Summary: Perhaps you’ve run into some difficulties recently: your boss, an illness, conflicts in family. You’ve pleaded with the Lord for relief. But He may have said in response, “Toughen up. Dig in. It may get worse.” And then He asks you to “run with horses."
Opening illustration: Can you imagine what it would be like to be at a track meet waiting for the start of the 100 meter race? Gathered together are the top runners from across the world. Fractions of a second separate these runners. While the marathon is a test of stamina and endurance, the 100 meters is an explosion of power that is over in less than ten seconds. If you have ever run the sprints you know that there is little room for error. Often a race is won in the start itself. But imagine that as the runners come to the blocks that something seems strange about the world record holder. You pick up your binoculars to get a better view and what you see doesn’t make any sense. Strapped around his ankles are 25 pound weights. For what ever reason, he has decided to run with this extra load. There is no way he is going to win.
Let us turn to our scripture passage Jeremiah 12 to catch up with Jeremiah’s conversation with God about building endurance.
Introduction: When we are most in the dark concerning God’s dispensations, we must keep up right thoughts of God, believing that he never did the least wrong to any of his creatures. When we find it hard to understand any of his dealings with us, or others, we must look to general truths as our first principles, and abide by them: the Lord is righteous. The God with whom we have to do, knows how our hearts are toward him. He knows both the guile of the hypocrite and the sincerity of the upright. Divine judgments would pull the wicked out of their pasture as sheep for the slaughter. This fruitful land was turned into barrenness for the wickedness of those that dwelt therein. The Lord reproved the prophet. The opposition of the men of Anathoth was not so formidable as what he must expect from the rulers of Judah. Our grief that there should be so much evil is often mixed with peevishness on account of the trials it occasions us. And in this our favored day, and under our trifling difficulties, let us consider how we should behave, if called to sufferings like those of saints in former ages.
The prophet Jeremiah was also involved in a fierce competition - but it was with idolaters and wicked priests. He was responding to the Lord’s call to condemn Judah and to predict her downfall. He became so discouraged that he asked the Lord, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are [they] happy?” (12:1).
That’s when God said to Jeremiah, in essence, “The competition has just begun. So far you’ve been dealing with minor issues (running with footmen). How will you handle it when the really tough stuff comes (contending with horses)?”
How to contend with horses?
1. Passing the Hard Test (vs. 1 – 3a)
The Lord knew him before he was born, Jer_1:5, he knew what he designed him for, and what use he would make of him; and he knew him now, and loved him, and cared for him, as his prophet; he knew his sincerity and faithfulness, and took notice of it, with what integrity he performed his office, and discharged his duty; and he knew that all his enemies said of him were scandal and reproach, lies and calumnies. He had tried him by various afflictive providences, and his heart was found towards God; the affections and desires of his soul were towards him, and he remained faithful and upright before him, and not like the wicked before mentioned.