Running with horses

This Lunar New Year has brought upon us yet another year of unforeseen circum- stances. Anyone who has lived long enough would have seen how the world has unfolded beyond our expectations. Year after year we have been caught by many surprises and this year may not be any different. God-willing, we may finally see the end of the pandemic! Will we be able to return to a state of normalcy?

The prophet Jeremiah had a promising start to his life and career. He was told in Jer 1:5 – ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’

Jeremiah seemed to have everything mapped out for him – a promising career as a prophet to the nations, even before he left his mother’s womb. Despite his protest of being unworthy, Jer 1:7-8 state: ‘7But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”’

Everything seems so favourable. But if Jeremiah thought that all would be smooth and plain sailing for him, he was in for a shock. By the time we come to chapter 12, we see him overwhelmed by all that disappointed him deeply. He turned to God in prayer, ‘Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?’ Jer 12:1

Jeremiah was disappointed that things did not go his way. Addressing God as ‘righteous’, he could not accept the many obstacles, hurdles and roadblocks he had to encounter. In answer to his question, the Lord replied in verse 5 – “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?  And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” Jer 12:5

The imagery God used concerning all that had happened, was to prepare him for greater challenges ahead. If he was not able to compete with foot-soldiers, how was he going to race with charioteers? If he was not able to handle issues in an environment of relative peace, how was he going to cope when the terrain got rough?

Singaporeans have earned the reputation of being great complainers and forgotten the comfortable life they enjoy until they are exposed to what others go through in other countries. Personally, I find that the attitude of feeling disgruntled is not peculiar to Singaporeans alone. For most people, the other side of the fence seems to be always greener. As believers who trust in the sovereign grace of God, what does it mean to live in Godly contentment? Trusting God that whatever we experience may lead us to grow in spiritual maturity and prepare us for greater challenges ahead of us?

Perhaps there were certain issues that you had encountered in the previous lunar year, which caused you to wonder, like Jeremiah, ‘Why’? Didn’t God promise abundant Christian living? Indeed, He had. And He has yet to rescind from His promises. Can it be that He is preparing us for greater heights?

Consider Jeremiah. He had such an encouraging start, which perhaps might be likened to our promise of abundant Christian living. If what he encountered caused him to complain and ask ‘Why?’, how was he going to face challenges that were ahead of him? As he pressed on in life, he had to go through such experiences as being flogged and spending the night in a prison-like environment (Jer 20), imprisoned (Jer 28) and thrown into a well (Jer 38).

May we all grow in grace and maturity to face what is in store for us in this new lunar year.

Elder Richard Lai