I grew up riding horses, training horses, and bucking out wild horses. I think the first time I was placed on a horse was at a rodeo when I was two years old. Oh, I wasn’t put on a bucking bronc or anything like that, but I did ride around the arena with a man who was a good friend of my father’s. He helped them lift me up on the horse and I loved the feeling of riding around looking at all the other horses and just “riding.” It was from that moment on that I studied horses, rode horses, and eventually owned a horse or two through my early years. One particular horse I owned was a red filly that I named Gina. Gina was a little skinny when my dad brought her home from a horse sale one night. I remember him unloading her in the two acre corral behind our home and asking me to feed her some mixed horse feed and give her some water. Even in the dark, I knew that I loved that horse and spent the next hour just watching her eat. Up until that time I had only riden smaller ponies, so I knew this was my graduation horse to the big time, “full size horses.” Gina was my first big horse and her quiet demeanor gave me some good confidence about our future together. I thought, “she is really calm and I think she likes me already!” So, the next morning I was up at the crack of dawn and out in the tack room getting my “gear” ready for my graduation day ride. I went out and petted Gina. She acted glad to see me, and I easily slipped the bridle in her mouth and proceeded to saddle her up to begin the big graduation ride. After letting her get a quick drink I loaded up on Gina and rode to the “Kelly’s” house next door. You see, our next door neighbor was a family of a local dentist, Harry Kelly, and his four daughters loved to ride horses, and in the summer we went on trail rides every day. So, when I woke them up with my new “full size” horse, they immediately went to their barn, saddled up their horses, and we “headed out” on a morning ride of about 10 miles. I was so proud of my Gina, and they were totally impressed with how pretty she was and how mild mannered as well. That was the first of many other trail rides on Gina and over the next few weeks her skinny body began to take on more muscle and more strength. I thought she was really looking good and continued to feed her the best feed I could get, and then it happened. I had noticed that Gina was a little more reluctant to let me catch her in the open field and it was becoming a struggle, so I started luring her with feed (she loved to eat) to the pen and then I could catch her. This one particular day as I put the saddle on her she tried to bite me, and after slapping her face I continued saddling her. I also didn’t notice the look in her eye as I started to climb up in the saddle. This was a look that was going to be consistent every time I tried to ride her from that day on. I swung up into the saddle as always and started to prompt her forward. That’s when it happened! Gina became a wild, bunking bronco, and proceeded to plant me head first onto the hard ground of the pasture. I “kind of” remember seeing her run off bucking wildly as she ran to the other side of the field. Then I blacked out. I woke up, still laying there, wondering “what happened.” As I set up I could see Gina about 100 yards away grazing quietly on the grass around her. Boy, my head sure hurt, but I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I proceeded to run to the other end of the pasture and Gina led me on a wild goose chase for about 30 minutes, and then I caught her. At that point, I thought to myself, “is she going to do this again?” Fear had gripped me and as I got back in the saddle, I was really starting to be scared. I went ahead and timidly got in the saddle and got settled. It was at that point that Gina starting bucking again and deposited me on the ground in a dirty heap. It was at that point that I didn’t want Gina for my horse anymore and proceeded to take the saddle off and “skip” feeding her that day. A few days later my dad noticed I had not been riding Gina and asked why. I told him she had turned into “crazy horse.” He laughed and went out and saddled her up and got in the saddle and rode her without even the hint of a hop. He got off and told me that Gina was a little weak when she first got her and that her good feed and care had made her fat and sassy and that I was going to have to show her who’s boss. He said these famous words that dictated my approach about riding horses from there on, “She can sense when you are afraid.” “You have to show her who’s boss.” I learned a lot that day about horses and also about life….even the Christian life.
We start out in our Christian Walk and everything seems so glorious and cool. Christian friends in the church are so encouraging and uplifting, and the newness of our faith just feels so right. As we go about living our life, things just seem to fall in place; church, youth meetings, etc. It’s like a glorious Utopia. In the early days it’s kind of like the disciples when they followed Jesus as He was healing and restoring lives. Then He sent them out!! This was their graduation to the “big horse.” That’s when those who had been fattened from the desires of the world met those great men of God face to face with challenges they had not planned on, but they remained faithful. They took the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them through one bronco after another, and they just kept on getting back up and riding again and again. Their example of handling the pressures of actually living a vibrant Christ-like is a living testimony that gives all in the faith great strength and courage. Warp ahead to today…to us….to real life as we know it….. Have you taken your full steps to spiritual maturity? In other words, have you stepped into that realm of faith that challenges the lies of the world and lifts up the name of Jesus, no matter what the circumstances? It’s a HUGE step of faith to actually live the Christian Life, I mean really LIVE, and thus represent the faith we have in our life. We say it’s what we want as we attend Bible Study after Prayer Meeting, after witnessing training, after mentoring group. But do we really? I know as a minister, I have a very select group of people I equip, enable, and empower to do the ministry. As I lead them to find their place (riding style) in the work of the Lord, I try to make it as easy as possible. Why would I do that? Jesus didn’t do that! Why would I sugar coat something so radical like living for Christ? Why would I eat that sugar myself? It could be because I am, we are, FEARFUL! Fearful that if we totally give in to Christ it will brand me, even with others who are believers. Fearful that I can’t ride that wild horse, or don’t want to ride that wild horse. Fearful that the sacrifice will be just too much. Fearful!!!
Just like the fear I had when riding a wild Gina, we have to face it and get back up and ride again and again. Just like my dad showing me how to ride with confidence, we need to follow the Word of our Heavenly Father as He shows us how to handle life without fear. Just like how Gina came back under my control, my world is under the control of God. A good perspective on fear will make all this happen. First of all, fear God! Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” You want to stay out of trouble? Fear God! Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Fear God! The writer of Ecclesiastes said in 8:13, “Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.” Fear God!! Keep this in mind! It is the “wicked” who don’t fear God. Not believers. If you are a believer, then you need to have a distinct fear of God that lifts Him up in the very core of your reasoning. Your core will then produce wisdom that is God generated and God inspired. That’s good fear!! Next, Don’t Fear Man!! Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” You may say, “Sure, don’t fear man, but it is men who control so much of my life.” Not true. When God is in control of your life, you have the ability to be able to control the influence of others in your thinking. You are still riding the horse, so don’t get bucked off just when you are about to take a good ride in life. Hang on and control the situations that you are faced with and trust God to overcome the obstacles. What can man do? In Luke 12: 4-5, Jesus affirms who we should fear by saying, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. Now that was a mouth full! Here’s the closing truth. The moment we allow fear to influence who we are in Christ, satan and the agents of this world can smell it ,and they will pounce every time. They are ravenous. They are on point. They are waiting. But, they don’t have to worry about someone who doesn’t ever step out and ride the “big horses.” Here’s a great promise from Jesus for those who want to ride the big horse. Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.” Get back on that horse and ride. Don’t let one pitfall run you back into the house afraid of what might happen next. God is with you and the One who sends will be the One who stays. The world is always fattening itself up on the feed of satan, and it may seem too wild to ride. But with God’s help, even the wildest of worlds can be handles by those who trust God and His mighty power. With God, all things are possible. Today is the day when you start riding the “big horses!” What’s that smell? It certainly isn’t FEAR!!!
The Pilgrimage continues….