Steeplechase

 
Though this horsemanship race became popular in mid nineteenth century Ireland, its origins were mentioned by Xenophon in the fifth century before Christ.  The name steeplechase was applied in Ireland because the race was conducted between the churches of two towns.  The steeples were easily recognized from afar.  By going straight at the target steeple, the distance was shortened, but the difficulty was increased.  Between the two towns, many creeks, fences, walls, and hedgerows had to be jumped by the successful racers.
 
The horse had to be powerful enough to lift both itself and the rider.  The rider had to be smart enough to time the jump perfectly.  Both had to work as a team to accomplish what neither could do alone.  The horse could jump by itself but would not know the location of the steeple.  The rider could see the steeple but could not jump the barriers.  Success counted on both of them working together.
 
Each of us encounters obstacles in life.  Small ones crop up virtually every day.  Large ones will enter our path of travel all too often.  These obstacles come in two forms which I will call “troubles” and “temptations.”   Illnesses, accidents, economic hardship, sinful parents, children on drugs, and wars are just some of the troubles.  Adultery, theft, retaliation, greed, gluttony, fame, and thrill seeking are examples of temptations.  How we behave during the troubles and whether we overcome the temptations are not only witnessed by other people in our lives but are also observed by God.  Who we are by worldly standards is obvious to the human observer.  God goes deeper and sees the thoughts behind the deeds.
 
When you or I think we can handle the challenges in either of these arenas without God, we are like the horse without the rider.  When we think we have the intelligence and physical strength, we are like the rider without the horse.  I remember one of the radio-pastor’s story about cleansing his foul mouth.  For one year he never uttered one curse word.  Then came the day when he was cut off on the freeway.  The foul language manifested itself again in a fury.  He realized he had tried to overcome this temptation by himself.  Asking God to be with him in the struggle changed everything. 
 
One cannot be a steeplechaser at a moment’s notice.  The horse and rider become a unit by exercising daily under less-trying conditions.  They learn each other’s personalities, strengths, and weaknesses through the exercises conducted on flat terrain in various weather conditions.  We and our Maker are like that.  Though God will be with us when we ask Him, it is far better to work together during the normal days.  Cooperative practice helps prepare us for the challenging times to labor together as a team.
 
The things which we can conquer by ourselves, can conquer us just as easily when we go it on our own.  With God, all things are possible.  God nudges us with His reins and knees when we, like the horse, need guidance toward the steeples.  We harness His power when He calls on us to be the rider as we overcome the troubles and temptations that we face.  We will see or cause crashes, hesitations, detours, and refusals, but the race continues.  God will bring us back on course with strength if we just ask Him.  (Matthew 19:16-26)
 

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