There I was, warm in my study minding my own business, when the sweet voice of my daughter said, “Dad…I’m going on a run…” (oh no! here it comes) “Do you want to go with me?” Now, in the theoretical sense, yes, I wanted to go. But, in the immediate moment of moving away from warmth and comfort to coldness and exertion, no, I did not want to go. So with a laugh I responded “No, I don’t want to go for a run.” But then my conscience took over and I realized that I had just been given a great opportunity not just to run, but to spend time with my daughter. So, I layered up and laced up, and off we went. We talked a little, shivered a lot, and breathed hard, but my daughter helped me to keep moving forward in one of my goals.
Unwittingly, she had just been used by God to remind me of two aspects of Christian living that are vital for producing healthy Christians and churches: encouragement and accountability. Just as my daughter provided the encouragement and accountability I needed to run on a cold day, so we are to provide mutual encouragement and accountability that we may grow in grace and godliness.
My daughter’s encouragement and accountability came in three ways. First, she came to me and asked a question. Sometimes, that’s what a person needs. He needs someone to come and inquire about him. Someone who will take a genuine interest. This was a part of what the angel of the Lord did for Hagar in Genesis 16. “The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness…And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?'” (Gen 16:7-8) Timely and appropriate questions are a kindness.
Secondly, she provided an opportunity for me to run with her. She didn’t remind me of my goal and send me out the door. In the Christian life, we need to provide opportunities for encouragement and accountability where we are available to enter in with our brothers and sisters; to “run” with them. We need togetherness. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!…And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl 4:9-12) Togetherness is key.
And finally, my daughter had established an example of disciplined running that encouraged me to try the same. In the faith, godly examples our powerful instruments in the hand of the Lord to grow and mobilize His people. We need to see godliness lived out in day to day responsibilities and relationships. Paul told Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12) Godly examples are crucial.
May God continue to grow us in the graces of encouragement and accountability!
p.s.–Just an added thought–I could have reasoned, “Who does my daughter think she is. I have run many more days and miles than she has. I don’t need this young whipper-snapper’s help!” But, I would have been wrong. Let’s not resent the zeal of those young in the faith and discount our need for their involvement in spurring us on to love and good works.
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.