I was going through a very difficult time in ministry and was facing some overt persecution. In sharing some of my angst with one of my closest friends and ministry partners, he referred me to Jeremiah’s lament recorded in Jeremiah 12 and God’s response recorded in verse 5: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” Jeremiah had gone through an intense time of suffering and persecution on account of bearing witness to God’s Word in calling the people of Jerusalem and Judah to repentance. God responded by saying that harsher battles awaited Jeremiah. I believe God desired for his servant Jeremiah to view his present persecution as testing ground for greater spiritual warfare which was to come.
I don’t know if Jeremiah got frustrated with God for challenging him in this way. All I can say is that my friend often frustrated me when he lovingly challenged me to have greater confidence in God in the midst of my sufferings in and for the faith. The problem was not with my friend, but with my thick head and cold heart. For whatever reason, though, this time his words broke through and made total sense and led me to trust God in the midst of my very painful circumstances. My friend encouraged me to see my own sufferings as preparation for future challenges in taking on bigger prophetic assignments in response to God’s leading, if I would respond in faith and trust in the midst of my suffering in the present. While I may never experience the kind of persecution that Jeremiah faced for obeying and sharing God’s Word, I can have confidence that God will meet me in my hour of need.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a modern day prophetic voice who suffered greatly for calling a nation and church to repentance for its sins associated with racism. At a time of unreal suffering, King cried out to God. God comforted King and gave him the supernatural courage to go on, assuring him that he would never leave or forsake him, as he did God’s will (Listen here). As a result, King did not simply run with men; he ran with horses.
Most likely you and I will never experience the kind of suffering that Jeremiah and King did, but we can experience the mercies of God who will strengthen us to meet any challenge he places before us. Don’t settle for running simply with men. Run with horses.
This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. Comments made here are not monitored. To join the conversation, please comment on this post at Patheos.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.