Among the many nicknames I have for my soon-to-be twelve year old daughter, the most accurate may be “Speedy.” We can’t recall a phase in between crawling and running. She’s always been one of our most physically active kids, playing soccer and running 5K’s for fun. While those are interests that define a little bit about her and how she spends her time, there’s one that I find of much greater value. At the end of each soccer practice, twice a week, the girls run a mile. Audrey usually comes in at the head of the pack, often by a considerable distance, but one day she noticed one of the heavier girls struggling. Instead of speeding on past and lapping her, Audrey slowed to jog alongside her friend and took an extra full lap in order to spend time encouraging the discouraged and embarrassed teammate. The team manager took note of it and seemed impressed, as did some of the other players, but she didn’t do it because anyone was watching, and she didn’t understand why she was getting praise for something that “anyone would do.” While technically she had the best time on that run, it was certainly not her best – but she doesn’t remember what her time was because that wasn’t her focus. She finished first and last that day, because she didn’t want to leave anyone behind.
In a world where we pride ourselves on individualism and reaching the top, people often get shoved to the side or even trampled in the process. The reason it is so refreshing to see a humble competitor is because it resonates with each one of us. We all want that extra encouragement – someone to be there with us when we’re playing the role of the underdog. We all want a pat on the back that says “you did it!” – no matter how long it took to finish the job. It resonates because every great story is a reflection of what Jesus did for us. Jesus – King of Kings and Lord of Lords, fully God and fully man, didn’t come as a conquering hero, but as a helpless, poor infant. Born to a single virgin mother and adopted by Joseph, Jesus taught and demonstrated mercy, compassion, justice, and love. He was first and became last, lowest, bruised and beaten. He was blameless, but took on our shame so that we would not have to bear the burden of our own guilt. He spent every ounce of His limited human strength in order to offer us the limitless and divine gift of grace – a pink slip marked “Paid in full.” Whether we finish first or last, He offers us the free gift of eternal life with Him. Because He is perfectly just, and our great debt had to be paid, He paid your debt and mine. You don’t have to accept it – If you don’t want to follow Him, don’t like who you think He is, or just want to be your own coach – He isn’t going to force you into having a relationship with Him. He will give you everything you think you want – but it will still fall short of true satisfaction. His gift is FREE – Yours for the taking – You can’t earn it. You can’t loose enough weight, exercise enough, run fast enough, climb high enough, make enough money, feed enough poor people or attend enough church services to earn your own way to heaven. The one and only way is to accept His gift, take His hand, and let Him pick you up, heal you, coach and encourage you throughout the race.
Hebrews 12 New English Translation (NET Bible)
The Lord’s Discipline
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?
“My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline
or give up when he corrects you.
6 “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”
7 Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. 9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.
*Now, keep reading…He has so much more that He wants to share with you!*
P.S. Full disclosure: the picture above is not my daughter, but another awesome young lady who went the same “distance” for another competitor. You can read her story at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2155133/Meghan-Vogel-Inspiring-photo-shows-Ohio-runner-help-carry-competitor-finish-line.html