Reading Hebrews 12, when Paul paints the vivid picture of the Christian life being like a race, my mind automatically goes to scenes of the London marathon. I can’t imagine the sheer amount of inner-strength it must take not to quit when everything hurts on a physical level and when the inner narrative says, ‘I can’t go on, I can’t finish this’.
Paul uses the race metaphor a fair amount. When he wrote towards the end of his own life that he had ‘fought the good fight and finished the race’, he knew that it hadn’t been easy to keep on the track of faith. In writing to the early church, he tells them that 2 elements had enabled him to stay the course. Firstly, and most importantly he had kept Jesus as his vision - looking to him as both the end goal and prize and learning from him how to run the race to the Father well and to the end. Paul also wrote about the importance of those that cheer us on and those that run alongside us.
I’ve never run a marathon. But 5 weeks in to my ‘couch to 5K’ journey (there’s a confession!) I’m appreciating my virtual coach Laura no end. Laura tells me the pace to set, when to step it up for a few minutes, when to slow down and recover and she offers a much-needed stream of ‘you’re doing well, keep going, you can do this’. I couldn’t run 5K without stopping when I started but thanks to her pacing and encouragement, I’m beginning to believe that I’ll make it one day soon.
No-one can run a marathon flat-out. Pacers are necessary during the race to bring those at the front over the finish line and to push those who are struggling to keep going; they run alongside those in the race to enable them to do their best and to finish well.
As Jesus’ disciples there will be times when we need pacers; others to run alongside us. There’ll be occasions when we must pick up the pace, when God is calling us to press forwards and run harder, and use our skills, gifts and time more intensely to serve his Kingdom. There will be other times when we need to keep a steady but slower pace, to recover. It can be incredibly difficult to set the correct pace for ourselves, and that’s where we need both to listen to the ultimate coach and pacer - the Holy Spirit – and to those with experience that are running along-side us. The Holy Spirit in them and in us will help us to hit the right pace at the right time, if we listen well.
As administrators, often we’ll find ourselves as pacers for those we’re running alongside. Let’s be people of encouragement then, that enable those we work and live with to set the right pace and to plan well for their long-distance run. Let’s encourage them to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. Let’s come alongside and cheer them on. Let’s remind them that they can do it and not to listen to the inner narrative that might be telling them to quit.
In your own personal race, I pray that you’ll hear the Lord encouraging you and guiding you regarding the pace He wants to you set at this time. Whether you’re running hard or you are slowing down and recovering before the next burst, hear the cheers of the crowds calling you on, the pacers running alongside you and telling you to keep going. And know that the loving eyes of Jesus are fixed on you as you continue to run towards him.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” Hebrews 12:1
Jules Morgan, UCAN Chair of Directors