In my last post, I mentioned that there have been several unexpected deaths lately. Some of those who died I knew better than others and some I only really knew of….but, either way, it has been a sobering few weeks. Perhaps that is why today’s prompt, Success, quickly reminded me of Paul’s longing (in II Timothy 4:7) “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” No doubt, all of us, as Christians, long to hear the Father say, “Well done.” That will be success for God’s children.”
Acts 20:24 says, “…..neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy….” We all have a course to run and the goal, despite whatever obstacles there might be, is to finish. Not to quit or even to faint. (Galatians 6:9) We probably all know stories of those who trained and prepared…those who had all the potential to race well…but did not. Those who did not finish for all sorts of reasons. But I am reminded of the story of Florence Chadwick.
In 1952, Florence attempted to swim the 26 miles between California and Catalina Island. A team traveled in boats alongside her in order to watch for sharks (??!) and to be available if she had any trouble. She swam for fifteen hours before a thick fog settled in making hard, or impossible, for Florence to see and she eventually decided to quit and had the team pull her into the boat. It was then she discovered she was only one mile from Catalina Island. One mile.
There are so many lessons in that story. Lessons about perseverance. Lessons about life’s fog. Lots of lessons. But, this morning, through the prompt and this story, God impressed on my heart the need – and the joy – of being encouragers. Florence had a team right alongside her. Her own mother was even in one of the boats. I can’t help but wonder what they were saying. If they would have looked ahead – perhaps from a viewpoint above water level – and could have urged her to continue. Could they have kept her confidence up enough to finish? What difference could they have made?
In the same way, what difference can I make for others around me who are struggling to run their race? Those who might be weary, discouraged or those who may be ready to quit. Those in our church family, co-laborers in ministry, friends, family, pastors and other leaders, missionaries – and missionary wives – so far from home. All of these – Christians striving to run their race well. We might know some of the struggles they face and, then again, we might have no idea. But our coming alongside as an encourager might be all that is needed to finish that one mile ahead.
STOP – Just for the record, Florence Chadwick attempted her swim again in just two months. Even though the fog set in again, she finished. And went on to make the swim two more times – as well, became the first woman to swim the English Channel.