I haven’t run a relay race since I was in a physical education class.  The event that still can be easily recalled is that debilitating day in college when the coach known by students one and all as the one most brutal in his teaching methodologies, paired us up according to weight and we ran back and forth across the gym bouncing each other on our backs.  The only solace I had was that I was the slimmest kid in class.  That meant I was paired with the next heaviest but still heavier mass of bones to manage.  I might have been nineteen inches in the waist but I was apparently too weak in the knees.  I still think this is a mighty cruel resemblance of a relay race!  The only break you got to prevent exhaustion was a shaky piggy back ride on the way to becoming the pig!  

Much more rewarding, we take it upon ourselves to run a different kind of race, and the reward is ultimate altruism.  As races may go, this one is not always rewarding along the way.  It is sometimes fraught with disappointment when sprinting over the finish line is in doubt.  The wearisome hills that seem like mountains and the length we must travel begin to feel like a never-ending conveyer belt.  The race I’m thinking of is the race to help someone who does not want helping.  

Our heart breaks over the person in need and there may come a time when we just don’t seem to have what is demanded of us in order to finish the race.  The need may be to thwart the propensity of a friend or relative to indulge in self inflicting behavior.  The need may be to fill the empty well of defeat with encouragement to continue a wearisome fight.  The need may be to win a soul over to the only plan for salvation.   

Persuasion in these situations can be challenging.  In reasoning, any weak premise or inadequately supported claim can become your undoing.  Sometimes, even when every piece of the argument seems to be in place, evidence is still perceived as inadequate and the persuasion is unpersuasive.  We may fall short in our clarity or presentation.  “In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of the weakest link of the chain whatever may be the strength of the rest” (Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man by Thomas Reid, 1786, page 377).  

But “be of good cheer!” (John 16:33 KJV).  You are no lone ranger.  This is a relay race you are running.  “…each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth…. For we are God’s coworkers…. According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it….” (1 Corinthians 3:5-10).  

You do not carry the entire burden.  You are not the weak link in a breaking chain.  There is a whole line of witnesses — most of whom are out of sight and unbeknown to you (John 1:40-51; Hebrews 12:1).  God’s helpers outnumber the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:5).  Where you leave off, the conversation continues.  And who is working all this out?  The Spirit of God who takes the baton motivated by the incomprehensible and inexhaustible compassionate love of Jesus (John 3:16).

Stephen Williams

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