Marathons: a vision for Christ’s church

Marathons: a vision for Christ’s church

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While I finish up radiation treatments, this have been a little quiet here on Growing Kids Ministry.  I thought it might be a perfect time to share a few guest posts.  The following is an excerpt from Talking with God (released March 21st).  Read more about the book and the author, Adam Weber at adamweber.com

I am not a runner.

I like to walk. Walking is good. But running is a different story. You’ll never see me running without a legitimate reason. Like for a Chipotle burrito. I might “run” to Chipotle for that. In my car. My wife, Bec, on the other hand, loves to run. Weird, I know.

In college, she ran a couple of miles each week for exercise. But after we got married and the kids showed up, she began running more often and longer. Maybe to escape us? For Running the Race Set Before Youher, running is her time to decompress and be alone. Endorphins became her drug of choice.

When she signed up to run her first marathon, I have to admit I thought she was nuts. “You’re choosing to run 26.2 miles? Your car isn’t broken down? You’re not being chased by the mafia? That’s crazy!”

For perspective, a marathon takes about 55,000 steps.

As a supportive husband should, on the day of the marathon, I went along to cheer her on. I dropped Bec off at the starting line, then the kids and I went ahead a few miles. It was my first marathon as well. Watching, that is. Tough work, but someone has to do it. I didn’t know what to expect, other than seeing a bunch of people run 55,000 steps.

It ended up being so much more than that. It was powerful. Awesome actually. I didn’t expect to be moved like I was. Friends, family, and complete strangers lined the sidelines of the 26.2-mile route and cheered. They yelled. Even screamed. Some even shook cowbells as the runners passed by.

“Keep going!”

“You’re doing great!”

“You’re looking good!”

“Way to go!”

“Keep running!”

“You can do it!”

***

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians he tells them, and us, “encourage one another.” More literally, that could be translated as “comfort” or “strengthen” one another.

Encourage your friend.

Comfort your coworker.

Strengthen a neighbor.

This same word—encourage—can also be translated as “pray.”Encourage Each Other

Encourage and pray for your friend.

Comfort and pray for your coworker.

Strengthen and pray for your neighbor.

Encourage one another by praying for each other.

Comfort others by praying for them.

Strengthen each other through prayer.

When life is a marathon, is there anything more powerful we can do for each other? In a world that is quick to tear down and discourage, is anything more needed?

More and more, I’m beginning to realize that there is no greater gift that I can receive from friends, family, and even complete strangers than their prayers for me.

I am encouraged by the words and prayers of others.

I am comforted by someone praying for me.

I am supernaturally strengthened by someone talking to God for and about me.

That’s powerful stuff.

Again, we’re told to “encourage one another.”

***

I didn’t expect watching people run 55,000 steps to become a spiritual experience, but it did. As I said, friends, family, and complete strangers lined the route, and they were cheering. They were yelling. Encouraging the runners as they came by. It was crazy.

Are You Running the Race? For this German-Norwegian Lutheran boy, it took some time to get into the cheering spirit. I’m usually reserved about things like that, especially when I have no idea who I’m cheering for. But at one stop, I was standing at the base of a hill, and right beside me was an older lady who was cheering on all of the runners as they ran past. I mean, like, full-body cheering and yelling.

She was into it. No shame.
At first I thought she just knew a lot of the people. This lady must know everyone! But it quickly became clear that she didn’t know any of them. She was cheering on complete strangers. Anyone who passed by. And she was loud. Like an overzealous mom at a soccer game.

“Keep it going, buddy!”

“You can make it up the hill!”

“You can do it, girl! You’ve got this!”

“You’re running hard. Nice work!”

She was contagious to watch and listen to. After a while, I couldn’t resist. I had to try it myself.

Quietly at first, as reservedly as I could, I began to cheer.

“Keep going!”

“Nice job!”

“You only have twelve miles left!” Okay, actually I didn’t say that one.

Running the Race

After only a few minutes of cheering, I went from speaking softly to shouting. I really got into it, cheering them on like a wild man. I didn’t know anyone but my wife, but I hoped my words could help them run. They were strangers, yet I wanted the best for them. I wanted them to get a fresh wind for the miles ahead. I hoped my cheering would spur them on.

Then it hit me. It was as if God spoke, Adam, this is what church should look like.

As followers of Jesus, this is what we’re called to do for others—anyone we cross paths with.

They may not be close friends or even someone we know. But when we see that people are

going through a difficult time, we cheer them on. We pray for them.

***

I’ve heard that the hardest part of running a marathon isn’t the end. It’s the places along the

26.2-mile route, the long stretches within the 55,000 steps, where there is no one along the path

cheering. The hardest sections are those where there’s no one encouraging the runner to keep

going, the stretches where the runner feels all alone. Places where you feel like you could quit

running and no one would even notice.

I’ve found the same is true in life.

 

Talking With God explores how we do just that, talk with God. Through personal stories, practical advice, and examples from Scripture, Adam delves into a topic many Christians and non-Christians alike say they find challenging. But the truth is, prayer is simple. It’s like talking. Talking with a good friend. And the best part? Our God can’t wait to talk with us.

 

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