One day I was sitting on my couch and talking about my need to exercise. My oldest son Jake said, "Put on your shoes." I was surprised and asked him, "Why?" He said, "Stop talking about it. Let's do it."I put on my shoes and we headed out the front door. I asked Jake, "Where are we going?" He said, "For a run." We started to run and I did really great... at first. We ran from our house to a big hill located about two miles away. I was excited when I made it to the hill without stopping. Jake told me the plan. "We are going to run up the hill and then walk down it. We are going to do this five times." I was like, "Hello, if you expect me to run up the hill five times, we should have driven the car over here." Jake did not listen to me and instead he started running. I am competitive and I like a challenge; so I took off and conquered the hill. I knew that I could not run up the hill four more times. I tried to tell Jake, "I can't do this." He did not listen to me. He simply said, "No excuses, Mom." So I ran up the hill and walked down it one more time. By the third time, I was hurting and I wanted to quit. I told Jake, "I am not doing this anymore." Jake looked at me and pointed at the hill and then he used my words against me, "Mom, it's not what you say that matters. It's what you do that counts." I took a deep breath and kept running. I will admit that when Jake was not looking, I walked when I was supposed to be running; but somehow, I made it. I knew that I could not run back to our house. I wanted a drink of water, and if my phone had been with me, I would have called my husband for a ride. As I walked, I thought about the experience and what I could learn from it. Jake pushed me. He really did. If I had been by myself, I would have quit long before I reached the hill. Why? Because the hill was hard, really hard. I never would have believed that I could run up it once, much less five times. Instead of the hill, I would have taken a nice easy run or walk and then felt good about my exercise program. Jake's plan was much different than mine. Jake was going to challenge me and he was not going to let me quit.Do you have a person in your life who challenges you? I am thankful that God's Word teaches us the value of inviting others into our lives so that they can encourage us in our spiritual walk with God. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:23-24, NIV) In these verses we see a connection between holding on to the hope that we have in Jesus and the need to invite others into our faith journey. God created us to be in relationship with Him and others. We were not designed to walk through life on our own. We need people who push us to live a life that is full of God's love and displays Christ-honoring actions towards others. When we do, we no longer settle for simply talking about our faith. We start to live it out in practical ways. (Much like Jake did when he moved me from the couch to the hill even though I did not really want to go!) The million dollar question is this. "Who is challenging you?" If you do not have this type of person in your life, know that you serve a faithful God and He will provide. Pray and actively look for a friend who will encourage you. Be vulnerable and be willing to be this type of friend to others. I always say that the body of Christ is a beautiful thing. We are connected by the blood of Jesus; and when we are living in authentic community with each other, our lives and the lives of others are impacted and changed.