(2 Timothy 4:7 NIV).
It was the first swim meet of the year for our newly formed Middle School Aquatics team. The atmosphere on the three hour bus ride was electric with anticipation as the band of forty-eight adolescents thought of nothing but victory. However, the electricity turned into shock as our minnows filed off the bus and stared in disbelief at their muscle clad, Neptune-like opponents.
The coach checked the schedule. “Surely there’s been a mistake,” he thought. But the schedule only confirmed that, yes, this was the right place and the right time.
The two teams formed a line on the side of the pool. Whistles blew, races were begun, and races were lost. Halfway through the meet, Coach Huey realized that he had no participants for one of the events.
“OK team, who wants to swim the 500 yard free style?” the coach asked.
Several hands shot up, including Justin’s. “I’ll race coach!”
The coach looked down at the freckle faced youth and said, “Justin, this race is twenty lengths of the pool. I’ve only seen you swim eight.”
“Oh, I can do it coach. Let me try. What’s twelve more laps.”
The coach reluctantly conceded. “After all,” he thought, “It’s not the winning but the trying that builds character.”
The whistle blew and the opponents torpedoed through the water and finished the race in a mere four minutes and fifty seconds. The winners gathered on the sidelines to socialize while our group struggled to finish. After four more long minutes, the last exhausted members of our team emerged from the water. The last except for Justin.
Justin was stealing breaths as his hands slapped against the water and pushed it aside to propel his thin body forward. It appeared that he would go under at any minute, yet something seemed to keep pushing him onward.
“Why doesn’t the coach stop this child?” the parents whispered among themselves. “He looks like he’s about to drown and the race was won four minutes ago.”
But what the parents did not realize was that the real race, the race of a boy becoming a man, was just beginning.
The coach walked over to the young swimmer, knelt down and quietly spoke.
Relieved parents thought, “Oh, he’s finally going to pull that boy out before he kills himself.”
But to their surprise, the coach rose from the concrete, stepped back from the pool’s edge, and the young man continued to swim.
One teammate, inspired by his brave friend, went to the side of the pool and walked the lane as Justin pressed on. “Come on Justin, you can do it! You can do it! Keep going! Don’t give up!”
He was joined by another, then another, until the entire team was walking the length of the pool rooting for and encouraging their fellow swimmer to finish the race set before him.
The opposing team saw what was happening and joined the chant. The students’ contagious chorus sent a chill through the room and soon the once concerned parents were on their feet cheering, shouting, and praying. The room was pulsating with energy and excitement as teammates and opponents alike pumped courage into one small swimmer.
Twelve long minutes after the starting whistle had blown, an exhausted, but smiling, Justin Rigsbee swam his final lap and struggled to pull himself out of the pool. The crowd had applauded the first swimmer, as he crossed the line, first place. But they gave Justin the greater cheer, for finishing the race.
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (NIV). On some days, when the swimming or running grows difficult – on those days when I want to quit, I long for friends and family who will walk the course with me cheering me on. “Come on Sharon, you can do it!” “Don’t give up! You’re almost there!”
But there are days when I look around and there seems to be no one there to cheer me on. That’s when I need to look a bit closer, listen a bit more intently, and hear the still small voice of my Heavenly Father. He’s always there to pick me up when I fall, hold me when I cry, hug me when I’m feeling alone, cheer for me when I’m victorious, and love me when I’m just me. And He’s there for you too.
Our Heavenly Parent is cheering for you, my friend. He’s saying, “Keep going! Don’t give up! You are precious to Me! You’re not alone! You can do it!”
Today, feel God’s embrace and listen closely as He speaks to your heart. I think I hear Him now…
Dear Heavenly Father, sometimes I feel like I’m not going to make it. Thank You for friends that come alongside me and cheer me on when I feel like I’m about to go under. Most of all, thank You for always being with me and cheering me on in the great race of life. I love You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
What do you Think?
Can you identify with Justin? Have you ever felt like you have bitten off more than you can chew?
What helps you most in times like these?
Can you think of a friend who is struggling today who might need a word of encouragement? You might be just the person God has chosen you to cheer her own. Why not give her a call, shoot her an e-mail, or write her a note of cheer.
Let’s honor a person who has been an encourager to you leave a comment and the name of one person who has encouraged you. Then tell her about it! I’m going to pick 1 random name from the comments and send 2 Starbucks gift cards. One for the winner and one for the winner to share!
If you would like to sharpen your listening-to-God skills, then check out Becoming a Woman who Listens to God. It is not a matter of whether or not He speaks to us. It is a matter of whether or not we will listen.