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Edward Wiggin
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Jer. 12:5 – Run With The Horses
Vitezslav Gardavsky was a Czech philosopher who was martyred for his beliefs in 1978.  He wrote and campaigned against a communist regime that planned every detail of material existence, but sought to suppress all freedom from life, to eliminate all that was transcendent, mysterious or miraculous.   In an atheist country where to voice opposition was to face the threat of imprisonment or even death, Gardavsky wrote a book called ‘God is not yet dead’.  And in it he wrote that the terrible threat against life is not death, nor pain, nor any of the disasters that we desperately try to protect ourselves against.  The real threat to life is “that we might die earlier than we really do die, before death has become a natural necessity.  The real horror lies in just such a premature death, a death after which we go on living for many years.”

I can’t imagine living under such a totalitarian government, where to step out of line might result in a visit from the secret police.  But when our freedom is taken away, things that we take for granted are subjected to the sharp scrutiny of what really is important, what really matters.  For Gardavsky it wasn’t the external threat of the regime so much as his response to it.  He wasn’t prepared to acquiesce, to give in, to die prematurely and live in fear, to stop living.

We live in a society and a culture that is a lot more subtle; one that parades our freedom to live as we like with pride.  We rail against any government who would try to deny us that freedom or any religion or authority that would try and tell us how to live.  Yet despite all of this, the words of Henry Thoreau still resonate with many today, that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Having tried what the world offers as its answer to life, we still find ourselves hungry, frustrated, disillusioned, tired, prematurely dead.  So we fill our souls with the inane, the trivial; we gross out on celebrity gossip or live our lives vicariously through the exploits of some other adventurous soul.  For the vast majority the life of the red carpet or halls of power will ever remain a dream.  We are just ordinary people who live ordinary undramatic lives – and yet within us still lies something that longs for significance.  We want our lives to count, to matter.  We want to live, really live.  

The mundane and repetitious cycle of daily routine can only be alleviated by binge drinking on a weekend, or whatever your thing is.  Come Monday we return to the grind, to lives of quiet desperation.  Some trudge on having died prematurely – living a shadow life.  Others realize that this is not how it’s meant to be and try and change their circumstances – they shrug off their old and clothe themselves with a new lover, a new career, a new location, running away to begin again, to try and recapture the life they once hoped for.  But the problem is that running away doesn’t work either.  If we think that by tinkering with our external circumstances we will finally arrive at what it really means to live life in all its fullness – we will be sadly disappointed, because happiness is an inside job.  That new career is only wonderful, until it’s not!  That new relationship is only wonderful, until it’s not!
What does it really mean to live a meaningful and significant life?  A life that is whole, that is full?  Evidence would suggest that even those who reach the pinnacle of wealth or fame still are not immune from this gnawing hunger for a contentment that brings wholeness.  Life has got to be about more than simply consuming greater amounts of stuff.  

So living under a repressive regime or in a liberal democracy, in a country with food shortages or one with materialistic excess – the danger for man is the same – we die prematurely, before our natural death.  We give in to fear, we conform to those around us, we chase and struggle for things that disappoint, we seek to live a dream that the marketeers sell us, already knowing that it is a lie.  Yet in the absence of any other alternative we chase after it nevertheless.  Lives of quiet desperation longing for significance.

When Jesus said that ‘I have come that they might have life and life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10) it was to this root issue of man’s longing that He was speaking.  Jesus made this incredible claim that the way to a meaningful, significant and whole life is found only in Him.  ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ He said.

Now we know this as Christians – yet even Christians are still susceptible to the quiet desperation of the mass of men.  At times our circumstances cause us to lose sight of this incredible truth and we place our hope for life in what is happening around us rather than in us.  Our source of significance comes from our career, our relationships with other people, the amount of stuff we collect – and not Christ.  It’s not a deliberate thing, it can be unconscious and a gradual creep that takes our focus off Christ and on to other things.  We become burdened with the cares and responsibilities of our world, drained through the busyness of daily activities, disappointed that things are not as we’d like them to be.  In short, we become quietly desperate again.

Only this time it’s worse, because we know it shouldn't be this way as Christians.  Jesus promised to bring us life in all its fullness!  And because we’re now Christians, we don’t chase after all those things the world offers us, and if we do, we not only are disappointed with them, but feel guilty for chasing them in the first place!  I’ve known some Christians who are as miserable as sin!  And I’ve known some sinners who though they still feel that quiet desperation, at least they’re going to give it their best shot to live life!  And I have to say that if Christianity was about feeling as miserable as sin, I’d be with the sinners giving it my best shot to make the most of life – even if it ultimately resulted in disappointment.  But Christianity is not about being miserable.  It is not about denying the pleasures of sin, and then condemning people for doing what we’re not allowed to do!  Following Jesus is about living full, significant, meaningful, purposeful lives.  Following Jesus is about exchanging the counterfeit promise of life that the world offers for the real McCoy!  The pages of the New Testament rustle with the promise of life, a promise that God makes to us.      

