ‘this is my son, with him I am well pleased’. This was all Jesus needed to begin the race set out before him, the race that will enable many others to join him. It can be tiring to keep going without hearing words of encouragement, that’s why we need to develop our own encouragement. ‘Yes I can do this, yes I am strong, I won’t give up’. After all if we hear others say this we will accept it and gain strength, funny how it’s harder to accept ourself saying it. We are quick to accept self pity, ‘this is too hard, I give up, Im not good enough’. Yet when it comes to self-encouragement it is harder to believe, maybe this is due to self-doubt.
Our greatest encourager has already finished the race that was marked before him. He took up his cross and he finished the course. Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow the course set out before us. Yes it is difficult, sometimes we won’t hear the encouragement we want as it is drowned out by other sounds. This is why encouragement needs to dwell in us not just around us, ‘take heart’ Jesus says, the finisher has completed the hardest course. Your course is easier and the burden is lighter, but when we listen to those wrong thoughts and words we carry around with us a weight that we are not meant to carry. Try running a race with a bag of weights on you, it’s practically impossible! So take off the weight, be encouraged because at the finish line, when Heaven is in sight, eternal luxuries await for the finishers. Saty the course, keep the faith and run the race.