Challenges can paralyze us. Years ago, living in Holland, I attended my son’s first cross country race. Like other anxious parents, I waited for my son to finish. Hopefully, he would be in the thick of the pack. He would end the race well. He didn’t. After all the runners were in, I ended up backtracking the course and found him in the forest standing alone. The race had become too much. But I balance this with the fact there was no quit in him. Nate continued to train. Eventually, he ran the race of his life in London and finished near the front.
In my harrier years, I had similar valleys and peaks. Not finishing so well (coming in last in my first varsity race at Monte Vista; finishing first at Granite Hills). I have forgotten a lot of the races I ended somewhere in the middle, but I remember the highs and lows. It’s life.
Jeremiah the prophet was in his own race. He had his highpoints and low points. In one such moment of despair, God posed this question: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” (12:5). If we listen hard, we may discover God is asking us the same question. “When things get difficult, are you going to quit, retreat–or step up?”
In his Run With Horses, Peterson puts it this way, “If you are fatigued by the day to day challenges, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence?”
From time to time, when prayers are not answered and plans go awry, when we become worn down by the opposition and people leave us discouraged, I believe God puts this out there-“If you can’t handle things as they are, how will you handle things as they will be? How will you rise to the extraordinary if you can’t handle the ordinary?”
Are you going to shuffle along with the crowd, or run with the horses?
Teaching here in Beirut this week, working with next-generation leaders from all over the Middle East, I wonder how they will do when they leave the protective walls of the seminary. They will go back to regions–Sudan, Syria, Egypt, etc–not so hospitable to the gospel, churches that are small and unresourced. Will they run with the horses? Will they step up and step out into the darkness with the courage of conviction? Will they speak prophetic words to a godless age? Will they stay at it for the years to come?
Here’s what I am sensing. They will. They are ready. They see the emptiness in the answers the world is offering, the failure of so many leaders, and the false ideas other faiths are promoting. Like the young man in the picture–with as uncertain a future as any student I know–he is ready. Are we?