If life and circumstances are conspiring to cause you to die inside, to feel like you are insignificant, or have little to bring; if you are here today and you have settled for the mundane, for the ordinary – then I have got to tell that through God’s eyes there is absolutely nothing ordinary or insignificant about you.  You were created for His glory, born for such a time as this.  He determined where and when you would live.  You are not an accident or mistake and your time here in Aberdeen is supposed to mean something.  He has set out a future for you before time began.  He has work for you to do that has the significance of eternity riding in its wake.

You might say to me, ‘that’s great Mark, but have you seen where I live?  Have you seen my life at the moment?’  God never promised that it was going to be easy.  Jesus did say that His yoke was easy and His burden was light – but He also said that in this world you will have trouble.  He told us that we’d be hated in the same way He was.  Christianity is not an easy option.  Following God brings you into conflict not only with a world system opposed to everything you stand for, but also with a spiritual enemy called Satan, whose sole objective is to destroy you.  ‘Gee thanks Mark, that’s made me feel lots better!’

This life may not be easy at times, but the promise, adventure and significance of life is found in living in the second half of that sentence: Jesus said, ‘In this world you will have trouble, but fear not for I have overcome the world.’  When we remain in Christ, we overcome.  When we remain in Christ, we are victorious.  The external circumstances can do what they will, but our security, acceptance and significance are grounded on the inside, in Christ.  Happiness is an inside job.  And when you live there, in Christ, we know who is the lifter of our head; we know who strengthens our weak knees, we know who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death … we know.  And such knowledge lifts us out of the mundane and ordinary and into the realm of worship.  Such knowledge colours our lives and brings light into our darkness.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!  I know I am significant because He demonstrates this truth by revealing Himself to me right in the middle of the circumstances.
Jeremiah’s Complaint
Jeremiah was a prophet who lived in difficult circumstances.  God called Him and gave him the job of proclaiming His coming judgment upon the people of Judah for their idolatrous rejection of the covenant.  “Get yourself ready!” He tells Jeremiah.  “Stand up and say to them whatever I command you” (Jer. 1:17).  “They will fight against you but will not overcome you for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord” (Jer. 1:19).

Imagine that being your ministry.  Your job is to speak to a people for decades, they will refuse to listen to you, they will hate you because you will constantly remind them of their sin, and they will plot to destroy you.  Oh and this nation that you love, God is going to send the Babylonians to tear it apart and destroy Jerusalem and the temple.  ‘But it’s okay because I am with you and will rescue you’, says the Lord.  There was no promise of revival, just impending judgment.

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s not an easy gig!  I’d be asking the Lord for another ministry!  Jeremiah evidently felt the same way for several times through the book we get these biographical comments from him complaining to God about all the difficulties he’s going through.  There’s a memorable passage when Jeremiah found out that the men of Anathoth (his home town, the boys he grew up with) had plotted to kill him.  So he comes to God worn down by the opposition and absorbed in self-pity, ready to give in to the circumstances, to capitulate to premature death.  He was about to abandon his unique calling in God and settle for being another Jerusalem statistic, another man who used to follow God.  He comes to God and complains:

· Jer. 12:1 “You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”

The false prophets in Jerusalem were preaching peace (Jer. 6:14; 8:11).  His was a lone voice.  His message was not accepted, he was ridiculed and rejected, and then to top it all he finds out his own people have plotted to murder him.  He is angry and comes to God to question His justice.  A commentator wrote this: “In the commencement of the spiritual life, our hardest task is to bear with our neighbour; in its progress, with ourselves; and in its end, with God.”  There are times when we struggle with others, times we struggle with ourselves and there are times when things get so bad we struggle with God.  Jeremiah couldn’t understand why a holy God would permit the false prophets and the unfaithful priests to prosper in their ministries, while he, a faithful servant of God, was treated like a sacrificial lamb. “Yet I would speak with you about your justice God!”  If you are such a God of love, why am I going through this?  Why do the wicked prosper?  Why does evil thrive?  In other words God – let me question your justice.

The circumstances of life will sooner or later bring us to that place, either through a crisis like Jeremiah or through the insidious slide into apathy and conformity to the mindset of this world.  Gardavsky was confronted by a communist regime that sought to force him to conform.  Jeremiah was confronted with the threat of evil men.  And there may be crises too that we face that bring us with the same question before God – ‘Lord, I would speak with you about your justice.’

It may be more gradual and insidious that a full blown crisis.  Perhaps it’s the gradual creep of seeing people who have no mind for God living what seems prosperous, happy and fulfilled lives.  Of course you don’t have access to their dark night of the soul, we can’t see what happens behind their windows at night – but to you they seem to live without the guilt that constantly plagues you.  You see when your soul is dry, the passionate faith that once motivated fades and is replaced with the heavy burden of religion that drains you.  ‘Lord I serve You Sunday after Sunday, week after week.  I come to church, I come to prayer meeting, I go to Life Group.  Yet I see my work colleagues out having breakfast in the sun at the beach, while I’m here serving a bunch of people who could care less.  Lord, it’s not fair!  What’s the point?’    

