Together to the End
One of the great moments in Olympic History took place at the 1988 South Korean Games. Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux began racing with the intention to win. But when—amid dangerous winds—he noticed a competitor's capsized boat, he stopped his race to help save the two injured sailors. He put their need ahead of his own dream.
Lemieux’s sacrifice and courage is a wonderful picture of the qualities that are to characterize the journey of Christians today.
We’re all participants in a very importance race.
The starting gun has gone, the heavenly host is cheering, and Christ is calling us to strive forward to the finish line for the crown of glory.
And importantly, we do not race alone. To our left and right are other believers, travelling the same path, in the same race.
These men and women are not competitors, but teammates who each (like you!) share in the hope of glory.
Thanks to Jesus we have a goal. And while it can be tempting to journey alone, the goal is to finish together.
This is important because the Christian race is not easy. The trials of this world are like strong winds that can slow us down, throw us off course, capsize our boat and cause us to give up.
This week I read the final chapters of 1Thessalonians where Paul speaks of the imminence of our Lord Jesus’ return—a breathtaking vision and reminder of our future prize and salvation (see 1 Thessalonians 5:10).
With the finish line in view, the Apostle Paul has a remarkable and unexpected application. He calls us to adopt a team mindset.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.”
What comes to mind when you think of encouragement?
Many associate the term with flattery and passing compliments, which are nice, but the biblical concept is much richer.
The word in its original language was parakeleite, which comes from the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel (see John 15). The Spirit paraclete, is called by God to come alongside to help and strengthen believers in their race for the crown of glory.
As ‘spirit-filled’ believers we are therefore called to come alongside other believers and provide help, comfort and strength. When people feel as though life and faith is falling apart, we’re there to ‘build up’. We are called to leave our position, to help someone else in his or her position. It’s a call to make sure we finish together.
There are many ways to cultivate a culture of encouragement at City on a Hill.
I’ll share three.
First, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus!
The goal of the Spirit is to fix our gaze on the ultimate treasure of the universe, namely Jesus. He is the means and goal of our salvation.
Without Jesus you have nothing, with him you have everything!
In the midst of doubt and discouragement, look to Jesus! For no matter how strong or high the wave, nothing is as mighty as our Lord.
Second, let’s give thanks for what Jesus is doing!
Celebrating what God is doing in the life of his church is always a huge source of ‘spirit-filled’ encouragement.
We can be encouraged by the developments under the leadership of Pastor Andrew in Geelong. Recently, they hosted their first monthly service in preparation for a launch later in the year. Andrew writes:
City on a Hill Geelong is five months in and getting traction. In the last month we have seen three signs of great encouragement.
1. We have launched five Community Groups (four adult and one youth). These meet weekly and are geographically spread throughout Geelong from Corio to Leopold and are growing.
2. We have run our first Introducing Jesus course. Seventeen people attended each week to either explore Jesus for the first time or to grow in their knowledge of Jesus. Conversations are continuing with unbelievers and we pray that we will see more new Christians soon.
3. We have had our first preview service. Seventy-one people came to worship at the Barwon Club. This is one of Geelong's best known pubs, a centre for live music and our new venue.
God has been so good and we believe that this is just the beginning. Bring it on!
We can be encouraged by the launch of a new ministry called Faith and Works. Josh Zwar, one of the organisers of the ministry writes:
On May 30 our church launched a new ministry, Faith & Work, aimed at exploring the connections between the gospel and our everyday working lives. Those who turned out on a wet Melbourne night were blessed to hear teaching and participate in an interactive discussion. We really have some amazing people at City on a Hill, and the panel discussion showed a depth of thinking about faith and work which I found to be a real encouragement. The Faith & Work team are currently exploring future events to offer training, discussion and networking to better equip our people to live out a faithful Christian witness in and through their working lives. It's great to see so many people passionate about being faithful to Jesus where we spend so much of our time, at work.
We can also be encouraged by the continued growth and support of Many Rooms.
Jim Davison who serves as the Kitchen Director writes:
We had a very successful fundraiser film night in early June with The Great Gatsby as the main feature. It was especially encouraging to have a full house on the night with over 100 people attending, which included supporters, volunteers and even some participants from The Kitchen. Together with money donated by Grill'd (thanks to all those City on a Hill people who love burgers!) and entertainment books, so far we have raised almost $2,300 for Many Rooms. This will be a huge help for us in funding meals for more people (we are averaging 80 people for a two course lunch each week) and also supporting the expansion of our Art group, The Studio.
In addition to giving thanks to God for his great work in our life and church, we can find encouragement by going the extra mile to let someone know how we appreciate them.
Third, let’s make a practical and personal decision to honour and help someone in his or her faith!
Recently, I gave our staff team a blank card and ten minutes to write down what they appreciated most about another member of the team. We then shared these over coffee. It was a very special time that reminded me that we often have ‘thoughts’ of appreciation; we just neglect to share them!
This month, with the business of the season and the cool air setting in, take a practical step to encourage someone!
Step 1–Ask the Spirit to lead you to someone who He believes would value encouragement. This may be someone who has exemplified a quality you respect, acted with service, modelled generosity, or are showing need.
Step 2–Consider a thoughtful response that would ‘build them up’. You could write words on a card, share a Bible verse, buy a gift, take them out for coffee–it doesn’t matter as long as they know its because you appreciate them and are wanting to spur them forward with and for Jesus.
Step 3–Most importantly, put it into practice! We all have good intentions of honouring someone else, but the business and distractions of life get in the way. Be conscious and committed in your effort. In other words–make it happen.
Imagine a church where everyone was on the look out to encourage and build up the person next to him or her! Whether big or small, these efforts are a wonderful way to fuel the tank of a believer on the race to glory!
In the 1988 game, Lemieux helped the other sailors. After handing the competitors off to a rescue crew, he resumed the race (coming in 21st out of 32). While he didn't win gold, Lemieux was awarded an honorary medal for his heroic act.
As believers we travel the same race, seeking to help as many people finish, in anticipation of our heavenly prize and the honor of King Jesus who will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”