Go Deeper with Andy B, as he digs deeper into the subject of training with others.
He talks about the impact that encouragement has on athletes in sports events.
He relates an occasion when he was cycling, and Steven came alongside him while running, and the influence their individual efforts had on one another.
He also expands the wisdom in Ecclesiastes, concerning the strength two people have together as opposed to one person on their own, because different strengths and weaknesses complement one another in different ways.
He looks at pacesetters, the complementary nature of a husband and a wife, Olympic athletes, and more…
So we're looking at training with others.
What does that look like for us in exercise?
What does that look like for us in Christianity, in our faith?
I'm gonna paint you a really quick picture as we look at this topic today.
So, Stephen, my oldest son is really fit. Really good at running. Erm, I enjoy mountain biking, and we quite often would go from our home, at the same time. Er, he would run.
I would cycle. And obviously we're going to not be with each other around the whole time, that we're going out.
But we tend to do the same kind of route. And, anyway, one of the times we actually met each other at the bottom of a Hill. And Steven is running away. I'm cycling away. And I've got ahead of him because I'm riding on the road to start with, so I'm much faster. He catches up to me, and we start climbing this hill.
Now, it's not that great a hill, but it's a bit of a challenge. It's off road. It's grassy. It's bumpy. There's holes. There's divots. There's, erm, horse droppings everywhere. So, you know, we're kind of concentrating. And he comes alongside me.
Now, normally, he would go past me, and he would keep going, and he's faster than me up the hill, 'cos I'm not just trying to get up the hill, I'm trying to avoid as many things that I don't want to ride through on the path as well.
And yet as we're going up this hill. As he starts to come past me, there's this sense of "I'm not having that today". So I start cycling a bit faster.
And I get up to him. And start to get past him. And I can see Steven's pace quickening too.
And all of a sudden his pace is much faster than normal.
My pace is much faster than normal.
And and we're pushing each other up the hill, really.
And that's really what we're looking at today.
When we're thinking about training with others, it's 'what is the impact that somebody else can have on us that spurs us on, that encourages us to go further, faster, deeper'?
If you've ever watched the Olympics and you're watching, especially for example, the long jump, or the high jump, the athlete will stand there, and they will turn to the crowd and they'll get the crowd, getting the applause going, and clapping, and cheering, and, and driving them on. And then when they're finally ready, they start running down there, and, either for the long jump or the high jump, and, and then they do what they want to do. And they always say that the crowd is so important because it spurs them on.
And that's what we're looking at today, and how that applies to us as Christians. What we need to think of what we need to not think of.
So, let me turn to a few scriptures we've got today. Some of them will be more obvious than others. This first one Proverbs chapter 27 verse 17 says this.
"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."
When Steven and I were level with each other on that hill on that on that climb, that was like the iron sharpening iron. Because we are both pushing against each other, and pushing each other on to do something better.
If you've ever tried to sharpen your knives in your kitchen block, in your kitchen, well what are you going to use to sharpen the knives? Well, you're not going to use wood. Because if you try and sharpen wood against iron, all you end up doing is making a bit of a mess of piece of wood, and you dull the blade on your iron, on your steel, on your knife.
So, we need something that is as hard as that iron, to make the sharpening actually happen.
Let's move to Ecclesiastes chapter 4, verses 9 through 12, which says this.
"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. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
In the UK, as I am speaking these words, we've got a fuel crisis! The government trying to make it sound like it's all great. It really isn't. 10% of fuel stations had no fuel, had fuel at the weekend. A few days later, when it was all good, 16% of petrol stations have got some fuel. Which is another way of saying 74% of fuel stations in the UK have got no fuel, or not enough fuel.
That's quite a crisis in a country where travel, where diesel, petrol is really, really important to the way of life.
And it's left people in a state.
But this idea of going with 2 people is quite important!
So, we've got a petrol station that's not too far away. It's close enough that we can walk to it, so Jo walks down to the petrol station, knowing, 'cos we've been through fuel crises before, that there can often be very bad queues. So we thought, well, there's no point in taking our car, driving down the road, finding the petrol station having a massive queue, for no fuel.
