Nostrils flared, eyes bugged, while clouds of dust rose from impatient hooves. The feisty thoroughbred bent her regal head in a failed attempt to nudge the gate open. Her hot-blooded demeanor quieted as the Jockey calmly held her reins and whispered gentle encouragement in her ear.
Finally, the bell rang, the gate lifted, and she shot out like a pent-up cannon ball. Her spirited gait promised bold results. Her agile movements belied powerful muscles honed to skilled perfection. At the right moment, and at the Jockey’s urge, she extended her stride in the home stretch. Her eyes fixated on the finish line before her, ears attuned to her Master’s call, and the two blended into one, as her nose touched invisible tape.
The crowd’s shriek of pleasure generated a momentary blaze of energy. Her coat shone with perspiration, and her breathing came in loud snorts as she felt the familiar pull of the reins. In seconds, her gallop slowed to a canter, and then a trot as she was skillfully guided toward her rightful place, the winner’s circle. A wreath of brilliant hues graced her long neck.
The Jockey leaned down and said, “Good job girl, I knew you could do it, let’s celebrate,” and she nodded in delighted acceptance. This filly was born to race, born to finish, and born for victory.
This picture paints an image for the Christian life; our life, present and future. This may seem like a daring statement, but like the thoroughbred, we are meant to be hot-blooded, agile, bold, and spirited. We are bred to win.
Lately, I’ve felt like an impatient thoroughbred, as I chomp at the bit, and wait for the starting gate to open. I know Who trained me, and I think I’m ready to race.
This analogy intrigued me, so I researched horse racing and discovered an amazing resemblance to my journey with God. According to Training Thoroughbred Horses, by Preston M. Burch, there are specific tips that ensure successful results, but if we miss one aspect failure is imminent. I compared each one separately and found undeniable patterns in the way God trained me for the course of my Christian life.
- Owners set thoroughbreds apart, before birth, to be racers. Carefully crafted breeding is designed to create a winning horse. Just as horse owners carefully consider which mare and stud to breed, our Creator plans our conception with parentage that will culminate in qualities uniquely designed to make us winners.
- Successful training of any thoroughbred starts with a quiet lead pony that walks in front of the young yearling as they circle round and round. In my first year as a Christian I needed a quiet influence to lead me in the way I should go. The Lord sent a spiritual mentor who patiently walked in front of me as I followed. Repeatedly, my frustration grew as I realized once again we had circled back to a place visited before. In hindsight, I see my need to go round and round circumstances until walking in God’s direction becomes second nature to me.
- After they learn to follow quietly as a good follower, then they are allowed to trot. I couldn’t be released to trot unless I was a quiet and good follower of God’s word. My enthusiasm makes the pre-requisite to follow first, easy to miss.
- Proof of advancement comes with ability to figure-eight trot by the pressure of reins on the neck, versus the pull of a bit on their mouth. Pressure created character and beauty in my life. First by the surprise grind of teeth against metal when my mouth ran rampant. I found when I followed a gentle tug on the neck; it took less pressure to generate a pattern of grace, diversity, and style.
- Once bridle-wise training is accomplished, next comes jogging, and then cantering. The horse continues to be accompanied by the pony to this point. By this time they should be fit and well-behaved. I could finally see some results as I reached this point in my progression. My spiritual muscles were still small, but growing by the day. My behavior improved with practice, but like the thoroughbred, I still needed the guiding influence of a lead pony.
- If you try to hurry them onto the track before they know what the bridle is for, they are hard to control and will easily hurt themselves, another horse, or a boy. My desire to race drove me to foolishness more than once. Believing I understood the bridle, I broke for the track. In my uncontrolled urge to lead, I hurt myself and others.
In summary, God’s nature perfectly suits this training model. He strategically traded his most valuable possession in order to purchase us; His treasured prize. As our Owner, He provides the elements we need for growth, and plans the events for which we will participate.
Christ fills the necessary role of Trainer. His watchful and patient eye gently leads us to be stronger, smarter, but emphasizes the need to follow. Without Him, we would do what feels good versus what we need. He sees our weaknesses and molds us to overcome.
The Holy Spirit should be seated prominently as the Jockey when we race. His wise counsel provides encouragement. He knows the best discipline for each part of the course. Whether circumstances require His tug on the reins of our life, calls for the spur of a rider’s boot, or even the sting of a whip; to win we need His touch.
Every concern, every grief, every opportunity, and every joy require us to race with fervency. The priority spelled out in 1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
Dear Brother or Sister, know that you were chosen to run this race. Know that training is available for the believer, and know that you won’t be alone; you and your jockey ride as one with endurance. So finish the race, enter the winner’s circle, and celebrate your victory. Then get ready to follow God’s training plan as He prepares you for the next big event.