Written by David Green
Daniel Njenga was an accomplished professional long-distance runner who specialized in the marathon. Born and raised in Kenya, he had moved in his 20s to Japan to live and train. But every year he would come to the United States and run the Chicago Marathon. I once came across an interview between Daniel and a local Chicago news reporter which I will never forget.
The reporter was asking Daniel how he trained for the marathon. Daniel, rather matter-of-factly started, “Well first, every morning I run a marathon, and then…”. The reporter cut him off, “…you mean, you run a marathon as part of your training routine every morning?” “Yes” Daniel replied. Amazed, the reporter continued - “But there must be days where you don’t feel like getting up and running 26 miles. What do you do then? How do you motivate yourself?” Daniel seemed slightly surprised by the question and smiled and gave this response. “It doesn’t matter how I am feeling, feeling has nothing to do with it. This is what I have to do”.
We’ll circle back to this story at the end. But coming from a completely different angle, let me throw out a proposition for you. What if I told you that each one of you had a gift? Not the kind of gifts I like to dole out to my kids such as the “gift-of-washing-dishes” or the “the-gift-of-taking-out-the-trash.” And maybe not quite a spiritual gift like the gift of prophecy or the gift of teaching. But a gift, nonetheless. It sounds mundane when I say it - I call it the gift of “showing up”. Now stay with me for a minute. I know there isn’t a specific verse about the gift of “showing-up,” and yet it is everywhere in the Bible.
For example, what if some of the Israelites decided not to march around Jericho? You know, call in sick, play hooky for the day. I wouldn’t have blamed them - it was a crazy plan to march around a walled city blowing trumpets and expect victory. Or Gideon and his 300 valiant men? Smashing jars and blowing trumpets (again) was not a sound battle plan – why would someone feel like showing up for that event?
Or in the New Testament, shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion (and before Pentecost), we find in Acts 1:14 “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” This was a turbulent time in the early church, maybe some of them could excuse themselves from a prayer meeting or two. And yet they all gathered. They all showed up.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Did you catch that? The author of Hebrews advocates for meeting together to encourage one another. But he also highlights the fact that some people were just not showing up to gather. In fact, it wasn’t once or twice…it had become a habit.
Personally, this talk of “showing up” has been a challenge to me as of late. In the past fourteen months, I’ve lost my job twice, survived Covid (once, thankfully), taken a trip to the ER for my daughter, started my MBA program, joined the church eldership, led a community group, and prepared to be a foster parent for my nephew. I only mention all this to say that the last thing I needed on my schedule was an early morning men’s Bible Study on Saturday. But for whatever reason I signed up.
And every Saturday for 5 weeks at 6:30am I had a decision to make – would I drive to church or bury myself in the warm sheets for another hour and try and convince myself that I really needed the extra sleep (I didn’t, but it didn’t stop me from trying to rationalize). I didn’t always make it to Bible Study. But for the times I invoked my gift of “showing up”, I never regretted it afterwards. We didn’t do anything special per se – just met, did a study, discussed it, and prayed. Yet it was pure spiritual nourishment to my body and hopefully an encouragement for the others in attendance.
I know everyone is busy. But, if there is one thing you can take away from this, I want to encourage you to exercise your gift of showing up. Whether it’s a community group, or prayer meeting. Or maybe it’s an ongoing commitment to the welcome team, the choir or something completely outside the church. Most of the time God isn’t calling you to do anything dramatic or sensational, but to be faithful in the small things – like just showing up.
What I loved about Daniel Njenga’s story is that every morning he put on his shoes and just ran. He showed up. In his mind, it wasn’t how he felt, or what the weather was like outside, but he had the urgency because he “had to”. For me, I yearn to have that attitude about my spiritual heart condition. That is my prayer for all of us at Waypoint Church – that we would do things not based on circumstance or feeling, but because we have a burning desperate need to meet with God and God’s people. A need that expresses itself by simply showing up.