READ: Psalm 39, Jeremiah 10-12, Matthew 11, Acts 18
RUNNING WITH HORSES
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
At first glance it seems David sprung from nowhere to defeat Goliath. I have the Sunday school chorus “Only a boy named David” running through my head right now–but little boys don’t kill lions and bears. Even if David was young in age when he ran towards the giant of Gath, he was not young in battle. Large victories are simply the accumulation of many small ones. David learned to overcome fear and to contend with danger progressively. There were undoubtedly skirmishes with boisterous rams, sneaking serpents, cunning foxes, and various other predators that progressively led to battle with big bears and large lions.
It is somewhat foolish for us to think of reaching an entire Muslim people group if we are reluctant to talk to our neighbor about Jesus. Missionaries of all nationalities are prone to dreaming of nations and tribes coming to Jesus (which we should), yet falter in evangelizing the merchant in the store across the street from our apartment block. It is a similar folly to think that we will magically start evangelizing the lost abroad when we do not evangelize them in our home context or culture. If in our “land of peace” (where we are comfortable, fluent, and credible) we do not live a holy life, we do not burn with active passion to reach the lost, we do not proclaim Christ as Lord of all, then how will we do it in the “thickets” of the Arab world? We won’t.
In Christian service and mission there is a due process on which great victories are based. We rightly desire the fruit we observe in the ministries of other great men and women of faith, but we are, at worst, reluctant to put down similar roots, and at best, naïve about what it cost to do so. Running “with footmen” requires the basic spiritual fitness of being able to thrive over the long term in difficult contexts. Essentially this is abiding mission–the ability to dig our own spiritual well and to drink from it day after day, year after year, in a city or desert or environment that wants nothing more than to see us falter. If we cannot abide with Jesus, we cannot expect to see His church planted among resistant peoples. We cannot skip the discipline nor the time needed to train us to run with the infantry. The one foot after the other of abiding in Jesus is the core competence of God’s army. Only when this weapon is known, used, and used faithfully are we able to mount the war horse of church planting to clash with our determined foe. And if we do not abide at home, it is the deepest delusion to think we will abide on the field.