Growing up I played on several sports teams. I played softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer and I ran track and cross country. Running is what held out the longest.
I remember thinking during track meets it was up to me to warm up, run my race and cool down. There were not team huddles before each individual race. After getting my heat assignment, I would lace up my shoes and warm up. When I was called to the starting line the adrenaline always kicked in. Lining up and hearing, “On your mark… Get Set…” followed by a gun shot, always have the tendency to spike my nerves. I would take off from the start line, keep my eyes up and find a girl I wanted to make sure I would beat. Typically, as soon as I crossed the finish line, I was on the ground, too exhausted to take another step.
This past week I have realized how this is the mindset we have for our spiritual relationship with God. We see it as an individual race where no one else can help us finish. But that’s not true.
Every time I had a track meet, my Dad was there to cheer me on. He was my encourager and my biggest fan. Even days before my races the house slowly changed as the meals I ate were geared toward preparing me for my race. The day of the meet, my Dad would make sure he knew when my races were scheduled, so that he could be there. After I selected my heat, my Dad was there to know which heat I would be running, but he would also let me refocus and warm up.
During my race his voice carried and was the only one I would hear as I ran. He would yell my time, knowing that I wanted to have a new PR (personal record) each time. He would yell about what place I was in and how many girls I needed to get around. He would also yell when he saw another girl trying to make a move around me. He became my eyes and booster. Just as my Dad was my encourager, so God gives us encouragers in each season of our life.
These encouragers are found in the various places God puts us. School, work, organizations all have the opportunity to bring encouragers, but the biggest place God can use is the church. The church consists of a group of people who share the same mindset, beliefs and goals as you. They are not perfect, they go through seasons of good and bad times, and they are built-in encouragers. Part of the mindset of an individual racer is to think that you are alone in whatever season you are walking through. That is a lie. God created us with a desire for community. He was intentional. He also has given us people to engage in community with every day.
If I ran track with the mindset of running solely for myself. I would be lonely, vain, and I would miss out on helping my team win the overall title. I would also miss out on celebrating the victories my team members got individually. During track, some of the greatest moments came from running relay races with my team members. While each individual is important to the race, it took each person to run the race together in order to win. So it is with our Spiritual ‘race’ or walk with God. The team only worked when each member knew the strengths and weaknesses of the others. We would practice, lose some and win some, but we were always encouraging each other. Not only did we encourage each other in our relays, but in the individual races. We shared stories, experiences and advice. We built a community relationship. We were a team.
The same should happen in the church. We should be a team reaching out and encouraging one another as we run our individual races. We should be a team and help each other realize that some seasons are meant to be relays, where other people can carry our burdens to help us finish the race (Gal. 6:2). We should be a team by being transparent; sharing our experiences and advice. We should be a team and push each other to be better people and grow closer to God. It only takes one person stepping up and being humble enough to admit that their life is not perfect. It takes one person to express their trials and temptations. It takes one person to be transparent and other people to come alongside them to share stories, experiences and advice. It takes you.
You are not alone. There is someone in your church who has gone through the same season you are going through. There will be someone in your church who goes through your current season after you have gone through it. Are you ready to admit that you need help? Are you ready to be poured into? Are you ready to be filled with encouragement so that you can encourage others God will bring to you for encouragement? The first step you should take is to admit that you need encouragement and to allow the church to fulfill your need.
Are you a parent who does not know how to engage in your child’s life? You are not alone. Are you single and unsure about how to be content in God? You are not alone. Are you worried about your family’s unhealthy tendencies? You are not alone. Are you addicted to something that is harming you and those around you, or are you harmed by someone else’s addiction? You are not alone. Are you struggling with an unspoken sin? You are not alone.
God did not create you or place you on earth as the only human being. He also has not allowed for you to go through such an unusual situation that no one around you cannot relate to. The church is the body of Christ, but it is more than that. It is a team of believers who are ready to help you, encourage you, carry your burdens with you, love you and lead you to God. A team is only as unified as its individuals are unified. As children of God, we are called to be unified, for it is good (Psalm 133:1, John 17:23).
This life is fleeting, but it is a team effort. Are you choosing to be on the team?