“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5
I first came across this verse about ten years ago. In the midst of difficult and, at times, overwhelming circumstances I was anxious, stressed, bewildered, frustrated, and for the most part stumbling along blindly trying to resolve the situation. It was one of those times when the enemy always seems to be three steps ahead of you. Like a chess grandmaster he pre-empts your every move so that irrespective of which way you turn, you feel outfoxed and inevitably one step closer to checkmate. Or so it seemed at the time……
Like Jeremiah, in the opening verses of chapter 12, I didn’t hold back in expressing my frustration and complaint to God. I’ve come to realise that this usually doesn’t turn out the way I want it to – a lesson I still haven’t fully learned! You see, sometimes, rather than being reassured by God with promises of comfort, God answers with challenges like these:
– If you can’t even cope with this minor trial, how are you going to deal with really difficult issues?
– If you think this straightforward relationship is hard, how are you going to deal with multiple tangled relationships where you’ll be left not knowing who can be trusted?
God seeks to demolish any preconceived notions that he will keep us wrapped up in cotton wool, completely isolated from the harsh realities of life. He shines a spotlight on our disordered and muddled thinking about our relationship with him. He is unquestionably a good, good Father. But that’s the point – he is our Father. Our perfect Father who wants what is best for us. What father doesn’t want to see their children grow up to become strong and fully mature, able to function as a balanced human being? But with God as our Father there’s much, much more to it. He invites us into a life, which on the face of it is impossible for us to live.
He doesn’t want us to be worn out by trying to keep up with men and women around us. He has something much bigger and ultimately better in mind. He wants us to compete with thoroughbred racehorses. What is the greater accomplishment? What is more difficult? What requires greater strength and sustained effort? But what is more exhilarating?
God always calls us, individually and collectively, into life on the edge of possibility.
Jesus called it the abundant life; Paul talked about Christians being more than conquerors.
Let’s go right back to Jeremiah’s first calling:
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
Look closely at this verse. Who is the active agent? God is forming, God is knowing, God is consecrating, God is appointing. The whole of our lives are therefore lived in response to God. The question is what does God want for us – what has he appointed us to?
Our Father wants us to run with horses, not to settle back in comfort. Imagine an eagle which settles for a life in the nest, never spreading its wings. It might feel safe in the nest but think about what it loses out on – never experiencing the exhilaration of soaring on thermals and having that eagle’s eye view of the world. It will never become what God designed it to be and never fully reflect the glory of its Creator – what a tragedy!
But how can we run with horses?
We need to trust in the fact that God provides everything we need to fulfil our calling. This was God’s promise to Jeremiah long before he faced opposition and complained to God about it:
“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls……They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you”. (Jeremiah 1:18-19)
Jeremiah didn’t have an easy calling. Running with horses meant standing in the front line of a battle. But God promised to make him unshakeable and invulnerable to the attack. And so it is for us. God doesn’t call us into an easy life. Abundant life is found in following in Jesus’ footsteps.
I’m writing this on Thursday evening before Good Friday. Thomas A. Kempis said:
“Jesus today has many who love his heavenly kingdom, but few who carry his cross; many who yearn for comfort, few who long for distress. Plenty of people he finds to share his banquet, few to share his fast. Everyone desires to take part in his rejoicing, but few are willing to suffer anything for his sake. There are many that follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, few as far as drinking the cup of suffering; many that revere his miracles, few that follow him in the indignity of his cross.”
Life can feel hard at times: Every muscle and sinew seems strained; even taking a breath is a struggle; the enemy has wrong-footed you once again and it’s a fight to keep up with the race. During these difficult times pause and look around you.
It might just be that you are running with horses as God intended.
Look to Jesus, rest in his strength and provision for the race ahead for he has promised that we won’t grow weary or fainthearted.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Colin Deddis, April 2018