A Challenge to Courage

“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5.

These are the words of God in answer to Jeremiah’s question: “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal treacherously?” God answers with these questions: “How will you be able to face with horses if racing with footmen already makes you weary? How will you be able to cope with the difficulties of the swollen Jordan when already the land of peace taxes your strength?”

Now, surely, these questions may be taken as referring to our own lives. “Life, indeed, runs brimful!” We all have had the experience of a long stretch of uneventful days, when, generally without warning, some crisis is sprung on us which demands quite a different order of qualities to cope with it.

Such experiences come more often and more intense to some than to others. But of this we can be sure: we shall not always have the easy competition with footmen. There will come a time when we shall have to strain our muscles to keep up with the gallop of the cavalry.

The climax is reached when God asks the question: “And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan?” The swelling of the Jordan vividly pictures to us death. How striking is the analogy! The Jordan River cascading down that long stretch from Galilee to the Dead Sea often became a turbulent, swirling stream as the waters of the rainy season caused it to swell and overflow its banks. There were no bridges and the places where people were wont to cross were utterly impassable.

In perhaps the greatest book ever written outside the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, the two pilgrims, Christian and Hopeful, received their summons and came down to the river. But when they saw how deep, wide, swift, and dark its waters were, they were stunned. They met two men whose raiment shone like gold and their faces as the light. They asked them if there was no other way to get to the gate of the Heavenly City. Were there no boats, no bridges, no fords, no ferries? But the men said, “You must go through, or you cannot come in at the gate.” Then they asked the men if the waters were all of a depth and they answered—and that is almost the greatest thing in that great book—“You shall find it deeper or shallower as you believe in the King of the place.”

Then they addressed themselves to the water, and when they entered, Christian began to sink. He cried out to his companion. “I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head; all his waves go over me.”

But Hopeful answered, “Be of good cheer, my brother: I feel the bottom, and it is good!”

And with that Christian broke out with a loud voice. “Oh, I see him again; and he tells me. ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.’”

“How wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan?” The question is exceedingly practical, very, very personal, and tremendously solemn. Are we fully trusting Christ and leaning only on him? Remember: “He that perseveres to the end shall be saved.”