So, Jo walks down,. And then, a little while later, she calls me and says, right, there's there's room, they've got fuel, there's a limit of £20.00, but get down here now.
So, we then drive up and we meet her.
She gets in the car. We queue for a few minutes. Not really too bad, at that time.
We get onto the forecourt. There's a guy in a motorbike, drives straight in front of us 'cos he could, and starts getting his fuel. Obviously looking a bit guilty 'cos he gets fuel everywhere, on a motorbike, petrol, hot engine, motorbike, not sensible. The guilt was showing.
But one of the reasons why I wanted Jo there is because 2 people can be one of two things. It can be a much stronger defence, which is what this Ecclesiastes, er, scripture was talking about. But the other thing, is, I'm very conscious that a man and a woman, together, balance each other, erm balance each other out very nicely. 2 blokes at a petrol station might be quite threatening to other people. But a man and a woman would appear less threatening.
And this is a reality I've seen played out time and time again. We'll come back to the marriage idea in a minute.
But it's really important when we think about how we come across. Because Jo and I could have been threatening. I could have taken my oldest son just for a bit of company.
But I actually met up with Jo, and having a female, and a male, meant people were less hostile towards me.
And you could see the difference with other motorists, where it was a man, or two men, and there was a real hostility. And when people saw me there was a hostility, and they see Jo, and that softens.
Jo didn't have to do anything, she was just being a woman next to me in the car.
And that's really important to think about as well, is how do we come across? What does two people do? Where does that steer us? What does that do to the situation? Does it make things better, or make things worse?
Well, it can make them better and it can make them worse, but we have to be considerate of how we use those.
If you think about the Olympics, and you think about some of the longer distance races, you'll see the pacesetters. And they'll start the race, and then they'll finish, and you think, well, they're a bit pathetic, they didn't even bother finishing the race.
Well they were never there to finish the race. Their sole pur, erm, purpose in life was to run and get the pace up. Because the other runners are thinking 'I've got 10 miles to run, so I'll pace myself'. So they go a bit slower. But then there's somebody else who thinks, well, I know how fast you need to run to get that done, and get the world record, and all the rest of it so you see these people who are running, and their sole job is to get the others going. To motivate. To encourage them. To get them going at a better pace.
And, eventually, they fade out so the other runners can carry on. And that's what we're talking about.
How can we encourage one another?
What can we do to build each other up?
And where do we need to be cautious about who is encouraging us?
And that cheering analogy, obviously, moves us to Hebrews 12. Erm, I'll read it. I don't need to. I could quote it. I quote it a lot. But Hebrews chapter 12 says this, verse 1.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin, which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
If we're thinking back to the Olympics again we've got pacesetters that are pushing on the main crowd of runners. We've got people there doing the long jump, and the high jump, and they're getting the crowd to, to cheer them on, to egg 'em on, to get them going, to get it going, to, to get that adrenaline going, to get them all jeered up and ready.
And that's part of what we need to be doing as Christians. We need to be encouraging one another.
Er, on Ding Dash. I'll, I keep talking about Ding Dash. It's a really, really good social media platform! And I was on there earlier on, and I was saying something, and somebody else, I've never met, but a dear sister in Christ, from the USA, said various things. But one of the things she said was 'you're really encouraging, Andy and Jo, in what you're doing'.
And that built me up. Made my day. Made my week. That somebody else out there has seen some of the stuff we do, and they've taken the time to say 'thanks for what you're doing. It's really encouraging me.'
That's iron sharpening iron. That's giving me the want to go further, to push harder, get deeper.
2 Corinthians chapter 6, 14 to 16, and I've lost that. I'll try again. There we go. 2 Corinthians 6, 4 to 16.
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Beliel?"
Another way of saying Satan.
"Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the Temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the Living God."
