No Neutral Influence

Mile 18 was by far the most difficult.

I won’t say the first 13.1 miles were easy, but temperatures were cooler and the adrenaline of running in my first St. Jude Marathon was still pumping. When we broke from the large group that ended their race at a half-marathon finish line, my pride swelled, and the motivation continued to push me along. The atmosphere was fun. Bands played along the path and crowds of people cheered us on as we trekked across Nashville. 

At mile 18, however, I hit the proverbial wall. The novelty of outdistancing everyone else was now gone, and my legs just weren’t working. With eight miles remaining, I wondered if I could even finish. By this time, it was 86 degrees. My clothes were soaking wet; my feet were sore; and my entire body ached. But then, the very moment it seemed as if I could not continue, I spotted my son’s bald head glistening in the sunlight. He did not feel like being out on such a hot day, but he was there nonetheless, holding a sign of support to encourage me. 

With a lump in my throat, I pressed forward. The discomfort of a five-hour race now seemed insignificant compared to my son’s three-year battle with cancer. Inspired by his perseverance, I resolved that quitting was not an option. Though hundreds finished before me, Carson was waiting at the finish line with a personal trophy he and his mother made just for me. It was an incredible moment that I will never forget. 

If you haven’t already figured it out, I am no marathon runner. I’m just a dad who loves his son. Breaking records was never my goal. Instead, we set out to raise as much money as we could for the wonderful place that we had come to call “Carson’s hospital.” On a personal level, I wanted to do something difficult simply to show solidarity with my son. If he could endure so much hardship without complaint, surely I could run a marathon to bring awareness to his fight. Carson’s endurance was, and remains, an example that I desire to emulate. 

I know that fathers are supposed to shape their sons into godly young men, but most days I feel like my firstborn has done more to mold me than I have done to mold him. Though he is unaware, one verse in particular always reminds me of Carson when I read it. Writing to his protégé in the ministry, Paul says, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:12).” Thrust into a hardship he did not ask for at such a tender age, my son typified the pure, child-like faith God expects from all of us. I remain grateful for his testimony, and I am still learning from it today.

Did you know that your life has the same potential to impact the people around you? Granted, every struggle is different, but the influence we wield is determined in large part by how we respond to trials. We should never underestimate the significant impact our lives have on fellow believers, for good or bad. The Bible is full of evidence that our lives shape others in ways that we cannot always foresee.

For example, God warned Old Testament Israel about the contagious momentum of fear as it spreads among His people. In fact, the Lord insisted that every fainthearted soldier remain off the battlefield lest “his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart” (Deut. 20:8).  Likewise, the Scripture warns that worldly talk spreads like gangrene and that bad doctrine will lead some astray (2 Tim. 2:16-18). How many reckless examples could be avoided if we simply thought more about the ripple effect of our actions?

On the positive side, the generosity of the Macedonian churches in the midst of their poverty motivates us, like the Corinthian believers, to give sacrificially to the Lord’s work (2 Cor. 8:1). Paul’s faithfulness to the Lord while in prison inspires Christians today to be bold in their faith just as it did the Philippians so long ago (Phil. 1:14). The humility of Jesus while enduring the suffering caused by His cross compels us to look out for others more than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-8). And the example left by those in the great cloud of witnesses compels us to fix our eyes on Jesus as we lay aside sinful encumbrances in order to live by faith (Heb. 12:1-2).

Our lives make a difference, whether we want them to or not. Are you in the midst of a trial? Don’t waste it. Are you ready to throw your hands up and quit? Someone is watching. Is it difficult for you to trust God right now? Someone will follow in your footsteps. 

Do you find these lessons helpful? Want to read more insights from Adam Dooley? Preorder your copy of Hope When Life Unravels today by clicking here.

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