We’re stallions meant to run and race hard, but we’re opting to be a pony ride for kids at the county fair.
If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? For even your brothers, the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; Yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, even though they speak smooth words to you.
– Jeremiah 12:1-6
The passage above was God’s answer to a complaint by Jeremiah. The prophet was upset about how the wicked prosper in this world and that God seems to do nothing about it.
Have you ever wondered that? Especially when you’ve been on the receiving end of injustice or abuse? I know I have.
I’ve waited many times for God to ride in on a white horse and beat down my oppressors. Furthermore, I tend to forget that comes in the final scene, at the end of the book of Revelation. But that’s not happening any time soon (at least, I don’t think so).
Funny thing, God completely bats away the prophet’s question, indicating it’s completely irrelevant.
He seems to be responding: “You think life is unfair? Of course, it is. And it’s only going to get more challenging. So buckle up, Buttercup!”
We so quickly forget this world is not the way God wanted it. It is a fallen world, and our expectation should be for it to continue to fall apart, at least, until Jesus returns to set things aright. Until then, God is saying to expect more of the same, but at a higher level of challenge for those who follow him.
“Right now, Jeremiah, you’re running against mere men. But my expectation for you is to run against horses. If you’re going to accomplish what I expect of you, you’d better be a stallion, not a Sunday jogger.”
One of the main areas where I’ve failed God is in lowering my expectations of what I could accomplish in his name. When I’ve made these compromises, I’ve tried to demur that they were made out of humility. But that was rarely the case. More often, my compromises were made for my own comfort, safety, and security.
God’s path is supposed to be a tougher path. The high road is by nature of its altitude and mountainous terrain a tougher climb than the low road. The air gets thinner the higher the road you take.
Along the way, there will always be someone who’ll offer you an easier way. But to take it, you have to sacrifice something of your own destiny. You have to “settle” and make yourself okay with accomplishing less than what God wants for you.
It happened to Jesus in Luke, chapter 4, when Satan tried to get him to compromise on his mission and the integrity with which Jesus would carry it out. “Turn the bread into stones” meant, use your gifts for your own selfish needs as opposed to helping others. “I’ll give you authority over the world if you bow to me” was Satan’s easier avenue to power that sidestepped the crucible of the cross. “Throw yourself from the Temple” meant, reveal your Godhood by a stunt that forces the Father’s hand before the Father’s timing.
Like Jesus, Satan tempts us to embrace the easier path of comfort, safety, and security. But to do so would mean forfeiting our higher calling and cheapening who we were destined to be. Something Jesus never did.
God is saying we’re stallions meant to run and race hard, but we’re opting to be a pony ride for kids at the county fair.
I’ve seen this temptation in my own life. And at the risk of sounding full of myself, I do believe that in my gifting and abilities, God created me to be a stallion. If you’re a stallion, you’re meant to run at a high rate of speed. And like Eric Liddell, the Christian runner immortalized in the film Chariots of Fire, you find your pleasure in running for God’s glory.
But inevitably, some will admire those abilities and want to purchase them as their own. Though you were meant to run at great speed in great races, they’ll want to control you at a rate of speed they’re more comfortable with. Then, they’ll put a harness around you, making you a carny attraction in their own circus. And they will profit from your humiliation.
Why would any racehorse allow himself such indignities? Why would they willingly forsake their true purpose? It’s simply: they’ll be offered food to eat every day and a roof to keep their head dry. All they have to do is keep their harness on and keep walking in circles. Just let anyone get on your back who pays your master for a ride.
We rationalize these compromises as reasonable since, in exchange, we are given the promise of security. “Hey,” we tell ourselves, “at least it’s a living! I’m not worried about where my next meal is coming from.” With that, we convince ourselves we’re actually being smart. We ignore the fact our harness only allows us to trot slowly in circles. We keep our eyes on the feed bag and the dry stable. We are kept safe—but still kept.
But stallions were meant to run. They will never be happy wearing someone else’s harness and walking in circles as a pony ride. If anyone is to ride with us, they’d better be able to keep up with our rapid speed and long gait.
So when they come to you with the harness and bit for your mouth, realize that safety and security often come at the price of your own soul. I’ll admit there’ve been times I thought my soul would be worth a worry-free night’s sleep without the fear of making a living. But I’ve discovered there is one thing worse than a restless night of uncertainty, and that’s a restless night knowing you’ve forfeited God’s purpose for your life.
If I’m going to lose sleep, I rather do it from a challenge than a compromise.
God’s telling us he has no intention to spare us from “the floodplain of the Jordan.” This was a wild, jungle-like region where lions roamed. And his expectation is for our path to run right through that wilderness. He will not rescue us from it. But like that “valley of the shadow of death,” he will go through it with us.
So if that’s what is coming my way—a wildland of surprise and challenge—I guess I’d rather be running at my top rate of speed anyway. Because a stallion sleeps well after being run hard. Why shouldn’t he? He’s fulfilling his purpose. That’s what he was made to do.
I know this: whatever fate may befall me in that untamed wilderness, nothing could be a worse fate than being strapped to a wheel in someone else’s circus and walking slowly round and round in a circle every day.
Better to die a stallion in a jungle than live comfortably a tamed pony in a park.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.