Encouragement for Today 18 March 2022

When You’re NOT Almost There
JENNIFER DUKES LEE

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)

My lungs burned. I didn’t think I would make it. Each exhausting step made it clear that I hadn’t trained enough for my first ever half-marathon.

I was on mile 11 of 13.1. The spectators lining the streets could see my struggle. One person shouted, “You’re doing great! You’re almost there!” And then another and another. Each one told me the same thing: “You’re almost there!”

Except that I wasn’t almost there. I was 2 miles away. To me, finishing sounded about as easy as pole vaulting over the moon.

I realize how ungrateful this will make me sound, but every time someone told me I was “almost there,” my whiny self wanted to shout back, “No, I’m not!”

Just then, I saw a dude dressed up like a clown waving a sign that said, “You are NOT almost there!” Even though my lungs hurt, I laughed out loud. The clown ran onto the route, running alongside me until I got to the top of the hill. He encouraged me with every step.

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Perhaps oddly, this was the precise motivation I needed — to know that the finish line was nowhere in sight. Turns out, that clown was a trained marathoner, and he knew what I needed to hear: that I was not, in fact, almost there but that finishing was possible if I kept moving forward.

Two miles later, my “not almost there” turned into a very relieved “I’m finally here!”

What’s true on a half-marathon course is true in life. We find ourselves trudging along wearily, and that’s when we “almost there” ourselves. The “finish line” seems a million miles away, and we wonder if we should be further along. Maybe for you, it’s looked like this: The healing hasn’t happened. The prayer hasn’t been answered. Your hard work hasn’t paid off.

When we’re barely able to take another step, we don’t need false assurances of “almost there.” More than anything, we need someone to remind us that almost everything in life … takes time.

That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul reminds us — without the clown costume, of course.

In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul says, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” 

When Paul says “I have not achieved it,” he’s saying that becoming like Jesus is a lifelong journey, taken step by step. And the only way to finish is to “press on” in faith.

That’s true in nearly every area of life — our spirituality, relationships, businesses, even our healing and grieving. Most things take time.

In a way, that’s really good news for us all. Because when we are trudging up the hills of this life — when everything hurts and we want to quit — we’ll find Jesus right beside us. Even though we’re miles from the destination, Jesus gives us courage to press on.

Dear Lord, when life gets hard and the finish line seems miles away, I want to know You’re here. I ask for Your strength to press on until the very end. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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