About this time last year I began training for my first marathon. I finished it and, to say it was difficult is a vast understatement. Twenty-six point two miles (26.2) miles is brutal; but, as anyone will tell you, it wasn’t simply the race that gets you, it’s the training. For a guy who has had two back surgeries, my guess is that multiple marathons are not the best type of exercise for my back. So, recently I have been attempting cycling; this is better on my back but long rides like 50 miles or so take me around 3 hours. Here is one thing I have learned about long runs and long bike rides…they are much better when you have someone with you. Not only is it much safer, it causes you to think about the “grind” and pain much less and it encourages you to stay with it… in short, it is built in accountability. As I thought about this, it leaves no doubt in my mind why our Lord came up with the church.
We are called in Heb. 12:1 to run with “endurance;” this points out that sometimes this race we have been called to run is a grind. There will be times our flesh will scream “no” and there will be times we will genuinely believe it is easier to simply sit down and quit. However, we are called to this incredible living organism called the church. God places the body of Christ around me to encourage me, to help keep me safe, to focus on my pain less and so many other things that can so easily ensnare me. Church was not man’s concoction; this was God’s plan to glorify Himself. The amazing thing is Bubba Crowder and I ran a lot of miles together and there were days that I had a bad run and other days that he had a bad run and here is what I discovered…the one who felt the best had to help, encourage and even wait on the other. No matter how good the one person felt or no matter how far he thought he could go, when one was hurt or didn’t feel like they could keep pace, the other would help. Sometimes that help meant slowing down a bit, but other times it meant encouraging or even telling the other to “suck it up and keep running.” Regardless of what it looks like at the moment, someone running the race with me helps. I really don’t need to do a great deal of application on this blog - the truth is God chooses to use the local church in so many areas of my life, but one of the major purposes is to aid in my sanctification. God puts the church in my life and uses the members to cause me to look more like Christ: sometimes that is by confronting me in sin, other times it is encouraging me with words of grace. Certainly, Ecclesiastes 4:12 is proven that a 3-fold cord is not easily broken; I am stronger because of my brothers and sisters. We live in a day that the church is gossiped about, blogged about and despised in so many ways. The truth is, a church is filled with the Saints of God who fail, struggle and get weary while in the grind of this race. But God, through His Spirit and His people gives us enough grace to not simply finish the race but win it! Don’t neglect your brothers and sisters in Christ, run the race but not alone…we need each other.