No, I’m not talking about Larry Cucumber, although he can be encouraging.  This is something that I recently received from a collegue in Malawi.  He and his wife went to Sterling College a few years before I did and that is our first connection.  While I was there I tried to recruit their oldest son.  Now we work together and while I was in the States this summer I was fortunate enough to travel to Dordt and visit their daughter.  It was such fun!  I was really blessed when I read this and I pray that you are as well. 

Posted with permission from Larry McAuley.


I am not particularly sporty in build or inclination but I do enjoy running.  I can’t do it on a regular basis – it tears up my legs.  When I was in high school I was on the track team and ran the mile.  I never had the honour of breaking the tape, but I came in 2nd or 3rd on many of the races I ran. 


The mile is nothing like a marathon or even like cross-country but it can be grueling.  The first lap is fun – you are fresh and strong, competing for position, trying to determine the strategy of other runners so you don’t wear yourself out early in the race.  The second lap is harder as your lungs begin to cry for more air.  The third lap is nothing short of torture – legs on fire, lungs insatiable.  Half way through the final lap, though, it’s like a reserve you didn’t know was there begins to assert itself.  You concentrate on the gap between yourself and the runner ahead determined to overtake.  The roaring of the crowd fills your ears.  Your stride lengthens and the goal comes into view. 


But one of the most significant things that causes new energy and determination to blossom in your pounding heart is the voices of your teammates as they lean over the fence around the track shouting encouragement.  You see your coach, stop-watch in hand, and hear his voice, “Stretch, Larry!  Lengthen your stride!  You can DO it!”  And somehow, I did!  Those encouraging voices cheered me past one runner, then two, then through the final stretches of the race.


Life can be a lot like a race.  Jockeying for position.  Striving.  Discouragement.  Tiredness.  The desire to just sit down.  The thrill of seeing the goal.  Stretching out and reaching into reserves you didn’t know you had.  And the encouragement of your teammates.


In a recent meeting about community development we were discussing some of the barriers to development.  One of the first and foremost barriers identified was lack of confidence.  That has really grabbed my attention. 


Take a moment to investigate Paul’s letter to the church in Colossi, chapter 2, verses 2 through 4.  We see a lot of key words here that can be very impactful in community work – in fact, in homes and churches as well!  Comfort/encouragement, united in love (aga’pee), full assurance, understanding, wisdom, knowledge…. 


Think of a time when you have been particularly encouraged.  What did the other person do to/for you?  What did they say?  What was their attitude?  What was the result in your life?  Now think of a time when God used YOU to encourage another.  How many of those key words did you employ or resulted from that encouragement? 


This isn’t about “I’m OK, you’re OK.”  This is about turning people’s eyes, hearts and hopes to Jesus the owner and completer of all God’s treasures and promises.  We don’t often find true encouragement within ourselves.  But we will always find real courage and strength in Christ, our Champion, who goes before us and is ever with us.


O, Jesus!  Cause me to be an encouragement to someone today!


For further study: Is.40:1; Ro.15:13; 2 Cor.1:4-6; 2 Thes.2:16-17