If we're thinking about iron sharpens iron. If we're thinking about how we can help, and encourage, and, and training with others, then part of that is, who do we allow to influence how we're training?
Are we allowing people who know Jesus Christ to encourage us and to steer the direction we go in? Or are we allowing non-Christians to steer the direction we're going in?
Now that's an obvious answer. As Christians, well, we want the Christians to steer us because they love Jesus too.
But it's very easy to be influenced by other people. Getting more likes, getting more followers, getting people to comment might be something of a God. It might be something that you're trying to use, to steer. 'Well, I didn't get many likes for that, so I won't say that, that wasn't popular'. But if I said this, look at how many likes I've got.
We have that! I put a post on about mountain biking and I got loads of posts.
We did a nursery rhyme, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". Jo and I made a nursery rhyme for another project that we do, and we had loads and loads of likes. We had some comments and it was, 'oh, this, this is really popular'.
Well, it's a nice friendly old thing.
Will it steer what we do in the future? No!
Why won't it? Well, not because we're somehow better, or, you know, we rise above these things. We have these same wrestles. But that's not the core purpose of what we do. It's just a tool we use, somewhere else, and we share that for others to freely use.
A really good analogy about the importance of training, and working, with other people is this. 'Cos we're not called to work, and function, alone as Christians.
Erm, but if you think about, erm, somebody lost in a desert. They've had a plane crash. And you've seen the film, and, and then they try and get to where they want to go. 'And if I go in a straight line for 100 miles, I know I can get to where I want to get to, 10 miles away, 5 miles, that's all I need to go. I'll walk 5, I can do 5 miles.'
And they walk. And they walk. And they end up coming back exactly to where they started and they wonder why.
And yet you've got the second image of two people in a plane crash, both trying to walk that same 5 mile distance and they get there.
What's the difference? Well, it's less to do with the fact that you've got somebody to encourage you along the way. It's got everything to do with the fact that our bodies are not equal.
Our left leg, and our right leg are different lengths. Now we may not be aware of that. It's not something we're very, particularly, conscious of. But your left leg and your right leg are different lengths. And when you're walking in a straight line for long enough that straight line will be visibly a circle.
And if you've got two people walking in a straight line, it's a much better opportunity for them to walk in a straight line, because one person imperfection will be cancelled out by the other person. So instead of a circle, and coming back to where you started, you go in a straight line.
That's the importance of training. That's what happened when Steven, and I, were going up the hill. We encouraged each other to get to the goal. And that's really important.
But who is steering your direction?
Is it the likes of other people?
Is it their comments?
Or is it what God's asking you to do?
I said I'd come back to the husband and wife thing. It's particularly on my mind at the moment.
Jo and I are setting up, and practising, and, and putting stuff together for a, er, podcast about marriage. We will have been married for 25 years, in a couple of months, and this is how we wanted to celebrate our marriage.
So, we wanted to have a podcast that can encourage other Christian couples. Other couples, a husband and wife. How can we share what we've learned as a husband wife to encourage other people, husbands and wives, to pursue that marriage for Jesus Christ
But, Jo and I, are very different. I mentioned the fuel strike issue, and the fact that, that, the fuel crisis issue, and I mentioned the fact that, with Jo in the car, things are a lot easier. Because people see me and they, they, get really nervous. And they see Jo and they don't.
We went to collect Jo from her work a while ago. It was an evening. It was about 9:00 o'clock at night, and, er, Steven and I are sat in front of the car, waiting to collect Jo. And she's got about 10 minutes. We're a bit early. And there were some of her colleagues coming out of the building. And I could see them eyeballing me, and Steven, getting on their phones, get into the car, locking the doors.
They saw Steven and I, and they felt threatened.
They know that I'm Jo's husband now, so maybe next time they won't feel quite threatened. But you can understand why! It's dark. It's a car park. It's a little bit shadowy.
But if I have Jo in the car, it's a very different thing. Because I'm less threatening because of Jo. Because that's what happens. That's all that perceptions and reality.
