I shared the following story about Olympic runner Derek Redmond in my sermon Sunday as an illustration of the Holy Spirit’s encouragement in the believer’s life. (“Encouraged by the Holy Spirit,” taken from Acts 9:31).
The Greek word for encouragement is “paraklesis.” It literally means “to be called to one’s side,” and so it is the picture of someone coming alongside you to give you help, comfort, encouragement and strength. Jesus used a related form of this word as a name for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16: “Parakletos,” which means “a helper, comforter, encourager or advocate.”
This story of Derek Redmond and his father is a beautiful illustration of someone coming alongside another to help and encourage.
(Video length: 3:21)
Derek Redmond was running in the 400-meter race in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. He already held the British record in this event. In the previous Olympics he had been forced to withdraw 10 minutes before the race because of an Achilles tendon injury. Now four years later he was here, ready to compete, determined to win a medal in the 400. His father was in the stands watching.
During the semi-final heat, Redmond was only 175 meters away from the finish line, when his right hamstring suddenly popped and he fell to the ground. As all the other runners raced past him, Redmond knew that once again his Olympics dream had been snatched away from him. But Redmond was determined to finish the race, so he got back on his feet and started hobbling towards the finish line. He was in visible pain with each step, and it was unclear whether he could even make it.
Suddenly, his father gets out of his seat and jumps onto the track, running around the security guards, and comes alongside his son on the track. He puts his arm around his son’s waist and encourages him to keep going. And as 65,000 people in the stadium rise to their feet in applause, father and son make their way around the track to the finish line together. Redmond did not win his Olympic medal. But with the help of his father, he finished the race.