September 9, 2004
Encouragement for Today

The Winner
Sharon Jaynes, Vice President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, radio co-host, author and speaker
 
Key Verse:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
 

Devotion

Do you realize that there is always someone there to cheer you on as you go through this thing called life?  I got to experience first hand, just how important that encouragement can be during a swim meet at my son's school.
 
It was the first meet of the year for our newly formed Middle School aquatics team and 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 little minnows filed off the bus and stared in disbelief at their muscle clad, Neptune-like opponents. 
 
The coach checked the schedule, and thought, surely there's been a mistake.  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," he said, "who wants to swim the 500 yard free style?"
 
Several hands shot up, including a little kid named Justin.
 
The coach looked down at the freckle faced boy and said, "Justin, this race is twenty lengths of the pool.  I've only seen you swim eight."
 
Justin said, "Oh, I can do it coach.  Let me try.  What are 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 little 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.  One teammate, inspired by his brave friend, went to the side of the pool and walked the lane as Justin continued to swim.  "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. Then the parents caught on and stood to their feet cheering, shouting, and praying.   That room was pulsating with energy and excitement as teammates and opponents alike, pumped courage into one small swimmer.
 
Well, twelve long minutes after the starting whistle had blown, an exhausted but smiling, Justin swam his final lap and struggled to pull himself out 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 that 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 I know there will be many days that I will look around and discover there is 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.  Our Heavenly Parent is cheering for you too, my friend.  He's saying, "Keep going!  Don't give up!  You are precious to Me!  You're not alone!  You can do it!"
 
Shhh.  Can you hear it?  That still small voice of love.  Oh the joys of becoming a woman who listens to God. There's no sweeter sound I know.
 

Prayer

Help Lord!  I need some encouragement today.  Please send me a friend to cheer me on in this great race of life.  And Lord, if there is no friend to cheer me on today, I pray that I will hear Your gentle voice of love that is continually cheering for me.  Regardless of the cheers or jeers of those around me, I thank You, Lord, that you are enough.  Oh, and Lord, help me to recognize those around me that need a word of cheer from me today.  In Jesus' name, Amen.
 

Application Steps

Write a note of encouragement today to someone going through a rough time.
 
Write a note of thanks to someone who offered you encouragement just at the right time.
 
During the day, make it a point to offer a word of encouragement to five people.  This could be a compliment to the checkout girl at the grocery store, your children, your husband, or the teller at the bank.  Watch the expression on their faces!
 

Reflection Points:

Go back, read the first chapters of Paul's letters to the churches, and note how he encouraged them in the faith.
 
This week, read John 17:6-24.  Note how Jesus prayed for you, and continues to pray for you each and every day.
 

Power verses:

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4 NIV).
 
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word" (2 Thessalonians 2:16 NIV).
 
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV).
 
" Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).
 
"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up" (Proverbs 12:25 NIV).
 

Additional Resources

Becoming a Woman who Listens to God by Sharon Jaynes
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/womanlistens.html

*This devotion was taken from Becoming a Woman who Listens to God by Sharon Jaynes