Runners in the Bible: Jeremiah

Guest Post by Tim Smith

Today’s devotion is inspired by my Collegiate Cross Country Coach Mike McDowell. In the city of East Moline, Illinois there used to be a horse race track called Quad City Downs. They would at times invite track athletes to attempt to race the horses of the track. My coach at the time was employed at a different university only ten miles away, and in 1988 took this challenge. It was a 100 Meter Sprint, human vs horse, and crazy enough my coach won.

My coach is not the only insane athlete to attempt this kind of race, for the past 40 years a town called Llanwtryd Wells in the United Kingdom hosts, every June, a race between horses and men in a 22 mile (35k) road race. During these 40 years, only twice has a human ever taken first in the race. 

Any person can see what massive success it is to not only win a race but to be one of only a few people to have won it and having an opponent whose body is built better for muscles and speed. This is a challenge above the normal and challenges above the norm are often the challenges God calls us to.

Take Jeremiah for example, he is often called the weeping prophet for how dark his life often was. A man called to preach to society during the time of the Babylonian Exile. These messages God would give him eventually led to the people plotting to take his life (Jeremiah 11:18-23) and so, as anyone would, Jeremiah brought his complaints of his situation to God.

God’s response was, “Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?” (Jer. 12:5)


How do we take on such challenges? What enables someone to “run with the horses” and even more succeed in doing so? How do we tackle the real world challenges that feel equally as hard? To gain the ability to achieve success in such challenges, there is one thing that we cannot do, yet often do, and another that we should do, yet rarely do.

The first is that we must see challenges through the lens of God not our own. Imagine being one of these athletes, you’re running and you look near you and you see a horse, you think “certainly I can’t compete with that.” Or in Jeremiah’s case, he looks at his opponent the entire society of his time and he must certainly think “I can’t compete with this.” Theologian Eugune Peterson puts it this way, “we underestimate God and we overestimate evil. We don’t see what God is doing and conclude that he is doing nothing. We see everything that evil is doing and think it is in control of everything” (Peterson, 55).

When we look at the challenges we faith, or the opponents we must compete against, we must not give them the victory before we even have started. This is the first thing to have in order to race against horses, the ability to believe God is more powerful than what we face and that in Him we gain a spirit that can overcomes the world (John 16:33 and Romans 8:37).

That is what we often fail to do but it alone does not bring success when facing such strong competitors. The second thing is something that many of us rarely do, and that is after God asked Jeremiah this question the next day he began preparing for the threats to come. Again Peterson writes it like this, “The next morning he was up before dawn, living persistently and urgently…The day was God’s day, not the people’s. He didn’t rise up to face rejection; he got up to meet with God. That is the secret to preserving pilgrimage” (Peterson, 110). 


How to run with horses? If we look at the example of great athletes who’ve done it, or the life of Jeremiah we find that the answer becomes never overestimating your opponent or your challenge and never underestimating what God is doing both in and around you. Then waking up each day and listening to the advice my coach always gave:

“Let’s go to work!”

Be safe. Be wise. Be Jesus this week.

For Further Reading: Eugune Peterson quotes are from his 2010 book Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best


About the Author: While studying Theology at Olivet Nazarene University, Tim Smith also competed in Cross Country and Track & Field with events from the mile run to the half marathon. He is passionate about helping people see the narrative of the Biblical stories and find deeper meaning within the text. He began serving in ministry back in 2013 as a 3rd and 4th Grade Sunday School Teacher and most recently accepted a role as a Youth and Young Adult Minister in Tennessee. Him and his wife and looking forward to furthering their careers, ministries, and education in the Nashville area. 

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