Not everyone in the Kingdom is completely sold out to the King.
How many new converts have reeled when they uncovered this disheartening reality? I remember, after I was brought into the Kingdom via a radical conversion and deliverance, soon discovering that many of the Christians with whom I began doing life were not as enthused about King Jesus as I was. It actually blew my mind that so many people could go to church, sing the songs, be benefitted by the sermons, enjoy the fellowship… and then fall away sometime thereafter for a myriad of different reasons. I was in my mid-twenties then, so I did not have a lot of compassion or wisdom when witnessing these occasions of people falling away from the Lord and His people. In fact, I experienced quite a bit of unrighteous anger towards those who complained, murmured, drifted or disappeared. In those rare moments when I stopped judging them for vacillating and, instead, listened to them, I learned that most of them drifted or departed after a season of personal dissatisfaction in some area of their church or their personal walk with Jesus. The bible refers to actions like this with several different words. The one that makes the most sense to me is the word stumble. People hit a bump in the pathway, it caused irritation or pain like a spiritually stubbed toe and then resulted in a minor change of direction in which they were previously heading. Eventually, because they were not willing or able to deal with their pain or irritation, their discomfort grew, and they chose to sit down, to walk away in an easier direction or to stop progressing altogether. They stumbled. Some never recovered.
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” – Jeremiah 12:5
I have always wanted to preach this verse. I have never done so. The meaning of these words is very clear, but let me amplify them a little here and apply them to our own lives. Here’s how I receive the above verse:
“If you get worn out when you are enduring challenges that are relatively minor, how in the world do you expect to triumph when God actually places you in the true challenges He has prepared for you? If you can’t even deal with the ABC’s of baby-steps in the Kingdom, and your attitude there causes you to stumble, how will you ever walk like Jesus who wore the thorns upon His head and carried the cross upon His back?”
Because the Father intends to make us like the Son, He intentionally puts us into circumstances that press us. It was the Apostle Paul who described the Christian life as being, at times, “afflicted in every way…perplexed…persecuted …struck down…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus…” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). That doesn’t sound like a happy invitation to become a Christian, does it? Yet, Paul also revealed the reason why the Father allows these things as being so that the very life of Jesus comes through the life we are living in our bodies. God puts the squeeze on every part of us until His Son seeps out of every part of us. My experience is that God typically goes after my strengths and squeezes hard right there. That’s how we learn not to trust in our strengths. It is only when we renounce our strengths as being sufficient that we can enter into the possibility of running in the strength of King Jesus.
Let’s recapture this reality, Christians: God never promised to make your life as a believer to be easy. In fact, we can find scores of places in the Bible that leave us with the clear understanding that we are going to be stretched, challenged, rejected, misunderstood and reshaped over and over again.
God intends for you to run with the horses. With horses, not house-cats. Not dogs. Not mules. Not merely with other people who are skilled at running. He takes us into an entirely different strata when He calls us to run with the horses.
Christians, if we stumble over comparatively small things in this life, we cannot be entrusted with the deeper treasures of the Kingdom. We prove ourselves ineligible to experience the thrill of the horses when we weary at running with men. We prove that we are not yet ready. Our own personal preferences become a curse when they start dictating our posture with others in the Kingdom. We have the right to be disappointed, hurt and even angry at times. We have zero right to remain that way. When Jeremiah 12:5 speaks of running with footmen, it is speaking of running along with those who have normal or average capacity. Basically, the teaching is that anyone can accomplish that. There is nothing spectacular in accomplishing what anyone else can accomplish. The verse also reveals a disbelieving tone that one would possibly grow weary in that kind of easy context. We might say to someone like that today, “Is that all you got?” On the other hand, those who might keep up with horses will stand out from the rest of the pack. In the Kingdom, God has not destined any of us to settle for average. Average smells like old cheese. Where is the glory in an unenthused, average approach to Kingdom living? We have been called to leap over those things which cause others to stumble. God demands growth in these areas from the soldiers of the King. You heard me right: He rightfully demands that we endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ. What we do with our dissatisfactions is a precise revelation of where we are along the spectrum of spiritual maturity. If anyone ever had a right to protest, it was the sinless Son of God – but He did not. We say we want to be like Him, and I truly believe we do, but what about the part where He was silent against His accusers? What about the reality that, everywhere He went, He saw error, heresy and sin – and yet did not spend His ministry protesting where everyone fell short of His standard? The words of Jesus Christ deeply instruct our souls.
But His silence should also instruct us.
Today, friends, let’s seek to run with the horses. Let’s continue to press our way through the thorny “thickets by the Jordan.” Do not allow weariness with a few things cause you to walk away from potential reward in many things. Our Captain has commanded us to abide and endure – not merely in lock-jawed stoicism, but in peace and joy. Pray for me that I would live this out. I can stumble as easily as anyone, but I don’t want to stay stumbled.
I want to run with horses. Specifically, the one my Savior is riding. I want to run close to that one.