Running With Horses: A road map to victorious living
Pastor Daniel Foo // April 2, 2018, 5:00 am
Photo by Gamze Bozkaya on Unsplash
In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber paints a humorous picture of a man who is driving to run some errands with his wife.
As he accompanies her, he has a series of daydreams, where he imagines himself as a Navy pilot, a world-famous surgeon, an assassin testifying in a courtroom, a pilot on a secret mission and finally a man facing a firing squad.
To escape the humdrum routines of his life and perhaps, his wife’s incessant nagging, Mitty finds meaning and purpose in his dreams and fantasies, and becomes extraordinary – though only in his imagination.
Although this is an exaggerated story, many of us have the same problem. Don’t many of us have a certain sense of aimlessness and weariness in the routines of daily living?
Eugene Peterson, in his book Run With the Horses, asks: “What does it mean to be a real man, a real woman? What shape does mature, authentic humanity take in everyday life?”
How then can we live meaningful lives without retreating into fantasy or accepting mediocrity?
Racing with men on foot
I have encountered people of all ages and from all walks of life, who shared with me that they struggle with serving God in a meaningful capacity because of the stress and pressures of their lives. Whether they have issues in their family, relationships, studies or careers, these pressures seem to squeeze God out of their lives. In their struggle to cope, their faith is compromised.
Are you going to live cautiously or courageously?
Such weariness is not new – the prophet Jeremiah experienced it himself!
His book relates his calling from God to be a prophet to the nation of Judah and to predict her downfall because of her rebellion against God.
In the first 11 chapters, as he obeyed God and started his ministry, Jeremiah had to contend with idolatry, evil, opposition from priests and the wickedness of the people.
In Jeremiah 11, there was a conspiracy to take his life. At that point, he became overwhelmed, discouraged and depressed. He complained to God: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” Jeremiah 12:1
Is that all there is?
The Lord replies Jeremiah by posing a question to him in Jeremiah 12:5.
Eugene Peterson renders God’s response this way:
“Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition? Are you going to retreat when you find that there is more to life than finding three meals a day and a dry place to sleep at night? Are you going to live cautiously or courageously?
I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive towards excellence. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfil your destiny.
What is it you really want, Jeremiah? Do you want to shuffle along with this crowd, or run with the horses?”
The same lesson can describe the underlying struggles we face; if we stumble and become weary in the ordinary areas that we should easily manage in our lives, how can we manage when stretched?
Running with footmen is dealing with daily life – relationships, studies and work – and we often feel wearied, tired and worn out. This is still in what Jeremiah 12:5 calls “the land of peace” – places and circumstance where we consistently work within our capabilities.
But God says there is far more than that.
To run with horses is to be stretched and challenged in our capacities and abilities, and yet be able to overcome and live victoriously. When we are strengthened, we become vessels in God’s hand to bless others.
I believe we can draw principles and handles from another story to form a road map to victorious living.
To run with horses is to be stretched and challenged, and yet be able to overcome and live victoriously.
Elisha is first mentioned in 1 Kings 19:16, where God told Elijah to anoint him his successor: “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.”
Thereafter, Elisha followed Elijah. Just before Elijah was taken back to heaven, he asked Elisha what he sought and Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit 2 Kings 2:9. Subsequently, Elisha went on to perform many miracles. But how did Elisha acquire this boldness and anointing for his ministry?
I believe the keys to this lie in the transition and transfer of Elijah’s ministry to Elisha. 2 Kings 2:1-14
The 4 stages of the journey
Just before Elijah was taken up to heaven, he brought Elisha through four specific places: Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and Jordan. All these sites were significant in Israel’s history and each has a typology that can be applied to the Christian disciple’s life. They mark stages of a journey from which we draw lessons on building resilience, enlarging our capacities and growing in our walk and service with God.
- Gilgal (Joshua 5) represents the cutting of the flesh, which is our old sinful nature and carnality.
- Bethel (Genesis 28) represents the milestones in life where we have a significant encounter with God, resulting in life change.
- Jericho (Joshua 6) is about tearing down ‘strongholds’ in our lives that prevent us from progressing.
- Jordan (Joshua 3) represents the Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered life, where we are enlarged and strengthened in our capacities to walk with God and serve Him.
At Jordan, we have already dealt with the flesh, encountered God and gained victory over the strongholds in our lives. We can then serve from the overflow of our walk with God and in His fullness.
Here, we are truly running with horses, and as we enlarge our capacities, we will grow from faith to faith, from strength to strength and from glory to glory.
May we be able to say as the apostle Paul did: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. 2 Timothy 4:7
This article is an excerpt from the book, Running With Horses (Singapore, Armour Publishing, 2014) The book is available at armourpublishing.com.
Reflection and Discussion
1. How can you move from being worn out by the stressors of everyday life, to having the capacity to serve God and “run with horses”?
2. Read Joshua 5. What was the significance of the circumcision?
3. Reflect on the Bethels in your life. How did God speak to you?