Yesterday I ran in a race with Matt.
We didn't take a picture after the race yesterday so I used this old picture taken after a run together last year but you get the idea......sweaty guys after a run together.
I wanted to show a picture of Matt so those that don't know him could put a face with the name.
Anyway, back to God's family.
Our family arrived in Porto Alegre with Matt over eight years ago. Same flight, same day.
We are the only two American families that are still here from that day.
Matt and I could not be more different.
He is a brainiac....a nerd. I have never been and never will be called a brainiac.
He's the straight A guy in every class. I, again, was never and never will be a straight A guy in school.
He and I both love to read. We love to read Christian material. Stuff on house churches, discipling, Chrisitan living, etc. He reads all kind of stuff but he reads some things that my brain just can't wrap around. He likes the deep stuff. I like the stuff that my young kids can read and understand (and maybe even explain to me).
You get my point. We are different.
You would look at us and wonder how we are ever as close as we are. Matt and I have talked about the same thing many times before. We are very different in lots of different ways.
But we are family.
I've spent more time praying with him that with anyone else since we moved here.
We've had weekly prayer times together almost since the day we arrived. We've been a part of big prayer groups together and smaller prayer groups together but we've spent the most time praying together just one on one.
I love Matt. He's an incredible brother and encourager to me and my family.
Matt has always shared his heart. We've had arguments before and we always talk later and apologize and ask forgiveness when needed. Matt is not proud but humble. When he is struggling with pride or some other sin he shares it and asks for prayer. His humility strongly shows His walk with Christ.
I can be very different from everyone I work with and that's okay as long as they can communicate and be open. Matt is very different from me but what makes our relationship work is that it's based on Christ and we have the freedom to be who God has made us. Warts and all. We share everything. It's open and safe.
It hit me yesterday how strong this brotherhood is with Matt and how much we are the church.
Yesterday we ran in a 10 mile race together. Over the years he and I have run in lots of races together and spent many hours together just running. There were lots of people that ran in this race yesterday. It was in the downtown part of our city.
Neither one of us had trained the way we should for the race so we decided to just enjoy each other's fellowship and hang out while we ran. We prayed before the race. It's something we do before every race. Just a simple prayer of asking God to bless everyone in the race with safety, to allow us to run with joy and for His glory and for us to be Christ to everyone we come in contact with.
We had a great time together. It was a beautiful, but hot day. Normally this time of the year it's already pretty cool. It's our winter here for those that don't know. We had a morning, a few days ago, that hit 37 degrees (fahrenheit).
Yesterday was not a day like that. It was warm.
The older I get the less I like to run in the heat. It just zaps me.
So about 9 miles into our run I feel the heat just killing me. Matt asked how I was doing and I told him that I was cramping a little bit and the heat was taking my juice. I asked how he was doing and he said he was surprisingly good. I told him I wasn't going to stop running. I knew I could finish but that there was no reason for him to slow down. I told him that I released him of his burden of running with his older, slower, cramping brother.
He didn't leave my side.
He told me that we started together, that we said we would run together and that we would finish together.
He then began to say, out loud, words of encouragement. It wasn't screaming, it wasn't yelling but it was words of encouragement as we ran. "Come on......you got this......almost home......one more corner......there it is."
A funny thing happened in that last mile. I actually forgot my cramps and started running faster.
We rounded the last corner and actually sprinted the last 300 meters.
We finished faster than we thought we would (just under 1:25 for any runners that might care).
I thanked Matt after the race for the way he brought me home when I was struggling when he wasn't and could have gone on. He told me that we were in this together and that it didn't make sense for him to finish without me.
And I realized how this race was a perfect example of our Christian walk and why God felt it was important to make the body of Christ.
We have had and will have days of struggling. Jesus even promised suffering. It won't be easy. In fact, it might be impossible to deal with alone. But we have the body of Christ to walk with us, to encourage us and to help us to the finish line.
And the older I get the more I realize that that isn't going to happen in a big group. You can't just show up at a church building and sit next to 100, 200, 500 or 1000 people every week and think that that kind of relationship is going to take place in that kind of environment.
It only comes from lots of time spent with a small group of brothers or sisters who create a safe place to share, confess and cry without fear of judgement. Matt and I, over the years, have allowed God to create this kind of place in our relationship. We've shared joys and pains. We've had fights and good times together. We've shared sin, doubt, bitterness and hurts. But we've always been open with each other and we've always had Christ at the center of our relationship.
Being the body of Christ just doesn't happen because we give our lives to Christ one day. We are people, we are sinners and we are on a journey together. As we grow we have to give each other grace and forgiveness. Easy to say but hard to do at times. But the Spirit gives us His fruit to be able to live an empowered life.
I've learned a lot from Matt over the years. He's helped me to get rid of sin that has slowed me down and helped me focus on running the race.
"Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won't let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us."
Ten years ago I would never have thought Matt and I would be as close as we are but we are and that continually reminds me of what God wants from His family as He brings all types of people together.
As God's family it's our responsibility to run this race together. To really get involved in each other's lives and encourage each other to not only finish the race but to finish is strong because in the end, we'll be so blessed to hear the applause of God.
"You take over. I'm about to die, my life an offering on God's altar. This is the only race worth running. I've run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that's left now is the shouting-God's applause! Depend on it, he's an honest judge. He'll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming."
2 Timothy 4:7
My prayer is that God has put a Matt in your lives and if that hasn't happened that it will happen this week.