I recently had the opportunity to cheer on my soon-to-be daughter-in-law in her very first marathon. She had trained for months for the event, and was so excited to be in the race. My husband and I cleared our schedule far in advance of that day so that we could trace her route and move along it, staying just enough ahead of her that we would be ready to shout and cheer as she ran past. Finally, at the finish line, we saw her in the distance, keeping a steady pace toward the ribbon. We shouted and waved, erupting in cheers and excitement as she crossed the finish line, exhausted but smiling, having accomplished a long-term goal toward which she had labored hard.
But some runners did not make it to the finish line. Injuries, exhaustion, and other problems made an early end to their race, and these athletes were crushed by the defeat. Others hobbled, limped, or even crawled over the finish line, long after the majority of the runners had gone home. Among the finishers and those who didn’t; the steady runners and the hobblers, there was a common theme: They had friends and family cheering them on as they ran. It was truly heartwarming to see the encouragement and enthusiasm of those who had accompanied the participants, and to see the appreciation and renewed energy of the runners as they recognized their cheerleaders, high-fiving and whooping past the checkpoints.
Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but think of the race that we believers are in, as we “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” As I joined my fellow sideline shouters in encouraging not just our family member, but other runners too, I thought how wonderful it would be if those of us in ministry had such a squad of cheerleaders urging us on. It is so easy to become weary as the Christian marathon in our culture becomes more uphill, isn’t it? Every day, we’re faced with more sexual perversion, more political fighting, and just the general insanity of the way our world is going. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were folks placed strategically along our route, at the points that are the toughest, to cheer us on and offer encouragement?
But this won’t happen without some intentionality. So my question for you today is this: Who are you cheering on? When was the last time you let your pastor know how much his message encouraged you? Have you thanked an elder or deacon lately for his work behind the scenes? What about the people in your life who have encouraged you in your ministry? Have you looked for ways to return the favor? Ministry life can be exhausting, and there are many who leave their posts to work in secular jobs because the burden and toil of full-time ministry is just too much. Too thankless. Too draining.
While Christian ministry has many rewards, and our primary motive must always be the glory of God, there is still a great need for encouragement. My heart is refilled and my energy renewed whenever I receive a note of thanks from a counselee. One of my favorite encouragements is when someone asks me how they can be praying for me, either personally or in the counseling ministry. Really, any intentional, personal communication of encouragement will carry me many miles in what can sometimes seem like an endless race of faith and labor. I love the Lord and His people, and I can’t imagine ever being completely out of Christian ministry. But, if it were not for the bits of encouragement along the way, it would be a much more wearisome task.
So today, I want to encourage you to place yourself in a strategic point on someone’s marathon route. Find out what the toughest days of their ministry are, and mark your calendar to pray for them. Be intentional about looking for the weary worker; the tired teacher, and the pressured pastor. Take a moment to cheer them on in their race, and remind them of the sweet satisfaction they will have when they run through that finish line ribbon. One thing every ministering servant has in common is the desire to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” on the day they meet the Lord. That meeting will be the finish line of their race, and wouldn’t it be sweet to know that the Lord used you along the way to cheer and encourage them?