When Roger Bannister broke the impossible barrier and ran a mile in less than 4 minutes, he had a pacesetter. The pace setter was tasked with helping him run four laps at less than a minute per lap on a quarter mile track: thus, running a four-minute mile. The pace setter didn’t break the record or become famous, but he was part of a team that produced a champion. The pace setter was a champion too.
Consider that periodically, pace setting for champions, as part of a team of champions, may offer you the very best familiarity with what it takes to win, the closest proximity to international level leadership, and the stretch you need to understand the price a champion needs to pay to breakthrough barriers.
Pace setting people often provide the anchor for champions. Step away from the analogy a bit, and consider it this way: someone who has already run the race and won, could come onto the track again and pace you, teaching you step by step how to finish the way he did.
Hebrews 12 may include this aspect of finishing the race: “looking to Jesus the Source and Resource of our finishing faith.” He already ran this race and finished, but the analogy declares that His race becomes a Source of championship pacing for us. Then, many champions have run that race who ran with the endurance Jesus provides them, and those pace setters become leaders for others running the same race.
The race we run and finish is not a race of speed so much as a race of endurance, so the “pace setting” that we need to provide people isn’t about running four 1-minute laps on a quarter mile track to finish a four-minute mile. The pace setting leaders provide answer to the need to endure.
Hebrews 12 reveals Father’s involvement in endurance: we endure His painful discipline that produces the proper behaviors for a champion who finishes his race. It reveals Jesus, the Source and Resource of our race of endurance. It reveals the leaders who have run before (as well as those of Hebrews 11 that brought up this subject), and how leaders in the Ecclesia pace us so we can finish strong.
Hebrews 12 reveals what strengthens us to endure, hinders us from keeping pace, and what distracts from pursuing the finish line.
The Race to Fulfill Purpose
The race set before us has to do with destiny and purpose, not arriving at the final station of eternal bliss. Champions produce purpose. The pace setters help us maintain the proper rhythms of accomplishment measured by the markers of progressive, directions signs of staying on course, or finish line Jesus sets before us.
The race isn’t about getting to heaven someday. The race is about finishing our assignment.
Recall that the discussion of the race does not point us toward sprinting, speed, and dashing about for a short period, but endurance. The simple point is “don’t quit!” The other points of discussion are “don’t get slowed down by weights or tripped up by sins.” Of course, we cannot hope to finish the race if we leave the racecourse: short cuts are delusions.
Pace setting becomes more important to us as we become more focused upon fulfilling our purpose. Champions never assume they can make it alone even when they realize they must be completely responsible for their personal progress. Humility does not mean, “I can never make it.” Pride does not mean, “I intend to be a winner.” Champions know their own limits, appropriate the best available resources to their full strategic potential, and face down their limitations with full awareness of their need for help.
Getting the Right Pace Setters
Some of God’s best champions struggle in the race to purpose simply because they follow the wrong pace setters.
To get to the next level, you need a next level leader. To increase your pace or improve your pace, you need a pace setter who can run with you at the pace needed for this improvement. Accepting a pace set by the wrong people, people going to a different finish line, or people interested in short term gratification instead of endurance invests your race with unnecessary drag or draining sprints.
“Run with endurance the race set before you” says, “Pace your stride to finish.” The context speaks to things that cause you to stop, things that cause you to stumble, things that cause you to run out your energy and stagger, and things that cause you cycle through times of rapid sprints followed by staggering, stumbling fatigue.
Take stock of your present pace setting. Are you setting your stride and stretch to a pace that has kept you running in circles or making little progress for several months or even years? Time for a change! Perhaps you are neglecting to pace your running with the leaders right in front of you, actually avoiding the pace of progress available in their leadership. Or, perhaps you are stuck with the wrong leadership that is going nowhere fast or to the same cycle of running without moving toward the fulfillment of personal purpose.
Most importantly, consider whether or not your pride has you setting your own pace without submitting to the pace setting leadership God has provided for your purpose.
You should consider carefully how pacesetters influence your running. Many believers assume that moving with the pack that seems to have the bright colorful jogging outfits means they are ready for championship racing; looking like a runner seldom has much to do with finishing the race, but your should learn about the best possible outfitting and utilize it to its highest. You can buy a hundred pairs of running shoes and still be sidelined, however, if you are weighed down or tied at the ankles. Beware the tendency to think you are running with champions simply because they have the latest gear or belong to the coolest, fastest growing running club.
You should also consider that champions seldom stand out because of appearance, avoid the trappings of racing that please the cheering crowds, and take their training so seriously that they seek continuous improvement of their stride, breathing, and intake. Run with turkeys and you will soon be gobbling. Run with deer and you will soon leave the turkeys behind. If you are still running with turkeys, you might need to look for a new pacesetter.
The pacesetting you need will be identified in two ways: 1) Holy Spirit will push your pace by direct influence while 2) directing your steps toward the kingdom leadership best suited for your present pace and progress. It is always a combination of Holy Spirit and Spirit-led leadership. Beware the “its just Jesus and me” mentality because it ignores kingdom dynamics, assumes delusions of pride are valid, and encourages you to run too fast or slow based solely upon your own measurement of the track: Jesus ran this race before you did so He could make you a Champion; if you could do it without His help, He would have stayed in heaven.
The best runners of history fall flat on their faces when they try to run this race without grace!