“Going the distance” is a phrase commonly associated with sporting events, describing someone who never gives up, who may have obstacles to overcome in reaching a goal. We admire people who go the distance. My first remembrance of that expression came during my Little League baseball days when I listened to Dizzy Dean broadcast Major League Baseball games. He would refer to a pitcher who “went the distance,” meaning the pitcher hurled a complete game — went all nine innings to get the win.
Seems that is descriptive of the lives of many believers. There may be control problems in those early innings, letting a few wild pitches sail past the catcher. You then settle down until the middle innings, but find yourself in a jam. You get a sterling play by your defense who rescues you and keeps you in the game. In the late innings, your fastball may lose some of its zip, yet you persevere by relying on experience to know when to throw the curveball and when to throw the change-up. Your motivation to finish is the prize of winning the game.
How many of us can thank the Lord for His grace in getting us past those turbulent days of our youth? Then in the middle part of our lives we fall victim to the wiles of the devil, yet again the Lord in His grace rescues us, offering unconditional love and forgiveness for our shortcomings. Then as we reach the latter stages of life, we may not have the ability to do what we did decades earlier, but our life lessons can be taught to those coming behind us. We still have avenues of service, and we pursue those to glorify our Lord.
That concept of “going the distance” is prevalent in this month’s Western Recorder. We hope you enjoy the chronicles of some folks we characterize as ones who have gone the distance in serving God. We have stories of men who have preached and pastored churches for six decades. You’ll see a story about a couple who devotes considerable time, energy and resources to minister to people separated from them by 7,000 miles. This idea of going the distance has many applications — there are families who are burdened to take in foster children and provide a loving home through adoption; others go behind prison walls on a regular basis to minister to inmates who have been forgotten by society; others go the distance to provide backpacks for children so they won’t go hungry. We can rejoice over those who give sacrificially, who go the distance in giving back to the Lord. The analogies seem to be endless, and they all serve one great purpose — to encourage us to go the distance in living out our faith.
While we profile two pastors who certainly exemplify the principle of going the distance, that concept applies to every believer. Scripture is clear — we are saved to glorify the Lord, to bear fruit for Him, to run with endurance the race that is set before us. Repeatedly the Bible admonishes us to be faithful — not for a short while, but as long as we live on this earth.
We have an abundance of biblical models to guide us. Of course, our ultimate example is Jesus Christ, who went the distance in securing the forgiveness of sins for all those who would trust in Him. We go back to the Old Testament and see Moses, who led the children of Israel out of bondage, and then went the distance in guiding them through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. There is Nehemiah, who left the luxury of living in the palace in Shushan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In the New Testament we have Paul, who urged Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” Paul went the distance when all forsook him, when no one came to his defense in 2 Timothy. Paul concluded that he had fought the good fight, and a crown of righteousness was laid up for him. He went the distance in order to hear those words “well done thou good and faithful servant.”
As believers, going the distance is our mandate from Christ. The commands for us to be salt and light to a lost world, to be His witnesses and to proclaim the good news about Him are not temporary assignments. Our motivation to go the distance is rooted in our love and obedience and faithfulness to what He has instructed us to do.
For me, there’s a secondary motive. I want to go the distance to be an example for my children, my grandchildren and those who have sat under my teaching.
As Christ-followers, we will endure difficult times in our spiritual journey. There will be challenges in our families, in our jobs and yes, there will be difficult times in church life. Jesus was clear about that when He said His followers would have tribulations. But when those trouble times arrive in our lives, people will be watching how we handle them. Will we give up? Or will we remain faithful?
The last thing I would want my adult children to see is me faltering in the stretch drive of my life. I would want my grand-children — years after my earthly life is over — to recall that I lived up to Paul’s admonition in Philippians to “stand fast in the Lord.” My hope is that they will see I was eager to go the distance, and it will encourage them to do so as well.
As you read through the stories in this issue of the Western Recorder, ask yourself if you are going the distance for the Lord. My desire is that this issue helps you evaluate your life and encourages you to go the distance — regardless of the sacrifice that is required.
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, a monthly magazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cover photo by Robin Cornetet is of Lincoln Bingham from St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights.