How To Save Your Life!


October 2006

Dear Ministry Partner,

Rick Hoyt was born in Massachusetts in 1962. During the birth process, his umbilical cord was tangled around his neck and he was strangled to the point that a certain amount of brain damage occurred. The full extent was not known, but what was known was Rick could not move his limbs on his own. At 8 months of age the doctor recommended that his parents, Dick & Judy Hoyt, just put Rick into an institution for care. But they did not want to take that option. The Hoyts went on to have 2 more children, and tried to have as normal a family as possible.

As a few years passed, Dick noticed that as Rick grew, Rick’s eyes would follow people around the room. So Dick felt there was more happening on inside of Rick than most people realized. As Rick was in his elementary school years, the Hoyts knew their son was intelligent and was aware of what was going on around him, even though he could not talk. By the time Rick was 10 in 1972, Dick was determined to find a way to help Rick communicate. He approached some engineers at Tufts University. When they discovered that Rick would express emotion when they told him a joke, they began to work at using new computer technology to let Rick "speak" for the first time. By the time Rick was 12, the engineers had created an interactive computer that would allow Rick to write out his thoughts one letter at a time by using the slight sideways head movements he could manage to "tap" a pad connected to the computer. His first words were "Go Bruins" which reflected the interest Rick had developed in sports.

In 1975, Dick was able to get Rick admitted into a public school. Though confined to a wheelchair, his mental development continued and the Hoyts tried to include Rick in school events. In 1977, a school athletic player was paralyzed in an accident and there was a 5 mile charity run created to benefit the injured boy. Rick communicated to his father that he would like to participate in the run. Dick, a self-described "porker" who had never run more than a mile, struggled with the thought of pushing his son in a wheelchair during the 5 mile race. But he did it for Rick, and afterwards said it was his turn to be "handicapped" for 2 weeks while he recovered from the soreness! But after the race, Rick typed out that when they were running together, he "didn’t feel handicapped" anymore. That did it for Dick, who then dedicated himself to getting into shape to be able to push his son in more races.

And get in shape is what Dick did. Dick worked out hours a day, 5 days a week. They immediately began finding more races to enter, and actually worked their way up to the Boston marathon within a couple of years. The officials had no category for a two-man team, but the Hoyts ran it anyway. They began to refer to themselves as "Team Hoyt". And in 1992, they performed a marathon in 2 hours and 40 minutes, only 35 minutes off the world record — which by the way was run by a man who was not pushing someone else in a wheelchair! They have now accomplished 24 Boston marathons.

After a few years of the marathons, someone suggested to Dick that they enter a triathlon, which consists of a 13 mile run, a 1.2 mile swim, and a 56 mile bike race all in the same day. Dick had never learned to swim and had not been on a bike since age 6. But he felt that his son Rick would love the variety, and dedicated himself to the task. Dick got a special bike with a seat on front for his son, and got a rubber inflatable boat to tow Rick in when he swam that part of the race. Now, many years later, they have accomplished 212 triathlons including 4 of the grueling 15 hour Ironman triathlons which are double the distances of the regular triathlons. Why does Dick do this? He says it is for the awesome feeling he gets seeing his son Rick with a smile as wide as a cantaloupe as they run, swim, and ride together. Now at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick have added a motivational speaking tour to their regular race schedule. Reflecting on all of this, Rick once typed out on his computer, "My dad is the Father of the Century".

But in an interesting twist, all this selfless effort by Dick for his son actually saved his own life. Two years ago, Dick had a minor heart attack during one of their races. One of Dick’s arteries was 95% clogged, and after thorough examination, the doctor told Dick, "If you hadn’t been in such great shape, you probably would have died 15 years ago."

And that brings up a very important spiritual principle. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24). In a spiritual paradox, God causes the reverse of what we think will happen if we give of ourselves. If we "die to self", that is when we gain what we really want. If we give, that is what can cause us to reap. If we choose to be unselfish and help others, that is a key to gaining in our own lives what really matters.

In reality, being selfish is the root of all sin. That was why Satan (Lucifer) rebelled against God and lost his place in Heaven. Selfishness was the bottom line in why Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and lost their paradise. Selfishness is the main cause of most all divorces. Selfishness is what has driven the dictators of the world to use and kill others, and entire armies have been assembled to kill the dictator. Being selfish initially seems like it will give us what we want, but it produces heartache and disaster instead. As a contrast, giving up our own selfish agendas is an act of "giving" which God causes to return to us in an often unexpected "harvest" in some special way.

However, being unselfish in a selfish world definitely can make a person feel like he or she is swimming upstream. We normally cannot choose to be unselfish because it is "popular" or because it is easy — because it usually isn’t. It often will not even be appreciated or "recognized" like it should be. Some people actually look for unselfish people to take advantage of. That is one reason Jesus told us to be "wise as serpents but harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). Navigating through life in an unselfish way is actually a difficult task. Some people may even think you are just a simple-minded "do-gooder", but in reality it is the highest calling of mankind. Those who persevere in unselfishness will eventually be recognized, either in this life or eternity, as having achieved true purpose and success. And it may even save your own life.

As another example of this, Sundar Singh was a believer who ministered in northern India many decades ago. He traveled throughout the rugged Himalayan mountain area in the early 1900's being a witness to the unreached. A book written about Sundar’s life recorded the following experience. "Crossing a range of mountains in a heavy snowstorm, he was joined by a Tibetan who was afraid of going alone. The cold was so intense that they had already begun to despair of reaching their destination alive, when they saw a man who had slipped down a slope of snow some 35 feet below the path, lying there unconscious. Sundar asked his companion to help him carry the man to the village ahead. The Tibetan, telling him that he was a fool to try to help another when he could barely save himself, left him and hurried on ahead. Sundar went down the slope and just managed to get back on the path again with the man on his shoulders and struggled slowly along. Some distance farther on he perceived his former companion sitting by the wayside. He called, but their was no answer — he was frozen to death. Sundar himself meanwhile had become thoroughly warmed by his exertions, and as a result of this warmth... the man he carried also gradually became warmer and came to; and both reached the village alive and full of thankfulness."

In this life, we may or may not see the ways we have saved others, or the way that our giving of ourselves has in turn benefitted our own lives. I personally have many reasons to believe that God has saved my physical life from near-death on a number of occasions, as well as the lives of my children. But we should not serve God for what we may get from it, but rather serve Him from a motive of gratitude for our eternal salvation. If we received no tangible benefit from God in this life in any way, but were only delivered from the future Lake of Fire by our salvation, we would still owe God complete obedience throughout all of this present life on Earth. Let us pray that we will live a life worthy of the price Jesus paid to redeem us, and look for ways we can similarly give to others which will have eternal results.

Living and giving for God,

Dale & Judi Leander

P.S. — I highly recommend you watch a short inspiring music video of Dick & Rick Hoyt in a triathlon race on the Internet at It will be a highlight of your year! Remember, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for [others]"John 15:13.


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