Entering each New Year, if you're like me, you review your vision. You set new goals. You put a plan in place that excites you. You say to yourself, "This coming year will be different. I will achieve the goals I've set." But, after a few months, or maybe even just a few weeks, you lose your momentum. You find yourself off-plan. Your drive and enthusiasm wane and you feel yourself tiring. Your frustration with yourself - and towards others - grows.
In scripture, the prophet Jeremiah felt many of the same things. He pleaded with the people of Judah and especially those in Jerusalem to be obedient to God; but no one listened. In other words, his goals were not being met. In fact, just the opposite was happening. The people who ignored him were prospering - at least by the world's standards. Jeremiah, in a moment of great frustration, asked God to destroy the people who were being disobedient to God's commands. He wanted things changed.
God answered him:
"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in the safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" -- Jeremiah 12:5 (NIV)
God basically tells Jeremiah to stop the whining and complaining and to get on with the job He has given him. He admonishes Jeremiah to consider only himself and his own preparation and activities and not to compare himself to the others.
Aren't we like Jeremiah? Don't we allow ourselves to be worn down by "racing with men on foot" when what we really want is to "compete with horses?"
Jeremiah 12:5 offers great motivation for me to pursue the things I'm called to do.
"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out..."
We've all experienced exhaustion - mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. We know what it means to be "worn out." But why do we tire so easily? Some of the reasons are:
- We are not prepared ...
- We are not disciplined toward building up ...
- our strength
- We're running too many races, too close together, and resting too little. With fatigue, come mistakes. With mistakes comes frustration. With frustration comes more fatigue, especially mental, emotional and spiritual.
- We run the wrong races. Choose your battles, as the old saying goes.
- We don't set goals that go beyond racing with men on foot. In other words, we don't stretch ourselves. Just like some cell phone batteries, if you don't use them till they are completely out of charge, they will never be able to last longer than a few hours.
- We find comfort in only racing with men on foot. In other words, we get complacent. Complacency is the ugly sibling to mediocrity.
It's time to be like the Boy Scouts: Always be prepared. You must train well and be disciplined in your training. Spend time in study, research, prayer. Ask questions and then ask better questions. Listen. Observe. Get your mind and heart, as well as your body, ready to compete.
A little planning and a little discipline goes along way. Plan your efforts. Work hard, play hard, rest well. Get plenty of sleep. Get your mind involved in things other than your work. You must find time this year to relax, rest and re-create as part of your regular life routine.
In the seminal book, The Art of War, the ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, declares that "all battles are won before they are ever fought." Choose your fight, choose the time, choose the place. And choose the way you prepare for it.
This coming year, stretch yourself as you prepare to compete with the thoroughbreds. Consider a rubber band: once stretched, a rubber band never returns to its original size; it's always a little longer. The same is true for you and me. Once we stretch ourselves, we never return to same person we were. We've grown.
Don't get comfortable. In fact, stay uncomfortable. It's through the disciplined working of the muscles that we grow stronger, faster and attain increased stamina.
So for 2005, I encourage you to "saddle up your horses" (to quote Steven Curtis Chapman) and get in the race...the race you're meant to run. Be disciplined with self-control. Pursue the year with enthusiasm and passion. Don't settle for complacency. Avoid mediocrity. Through Christ Jesus, you do have the power to compete with horses.