It's the same two people, me and Steven sitting in the car, that could be me and Jo. But the perception changes because of having a female there.
Men and women are intrinsically different!
We are not the same!
The wonderful thing about a godly Christian, Christ centred marriage, is that the husband and the wife are so different, and yet those two differences come together to make an amazing couple, an amazing witness of Jesus Christ.
It reminds us of how we're supposed to be a bride of Christ to Jesus Christ. And that difference is important.
And there's loads of stuff we can learn from a really good Bible, family focused, marriage.
Because Jo and I are so radically different from each other. One is a man. One is a woman. And the man, and the woman, together make a really interesting combination.
And, like I said, me and Steven in the car creates a dynamic. Me and Jo in a car creates a very different dynamic.
Me and Jo in a marriage creates a very different dynamic, to a single person. And that male and female difference is really important, because we can sharpen each other. Because where Jo would do one thing, one way, I would do it a different way. And where I would do one thing, Jo would work a different way. And actually those differences, when used appropriately, and dealt with, and worked through, and you have to work through stuff in your marriage, those differences.
But when you work through them, those weaknesses as they begin to start to be seen, become strengths. And those two together become much stronger than two individuals. It's a bit like can you lift a piano? No!
Could you lift half the piano? No!
Can two people lift one piano? Yes.
Why? Because two people can share a greater strength than one. It's a good analogy of that!
So, who is directing your life?
Have you got lots of friends who are godly, or not godly?
One of the things I talk about, when we think about being, erm, unequally yoked, well what does that mean in today's society?
We don't have 2oxen ploughing a field, so we haven't really got the analogy of that kind of yoke, and how that would work, and one would steer the other.
So, what does yoked mean for us in 2021?
Well the simplest way I can think of describing would be this.
If we have to work in a job, they are our work colleagues. In effect, we have no choice but to work with them. Sounds a bit negative, but I'm just trying to make a point here! The people that you work are the people that you must work with. You have to spend time with them, in order to do the job. You don't choose the job because you like the people. You choose the job because of the job, and they let you do the job. And you're going to work with all sorts of different people. That's got nothing to do with being unequally yoked. That's your day job.
But the down time that you have. The social time, away from work, people that you choose to be with, who is it you're choosing to be with?
We're not choosing to be with people in our workplace, because that's where we work. We have to spend time with them. But who are you choosing to spend time with, outside of what you must do?
The stuff that you can choose to do, who is it you're choosing to do that with?
Are you choosing to do it with people that make you feel good? Or people that will challenge you, who can sharpen that iron, against that iron, to make you a deeper, better, more, erm, committed Christian and a disciple of Jesus Christ.
When we're thinking about training with others, it's really important to train with other people. We need other people in our life who can help us reach the goal. Like me and Steven on that hill. We were pushing each other up the hill, because we were encouraging, and challenging, and a little bit of pride, probably kicking in. And we want to get to the top of that hill first.
Who is shaping your life
Yes, ultimately as Christians, it's Jesus Christ. But who is helping to define that shaping?
Is that people that you're with who are lovers of Jesus Christ, like you are? Or is that people in your life who hate Jesus who are steering what you do?
And we've got to be really careful who we're choosing to spend time with. As Christians, we need to spend time with people who are not of Jesus Christ. In our day job, we're gonna spend time with people who don't know Jesus Christ. That's fine! That's good. That's healthy. We should. We're not supposed to live until our lives where we just have these little Christian bubbles, and we never go out to anybody, and no one knows we're Christian because we hide away, and.
We're supposed to be in and amongst people, so they can see the beautiful light of Jesus, in us, reflecting out, warming their lives so they want what we have. That Peace, that Joy, that Hope.
So, who's shaping your lives?
Is it people who love Jesus?
Or is it people that don't love Jesus?
Let's be really careful!
When we're thinking about how we train with other people that we need others in our life to help train us and equip us.
But let's make sure that, whatever we're doing, the people that are shaping who we are becoming in Jesus Christ are shaping us because they love Jesus too.
Written by Andy B