My husband David and daughter Sarah completed an Ironman competition last weekend in Panama City Beach, Florida. The full-day event involved swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean, biking 112 miles, and running a marathon (26.2 miles). Sarah started doing the Ironman competition with her dad 4 years ago, and David has been participating in the Ironman for 7 years. This year’s event especially touched my heart because of the way I saw David and Sarah interacting as father and daughter. It reminded me of how we need to look out for one another in the body of Christ and to be intentional about helping one another as followers of Jesus.
Look for them
The first part of the Ironman competition involves swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean. The triathletes swim out into the ocean, following a long line of buoys that create a path similar to a giant upside down U. They come out of the ocean and then go back into it to swim the same path once again. After his first swim circuit, David came up to me and Sarah’s husband Ben, and asked, “Where’s Sarah? Have you seen her yet?” He smiled when we told him she had just re-entered the ocean seconds before him. He was looking for her. When he completed his swim and came out of the ocean the second time, he asked about Sarah again. He grinned once more when we told him she had already finished her swim. He was continuing to look for her.
We’ve got to watch out for one another in life. Those of us with more experience in the race need to be looking after those with less experience. We need to be watching for those “athletes” who might need a little help along the way. Paul had his Timothy in the Bible. He called Timothy, “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2, NASB). Paul looked out for Timothy and encouraged him in his walk with the Lord. Paul said he desired that Timothy would experience the true “grace, mercy and peace [that is] from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2, NASB). We can all pray that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes to the younger ones we can come alongside. We can always be looking for them.
When we do that, we are looking through the eyes of Jesus. He looked at us and saw our need for a Savior, and He showed up alongside us to help. He, being God, took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). “For the joy set before Him, [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB). He looked ahead and saw us—those who would be saved by His sacrifice—and that was the “joy set before Him” as He “endured the cross.” When we look for others we can point to Him, we are joining Him in what is near and dear to His heart.
Before the Ironman began, David told me he wanted to do the bike and run portions with Sarah. He wanted to experience the event alongside his daughter. Deep down, I knew David was expressing his great love for Sarah in that decision. He was going to be blessed by the experience, but it also required sacrifice on his part. He was not going to be able to complete the Ironman at his regular biking and running pace. He would have to change his pace to stay with Sarah. He’s tall, with long legs. Sarah is shorter. Any cyclist or runner will tell you that you have to find your own pace and stick with it. David was going to have to make some adjustments that might affect his body physically as well as the timing of his race results. He knew going through the race with his daughter was worth it.
That’s sacrificial love. In the New Testament, the word for love, Christ-like love, is agape. It means an unconditional, unrelenting love, a determined goodwill that seeks another’s best interests. That’s how David chose to love his daughter, and that’s how Jesus chose to love us. Philippians 2:4-8, NASB, says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In other words, Jesus thought of us and did what was in our best interests, going to the cross for our sakes. He emptied Himself, literally laid aside His privileges as God, and loved us to the end (John 13:1). Jesus said this in John 15:13, NASB: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Each of us can ask the Lord to show us people we can love in His name. It will probably require sacrifice on our part, but when we do, we are obeying Jesus’ commandment: “that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NASB).
Since David decided to bike and run alongside Sarah, he was able to encourage her the entire time. He was able to draw from his many years of triathlon experience to advise her along the way. He reminded her when she needed to eat or drink in order to have enough nutrition. He kept track of their pace and made recommendations for when they should speed up or slow down. He kept the finish line in mind the entire time and kept them focused on the reward. Sarah received his advice and benefitted from it. When Ben and I met them halfway through the marathon, we both commented on how good they looked—healthy and strong, because they were running together.
We are instructed to “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB). In fact, we are commanded to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB). The Lord knows we need encouragement, and He gives us the blessing of being able to encourage one another in Him.
Jesus Himself encourages us as we run the race of life too. He says, “‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20, NASB). He stays with us all the way to the finish line, telling us we can do all things through Him because He strengthens us and meets all our needs (Philippians 4:13, 19). He guides, protects, and defends us (John 10:11, 14-17), and He sees us through to the finish line and our eternal reward (John 14:1-3, Revelation 22:12).
When David and Sarah crossed the finish line of their Ironman competition, I cheered with all my heart. I was so proud of both of them, and I was extremely grateful to witness what can happen when we decide to look for, love, and encourage one another in this race called life. Jesus goes with us as we race, and we’re truly blessed when we get to experience Him in one another.
Question: Who has looked for, loved, and encouraged you in the race of life? Comment at the link below.
1 Timothy 1:2; John 1:14; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 2:4-8; John 13:1, 34-35; 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13, 19; John 10:11, 14-17; 14:1-3; Revelation 22:12