By Lim Chong Teck
I had the first encounter with a pacemaker in a Korean show. They are used to help the competitive primary runners pace their run so that they can achieve outstanding results. This is quite helpful as the competitive runner could get emotional in the actual competition and deviate from their pre-plan running tactics. The pacemaker helps them to be composed and also acts as a motivator in the run.
A check in the Wikipedia reveals that records were broken beyond the normal achievable time with the pacemaker. As I marvel over such a strategy employed in a marathon, I realize that in our Christian race, we have pacemakers too.
They could be the runners who run before. We could learn from their example to see how we could achieve the same results. When we are challenged, we can learn how they paced their run. Did they give up or did they strive on? Some of them did achieve feats beyond their strength through faith and perseverance. The pacemakers could also be fellow runners running together with us at the same time. Let’s take a look at some of the examples.
Runners before us (Hebrews 11)
Every one of us starts the race with reasonable enthusiasm. And this is often built by watching other runners who have run successfully. Often we can feel their relief and joy as they cross the finishing line. However as we progress in the actual run ourselves, we face the real test. As our bodies began to feel the toll of running, we begin to feel tired.
As the body gets tired, the mind is then put to the test. A weary and faint mind is not going to make our bodies move. In Hebrew 12:1-3, the writer is aware of the challenges in the race and the encouragement and admonishment is that they are not to have a weary and faint mind.
Firstly, they could do that by focusing their mind on those who had a good report in their run and when they get tired, they looked to Christ. Heb.11:2ff begins with a long list of those names. One active ingredient present in all of the runners was faith. They had obtained a good report through faith (Heb 11:39). They ran with faith.
Every runner in Hebrews 11 was running based on God’s instructions which came with great promises. Faith was the booster that helped them finish their run successfully. Faith is our belief based on God’s word. It is necessary to note that we cannot finish our race without faith. God’s word is the beginning point of our faith, and our belief in God grows when we live out that belief as we run our race. That takes us to the point of a patient faith.
When we run in a marathon we know that both strength and endurance are necessary. I would ascribe faith as being strength and patience as being endurance. Coupled together they become enduring strength. Abraham was a good example of how we view God’s promises. Abraham obtained the promise with faith and patience.
“… that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Heb 6:12-15
The faith that endured is the victorious faith. Every runner who starts well hopes to finish well but the runner who finishes well must have an enduring faith. An enduring faith is faith with patience. Indeed we are to be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises of God.
The bible constantly refers us to examples to encourage us to follow in their footsteps in different situations. Firstly, it does so to let us know they had weaknesses like us too. Secondly, they could rise above their weaknesses, and in like manner we could too.
Whether in afflictions or in praying or in many other situations, there are many who can encourage us to run with faith and patience by their example. And they did finish their run because they believed in a compassionate God and a God who will keep His promises. Job can be our pacemaker in terms of patience and Elijah is a good example in fervent prayers.
“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful… And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” Jas 5:10-11, 15-18
Many of them achieved great “runs” because they ran their race with faith and patience in GOD. It would be good to know what to do in a similar situation like theirs and they serve as a source of encouragement for us to run to the finish line.
Our current team mates (1Thess 1:5-8)
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” 1 Thess 1:5-8
Paul said that when the Thessalonians received the word they could see what manner of men Paul and his friends were. Paul also mentioned that the Thessalonians became followers of Paul having received the word in much affliction and joy. Paul’s ministry in Christ, although punctuated with afflictions, was much in joy. The Thessalonians followed Paul in receiving the ministry.
In so much that they had done well that they too now became examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. The followers have become examples to follow. They were all running the race at the same time.
They became pacemakers to each other so that the race could be run well. Philippians 1: 12-17 tells us that despite Paul’s imprisonment, he took the opportunity to preach to the palace guard and Caesar’s household. This became an encouragement for others to preach to more boldly. By looking at Paul, others were influenced to preach even more. They were following Paul’s preaching pace.
Looking at them from our point of view, they would be examples that we could follow. Yet in a way it would also be good if we could have contemporary pacemakers who also encourage us. Those running as our team mates are always special for they do touch our lives in a way no others can in that they are there with us.
And I believe Paul and the Thessalonians shared a special relationship as they run the race together, looking out for one another. I have been blessed in being asked to join the meetings with our youth leaders lead by bro. Steven Chan. Bro. Steven has changed the pace from just preparing and sharing lessons from the bible to another level.
We are now also building our personal relationship with God through quiet moments with Him and also trying to motivate one another to share the gospel with others. The pace is picking up and the excitement too. I know there are always brethren who are doing well in a particular service that they are doing and it serves as a good motivation for us to do better for God. May we try to help one another serve God better by mutual pace-making with Christ as the perfect benchmark (1 Cor. 11: 1).
Christ the perfect runner
The Hebrew “runners” were told that apart from the elders who ran with a good report, they were to look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. He started and finished the race. He started the race well and ended the race well. It would be good for us to study the life of Jesus in detail if we have never done so. While others are there as examples in certain areas and times of our life, Christ is the perfect example for us to follow at all times of our life. He is there with us unto the end of the world. He is our motivator and helper.
Let us see the joy set before us and run with patience the race we have enrolled in. Let’s run to win (1 Cor. 9:24), and we know we can with Christ (Philippians 4:13).