FirstLife Blog

Day 22: The Shalene Effect

Posted by Brent McDougal on

(7 minute read)

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57, NIV).”

Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in 2017. Her victory was about more than just a personal athletic achievement. She’s the first American woman to win in 40 years. She did so in a phenomenal 2 hours, 26 minutes, and 53 seconds. 

Shalane says that she is “unapologetically competitive” and relentless to win every race that she runs. But perhaps her bigger accomplishment is found in the way she nurtures and promotes other runners. 

That’s rare in running, which is usually thought of as a single-person sport. It’s cutthroat. People don’t help each other. 

That’s where Shalane is different, however. Every single one of her eleven training partners has made it to the Olympics while training with her. She encourages, challenges, and helps other runners. 

They call it the Shalane Effect. She serves as a kind of rocket booster to help others take off. This happens not only among professional athletes. Shalene has inspired thousands of other amateur athletes to train, break personal records, and run with endurance. 

After Shalane won the New York City Marathon, fellow U.S. marathoner Des Linden shared congratulations on Twitter. Flanagan replied, “Now it’s your turn.” 

Five months later, Linden won the Boston Marathon — the first U.S. woman in 33 years to win that race. American Molly Huddle tweeted her kudos, to which Linden replied, “Head up. You’re next.” 

How much do you think about the people who are following after you?

Normally Lent is a time of somber reflection and soulful discernment. But today, I want to point you to the mountaintop of Resurrection Sunday, the most important date in history. 

Millions and millions of Christians around the world celebrate Easter every year. For far too many, however, the story has become boring and routine. People know the basic facts. Jesus was arrested. He was crucified. Three days later, God raised him from the dead. We make Easter a one-dimensional holiday rather than allowing it to be a multi-dimensional, life-transforming way of life. 

We miss that the story of the Resurrection isn’t just Jesus’ story — it’s our story as well. Jesus won the victory, but the victory wasn’t just about Him. Jesus’ death and resurrection didn’t just prove there was life after death. The Resurrection proves you can have life after death, that there’s life beyond your grave. 

If he has risen from the grave, then you too can rise. Now it’s your turn. 

You can rise above your fears, rise over your temptations, and one day rise to new life in him. 

Together we can rise as community because he has won the victory. 

You can learn to pray with more peace and joy in your Heavenly Father, just as Jesus prayed.

You can pray for the next generation, knowing that your prayers really do make a difference. 

George Müller invested his life in three areas: care for orphans, the distribution of Bibles and tracts through the Scriptural Knowledge Institute, and in the church where he pastored. He wrote about God’s provision and faithfulness in a book he called his Narrative.

In November 1856, a young Irishman named James McQuilkin became a follower of Jesus Christ. Not long after, he ran across Müller’s Narrative and immediately began to apply the principles of prayer and faith described in the book. He said to himself: “See what Mr. Müller obtains simply by prayer. Thus may obtain blessing by prayer.” 

He first prayed that God would give him a colleague in the sharing of the gospel. Soon a young man joined him as McQuiklin traveled and preached and taught. Then two more young men joined him after a meeting. The four men began to meet and pray every Friday evening, asking God to bless their ministry efforts. A farmhand accepted Christ and joined them as a student as well. Now their number was six. 

By early 1859, they were preaching regularly and sharing their testimony in churches across Ireland. Some people mocked them, while others accepted the message.

It was when they went to Belfast, however, in May 1959, that the Holy Spirit started to move mightily. 

Tens of thousands of people came to the Lord through this group of young believers. The work spread to Scotland and other countries. 

Müller recounts their story and then invites us to see “what delight God has in answering abundantly the believing prayers of His children.

What is the biggest prayer you can pray? Multiply that by one thousand or one million. That’s how big God thinks. 

It may be that your prayers today won’t be answered for a generation or more. It may be that the seeds you plant now will provide shade for generations to come. 

But before we too quickly move to the next generation, what is God calling you to do now through faith in the resurrected Christ?

It’s your turn.

God wants to share with you Jesus’ victory over fear. You don’t have to be afraid of illness, suffering, or pain. Nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus.

God wants to share with you Jesus’ victory over sin. Jesus died the death we deserved. He shares the free gift of eternal life. Paul said that the resurrection message could be summarized in this way: If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the grave, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) 

Finally, God wants to share with you Jesus’ victory over death. Jesus made this amazing promise in John 11: 25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die (NIV).” 

That’s quite a promise! Jesus proved he could do it by resurrecting himself. Otherwise, we would have no reason to believe it. If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross and risen from the grave, you would have no reason to believe that there was life after death — no hope of the afterlife and no eternal life. The Bible says, however, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also (1 Corinthians 6:14, NIV).”

Make a decision to trust Jesus with your life. Follow as a disciple. Run with perseverance the race set before you. 

My grandfather was a Baptist preacher. He was a circuit-rider, meaning that he had four churches, a different one each weekend of the month. He then pastored two churches that had grown. Finally, one church, Bethel Baptist Church, asked him to devote all of his ministry to their congregation. He stayed over forty years. 

He died when I was nine. He’s now in my great cloud of witnesses. 

When I heard the call to be a pastor, the first church I served was Southside Baptist Church. A pastor named Dale Chambliss, whom I knew as a kid, brought me on to be an intern. On my first day, however, something happened that blew my mind. I arrived in the office and met an associate named Tom Camp. 

Tom said, “Brent, you don’t know me. But I was in your granddaddy’s church growing up. He was a great pastor, but over the years, he lamented that he didn’t have more young pastors rise up to be trained in his ministry. When I was a teenager, I stepped forward and said I would be a pastor like him. I was the only one in his forty-one years of pastoring. Now, I would have never dreamed that I would be serving with his grandson.” 

He looked at me and said, “Now it’s your turn. I will do all I can to help you succeed in ministry.” And he did.

First Baptist, now it’s your turn. Easter isn’t just about Jesus. It’s about you and your victory. Christ shares his victory over fear, sin, and death. You can rise above your fears, rise over your temptations, and one day rise to new life in him. 

Together we can rise as community because he has won the victory. 

Prayer Principle #22: Jesus’ victory is your victory. 

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