I had the opportunity last week to travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico with a group from our church. It was an amazing trip. If you ever get the opportunity to visit San Juan, I highly recommend that you visit El Yunque rainforest. The scenery is great and the nature trails are wonderful. If you do go, walk one of the nature trails. We wanted to walk on one of the most visited trails in the rainforest (Arboles Grandes/Big Tree), but we had no idea what we were in for.
Being from the east coast, when we think about nature trails, we think of flat land. When we began this trail, it wasn't long before we began to realize that this was more than what we had bargained for. It started out pretty easy, then a steep incline, then winding and twisting, and going up and down hills. As it continued to go up and down, we soon realized that we were in for a serious, physical challenge. If we were going to see the waterfall at the end of the trail, it was going to take a struggle to get there.
One individual that was with us soon began to feel faint and quickly wanted to drop out. The rest of us that were in my small group told this person that if you started you are going to have to press your way through. About every ten minutes or so, they would stop to catch their breath, and we had to keep pushing them. Along the way they forgot about appearances. There was no room for anything cute; it was about survival. Not wanting to be left behind, they kept pressing on the hillside. It seemed like that about every five minutes we would meet people coming back who would tell us that you have only about five more minutes to go. That was encouraging ...until we would run into someone else about five minutes later and they would say the same thing: "You've only got five more minutes."
Later, we were pretty close to being there, or at least we thought we were. We heard the sound of running water. We thought that we were close to the falls, but we soon discovered that it was just a stream running down the side of the mountain. It was not the final destination. In the meanwhile, another group came by saying it was just around the bend. I didn't know. Once again, I didn't know how far around the bend was. It still took us another ten minutes to go just around the bend. After about seven or eight minutes, we started to hear the voices of children, the sounds of laughter and talking, and the sound of running water once more. We pushed ourselves on and made it to the destination. To me, it was worth all of the toil that it took to get there. People were cooling themselves off in the water. It was a sight to see. I really didn't want to get in the water, but I took a few pictures to prove that I came, I saw, and I conquered, or at least I thought I had. What I had forgotten was that the trip back was going to be as challenging as the trip there.
We started the long arduous journey back. This time, we were not rested up like we were when we first started our trek. There was another sister that we ran into on our way back. She was one of our own group members. We could see the tiredness in her and she looked weary, but she didn't want to give up because she didn't want to be by herself. She was heading toward the falls while we were heading back. The person that was with me really got weary going back. As they wanted to quit, it took all that we could do to keep encouraging this person to keep pressing on. She really wanted to quit. "Hang in there, keep pressing your way", we would say. Going back was just as challenging as going down, maybe even more challenging. But...they did not quit and they eventually finished even though they had to stop several times along the way. The journey for the other member of our group didn't end in quite the same way.
Why did the journey end differently? It may have been in who she was traveling with at the time, or it may have been just something within her. Shortly after we reached the starting point, it wasn't long before Judy was coming back. Seeing her quick return, I knew that she could not have gone to the end and made it back so soon. We found out that she quit; she turned around. She had covered more than half the trail before she turned around, but she got to the point where she didn't believe that it was worth the effort to keep pressing on to get to the end. What I have found is that life is a lot like that. There are a lot of people who turn around in life. They go so far and quit. A lot of people go so far with God and then they quit. The Bible tells us that the race is not given to the swift. See, I have found that it is not how fast that one travels in his walk with God, but what counts is that you finish what you start.
We have to really encourage ourselves to finish what we've started. Though it may be harder than anything that we have faced before, the destination is worth the journey. Hebrews 12:1 states that we are to "run with patience the race that is set before us." Everybody needs to be encouraged to finish the race at some point in time in their walk with God. I have learned from my experience with God, that it is not how you start that counts, it is how you finish.
When the group that Judy was traveling with got back, they gave us the details about what happened. I think that the group that Judy was traveling with tried to encourage her to go on, but the fatigue outweighed the encouragement. It was easier for her to turn around than to keep pressing on. Judy reached a point where she would turn around. They told us that they named that point, Judy's spot. There is a Judy's spot in all of our lives. There is a place that we have stopped and we wish that we hadn't. It is not bad to have a Judy's spot. What is bad is when you don't learn a lesson from it and you have that experience over and over again. Many great men and women of God have had a Judy's spot experience. I have had my own experience like this, but I learned that you can never succeed by constantly quitting.
Pastor Earl Goings shares his thoughts on everyday concerns.
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