A few years ago, I tracked down a pastor who had participated in the very first class of the Arrow Leadership Program™ back in the mid 90s. I wanted to hear more about his Arrow journey.
This pastor shared that his Arrow experience was transformational and pointed him toward a new ministry in church planting. A year or two after he obediently followed Jesus into church planting, things got very hard. Soon he was at the end of his rope. He very much wanted to quit and pack it in, but he didn’t.
I asked him what kept him going through the grind, the challenges and the loneliness. He said he couldn’t give up because so much had been poured into him through his Arrow experience and through others who had been cheering him on over many years.
His story points me back to Hebrews 12:1-3, which is one of my favorite passages. It’s about running, and I’m a runner. Like it or not, the passage says you are a runner too. There is a “race marked out for you” that you are to run with perseverance.There is a “race marked out for you” that you are to run with perseverance. Click To Tweet
Let me explain.
Running races, especially long-distance ones, have a general rhythm to them. At the start, adrenaline is pumping; there is nervous energy and excitement; music is blaring; and family, friends and even strangers are cheering.
As you get farther from the start, however, it usually gets much quieter. The music and cheering have stopped. You just hear the eerie beat of footfalls hitting the pavement from all the runners. It can be a sobering time as you come to grips with the long challenge ahead. It can feel surreal as people you don’t think should pass you breeze right ahead. It can be a lonely time when you get separated from other runners. It can be a grind as the hills start to take their toll. Left unchecked, the mind of a weary runner can start to drift toward negative and even dark places.
Can you relate to the runner? Have the music and cheering faded away? Are the challenges sobering? Is it surreal to see some people flourishing while you are struggling? Are you feeling lonely? Is the grind taking its toll? Has your mind been drifting toward negative and even dark places?
Let me share three reminders when the race is hard:
1. You Are Not Alone
Without a doubt, this is a challenging leg of the race. You are not alone in how you feel. Most of us are having trouble even finding the mile markers along the route.
2. You Are Surrounded
Remember what encouraged my church-planting friend. In the difficult and dark moments of his race, he was reminded of the faces and names of people who had poured into him. People who had been cheering him on and were still cheering him on.
The first verse of Hebrews 12 says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”
To run the race marked out for you with perseverance, you need to start by remembering that you are surrounded. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses which includes the “who’s who of faith list” in Hebrews 11. Their examples of faith inspire and give perspective when the race gets challenging.
Added to the great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 11 are more witnesses who are cheering you on. Think back over your life. Whose example in faith has inspired you? Who has poured into you? Who has prayed for you? Who has been and is cheering you on? If you listen carefully, whether grandparents, parents, family members, spouses, pastors, friends, teachers, coaches, colleagues or congregants, there are a lot of witnesses whose example, voices and prayers are still cheering you on.
3. Jesus Runs With You
Jesus Himself is cheering you on. He loves you enough to have died for you. He walks (and runs) with you today. He is more for you than anyone else. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, sees you, understands what you are going through and He is personally advocating for you today.Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, sees you, understands what you are going through and is personally advocating for you today. Click To Tweet
Cheering you on,
Dr. Steve A. Brown
President, Arrow Leadership
P.S. Maybe you feel full of energy, and your stride is strong right now. If that’s your case, then do two things: (1) Bookmark this post for if/when things get harder down the road and (2) Consider how you can come alongside other runners and cheer them on. In God’s Kingdom economy, the goal isn’t just getting yourself across the finish line, it’s about getting everyone across the finish line. Who can you cheer on today?