These moments that we all have are like cross-roads in our lives.  At them we have the choice to change direction.  Inside us we know that this is not how it’s meant to be – we are touched with a premature death knowing that there has got to be more.  In the midst of the crisis God says ‘Keep going!’  ‘But God, I can’t, this is too hard, why are You doing this?’  In the midst of the dryness God says ‘Keep going!’  But God, what’s the point, this is too hard, I’m tired and fed up.  Like Martha who gets angry at her sister Mary for sitting doing nothing while she slaves away, or the prodigal’s elder brother who seethes with resentment when he sees his waste of a brother feted and restored.  He was the faithful one, the one who worked hard, who was committed.  What’s the point?  This is where Jeremiah is.

· Jer. 12:1 “You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? 2 You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. 3 Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter! 4 How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, “He will not see what happens to us.”      
God’s Reply
His complaint seems very reasonable to me.  I have great sympathy with Jeremiah.  God’s response to him however is reminiscent of the answer Job got when he questioned God.  It wasn’t the response that he was wanting.  Instead, just like Job, God asks questions of him.
· Jer. 12: 5 “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?
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 run home the minute you find that the mass of men and women are more interested in keeping themselves warm than in living at risk for the glory of God?  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.  It is easier, I know, to be neurotic.  It is easier just to take.  It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of the average.  Easier, but not better.  Easier, but not more significant.  Easier but not more fulfilling.  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.  Now at the first sign of difficulty are you ready to quit?  If you are tired out by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence?  What is it you really want Jeremiah?  Do you want to shuffle along with the crowd, or run with the horses?  
I can understand that there are times in our lives when we want the easier option.  When we stand at that cross roads we must decide whether we will retreat from excellence, veer away from risk, withdraw from faith, whether we will go back to our cave or pick up our arms and march to Hebron.  It’s easier to define as ourselves as ordinary, easier to sit in the stands and shout advice – like a bunch of overweight and unhealthy fans complaining that they could do better than the guys on the pitch.  Or we can suit up and get going.  We can define ourselves as anything but ordinary.  We can begin to see ourselves through the eyes of God – His sons and daughters who have been raised up and seated with Christ in heavenly places.  A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.  People who are new creations.  People who are filled with the enabling Spirit of the living God to do exploits in His Kingdom.

The vision to go to Hebron is about running with horses.  It is about seeing this church suit-up and say ‘We’re ready Lord!  Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done here in our lives, in this church, in this city, as it is in heaven.’

It’s interesting that God says ‘if you have raced with men on foot’.  Paul in Philippians 3 talks about running the race, and our spiritual journey is very much like that analogy.  We run to win the prize Paul says.  The upward call of Christ is our goal.  We are to count everything else rubbish in order that we might gain Christ.

But God here places an added dimension to His challenge.  If the race with men, if the race with your circumstances have caused you to want to give up – how on earth are you going to run with the horses.  Now we all know that no matter how fit you are, when a horse decides to run, there is no way that a man can keep up with it.  There is no natural way.  What God is saying is that if you give up at the level of opposition where you are just contending with natural things, the things of men, the opposition of man, the circumstances that we face in our day-to-day lives – you will not experience the supernatural dispensation of being able to run with the horses of God’s breakthrough.  The things we long to see God doing; our sons and daughters coming back to the Lord, our husband getting saved, our friends finding Jesus, marriages being restored, bodies being healed, addictions being broken, lives being turned around.

None of this happens at the natural level.  It can only happen on a supernatural level.  It can only happen if we don’t give up.  And what is there to turn back for?  Yes, it will be easier, but it won’t be better.  We’ll simply go back to the slavery of Egypt, trying to find our significance in things that do not bring life – shuffling along with the crowd, trying to escape the premature death of failing really to live.

We don’t read Jeremiah’s response to God’s challenge.  There was no spontaneous reply.  The ecstatic ideals for this life in God with which he started, had been splattered with disappointment and cynicism.  He was older now, less exuberate and idealistic.  He weighed his options.  He stood at the cross roads.  He counted the cost.  He tossed and turned in hesitation.  His response when it came was not verbal, we don’t see it in the text, but rather it was biographical.  His life became his answer – Jeremiah decided to run with the horses.        

               
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interesting!
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wow that is so cool
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superrrrrrr...

Our time comes soon.

I've decided not to host a photowalk for the Keyhole Arch on 12/21/2012 as the weather and such is just too unpredictable. If things fair well, I will be out there.

Next big photowalk in our area will be put on by +Nathan Wirth and crew, and will host a bevy of awesome photographers. You can read about this here:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/115010376296730280309/posts

-Big Sur, California
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