Just recently, the Comrades Marathon was run right here in our very own beautiful province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Known as the world's oldest and largest ultra-marathon, it is a long distance race that is run over a distance of approximately 90 km, between Pietermaritzburg, and the coastal city of Durban, with the direction alternating each year between the two cities, the so called up & down runs.
Because of it’s gruelling nature, the Comrades is a race that tests the runners limits, not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
But the amazing thing about this race, is that, every year, despite the climatic conditions, thousands of people line the streets, from very early in the morning, to simply encourage those very brave runners.
And let me tell you that when those runners get to the last 20km mark, the only thing that will keep them going right to the very end, is encouragement!
Friends, we too are also in a race.
The moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we qualify to run God’s race.
And this race is not for the swift but for those who can endure till the very end.
We too, need all the encouragement we can get.
Paul understood the importance of encouragement and in Romans 1:11-12 (Amplified), he writes;
11 For I am yearning to see you, that I may impart and share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen and establish you;
12 That is, that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
It’s amazing what encouragement will do for people, especially when they are at their lowest and facing all kinds of adversities.
Most people would be able to do much more than they are doing now if they were only encouraged.
And when we encourage others, we become Jesus wrapped up in flesh.
Encouragement comes to us through spending time with God, Scripture reading, quiet times and prayer.
But human encouragement is yet another way God uses to bless and minister to His people.
It’s the reason why God puts us in strategic places to encourage others with just the right words at just the right time.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) says;
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
Biblical encouragement is not flattery, neither is it quoting motivational quotes.
Actually, it’s a lot deeper and stronger than that.
It means to come close enough to someone’s life, so as to identify with their personal struggles and then, from that place, to counsel and instil courage in their hearts.
The main thing to remember about Biblical encouragement though, is that it will always point people to Jesus and His word.
I know of many people who went in the wrong direction in life, simply because they were not encouraged.
Being fearful, they did the thing that was the most easiest or the most popular.
They made decisions based upon how they felt, rather than on what they knew.
But when a person is encouraged, they usually have better judgement.
And they are able to move ahead in life, based on the facts and on their true God-given gifts rather than on negative and confused feelings.
The sad thing is that there are so few people in this world who encourage others.
Actually it's quite rare to find a person who regularly encourages others.
And encouragers are a “rare breed” of individuals.
The amazing thing about being an encourager is that it allows you the awesome opportunity of starting a never-ending process that will be passed on from one person to another.
That is because encouragement is infectious.
You simply can’t be encouraged yourself without giving it away to someone else.
It’s like throwing a pebble in the water.
While there is always the initial impact, the ripples continue almost indefinitely.
I want to encourage you today, to become an encourager!
You just never know what you may start.
Father, use me to be an encourager every day of my life.
In Jesus Name, amen.