BY RAVI ZACHARIAS
August 2015 marks 31 years for RZIM. We are in a long distance run for the gospel. And so I look back for a fleeting moment. I am a great lover of track and field. In fact, races of different sorts have a powerful appeal to me. Watching runners, cyclists, swimmers and other competitive sports is quite inspiring. I often think of that arena as I look at our team in RZIM. This is truly a unique team and all forms of athletics teach us how we are to run the race in our time. How do we keep pace and finish well? We have the veterans; we have those in the middle, and we have the young starters. Each brings a strength; each contributes so well.
As an example, I look at the skill Os Guinness brings to this team. When I was in my thirties, his writings had a huge influence on me with his keen understanding of where a thoroughly secularized and pluralized culture was taking us, how we were to respond to the popularization of New Age thinking, and how we were to deal with the growing commercialization of the gospel and the privatization of faith. All his works were seminal in their time. Working alongside him now is an inspiration. I think of John Lennox, brilliant in his academic credentials but even more in his scriptural expositions. The younger ones: McNeil with the RZIM Academy; Ramsden, Orr-Ewing, Qureshi, Hofreiter, Vitale, Njoroge, McAllister, Carattini, Dirckx; the work that Naomi has done with Wellspring that has impacted so many lives … the list goes on and on, about 45 front liners spread across a dozen countries. I wish I could mention all their names here but you can go on our website and meet them all. Why am I thinking of this in terms of athletic prowess?
I have three analogies. The first is that of the rabbit. No, I’m not thinking of the race against the tortoise. I’m thinking of the role of the pace-setter (often called “the rabbit”) in the marathon. The pace-setter takes off with significant speed, and for us amateurs on the track, I don’t think we could run the quarter mile at that pace—leave alone the 26 miles plus. The rabbit’s role is to set the pace for the one who will eventually finish first. It is really a team effort where one can’t do it all the way but can separate the best from the rest at that speed. After setting the pace, the rabbit pulls over and lets the one who can capitalize on the lead forge ahead. Our team has those rabbits. We take the head winds; we set the pace. But someone else will finish the course for us all.
The second analogy is the relay. In the relay, each plays a part and knows when to hand the baton to the next in line so that fresher legs can take over. This is not just a time-laden transfer. This has to do with expertise. Who does what’s best? Apologetics is a diverse specialty. One cannot specialize in all of the disciplines. Here coordination and strategy come into play. We each must run well if the team is to win.
But third comes the refreshment part of it. This is easy to forget. I remember seeing it happen years ago in the grueling long distance bicycle races. The cyclists had a light bag draped over their shoulders carrying bottles of water to keep hydrated along the race. But then there came a moment. At a certain marker, each cyclist arched back, unstrapped the bag, and threw it away. They would then go full throttle to give it all they had, without any encumbrance. What was once a refreshment suddenly became an impediment close to the finishing line. Quite an amazing lesson!
I reflect on these great expressions. The rabbit: Somebody has to take the full brunt of the challenges and yet keep pace. The relay: Someone else has to be ready to pick up the pace and speed on. The refreshment: Recognizing when it is time to relinquish what was once necessary but has become an encumbrance, such as the weight of administration and all that the term entails. Sarah Davis is doing such a fantastic job of giving oversight to the ministry, sparing me all those administrative burdens that once weighed me down. For all of us there is a time to find the lightening of the load so that we might stay focused on the primary call.
The Scriptures teach us all these lessons. RZIM is a unique team with enormously gifted individuals. But we are a team and we run with purpose. There is a hidden inspiration … or not so hidden, really: those that line the path, cheering us on, giving us support, helping us run and finish well toward the ultimate prize of the divine accolade, “Well done!”
There is one more group: our families. Theirs is the biggest sacrifice and I have no doubt that heaven will accord them a special blessing for their role.
We have just completed 31 years and so I pay tribute to this team. A few months ago we bid farewell to our first India National Director who passed away, Prakash Yesudian. A few days ago we bid farewell to our longest serving Chairman, Ron Eastman. They served with sacrifice and inspiration. Ron was also one of the vice presidents of the Marriott corporation, a man of honor. We miss them. It’s been an amazing run around the world. We are not done yet, and we need to run with greater discipline and greater commitment. The baton passes. The race goes on. We face unprecedented opportunities all over the world. Actually in terms of speaking, I am busier now than I have ever been. We press towards the mark while it is day. As long as God gives me strength, I plan to keep running.
Thank you for making this race inspiring and enabling us to keep focused. I think of a beautiful painting I saw years ago in a church, of a little child looking at the hands of Jesus. I asked the pastor what the Spanish words written under the painting meant. He said that the little girl is asking Jesus, “What happened to your hands?” I stared at the picture for several moments and pondered our run. When each of us is finished his or her run, can a child look at our worn feet and ask, “What happened? Why the fatigue, why the callouses?” How wonderful if we could point to those hands of our Lord and say, “It was because of those hands.” Our feet ran for his hands.
This is a beautiful team with whom God has given me the privilege of learning and working. Another year has gone by since we began. The race continues. God is with us.