Can You Run With the Horses?
By Stephen Terry
you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete
with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the
thicket of the
Often in our
prayers we give thanks for the religious freedom and toleration we enjoy in the
In an editorial in the January 2008 “Adventist World,” North American Division President Don Schneider wrote how he lived several years next to neighbors that he prayed for regularly yet never made the effort to reach out to them before he himself moved away. He was afraid of offending them. Bothered by that, he went back to the husband and apologized for not introducing them to Jesus. The husband insisted they also tell the wife, and God blessed that visit.
President Schneider wrote: “Far too many times I have let the fear of offending someone shut my mouth when I should have spoken boldly about Jesus. He is my Savior, and I’m thrilled! I want everyone to know Him. He invited me to live with Him forever, and He wants me to pass on the invitation.”
is fear of giving offense; sometimes it is fear that compromise with the world
will dilute our witness. Yet the same God who inspired Joseph and Daniel
will also be with us as we go forth into the world to proclaim Jesus boldly.
Joseph was totally assimilated into Egyptian culture, so much so that
even his brothers did not recognize him when they too came down to Egypt.
His wife, Asenath, was the daughter of a pagan priest of On. Genesis chapter 41 tells us that Pharaoh dressed
Joseph as an Egyptian. The signet ring Pharaoh gave to Joseph was in all
likelihood emblazoned with references to the pagan culture of
We can do this
only because Joseph realized at an early age an intimate relationship with
God. This relationship sustained him when tempted by Potiphar’s
wife. This relationship sustained him when unjustly imprisoned. It
also sustained him when he was forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler. The
closeness of that relationship can be seen in his statement to Potiphar’s wife
“How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” In his
statement to her, Joseph truly “kept pace with the footmen” and was later
honored to run with the horses as he managed all of
the cultural barrier between the Semitic tribal culture of his family in
Daniel also was an example of one who was
willing to cross cultural boundariesfor the
Lord. Like Joseph, he was taken to another country as a captive. He
could have refused to be assimilated into that culture, but he chose to avail
himself of all that culture had to offer to glorify the Lord through service.
This did not mean he compromised his faith. In
Throughout the book of Daniel this issue is repeated. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow to the image on the plain of Dura, when Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself and was driven from men to eat grass like a cow for seven years, and when Daniel was himself given the choice of petitioning Darius with his prayers or the God of heaven and ended up in the lions den, the issue was the same. Culture was not the issue. The issue was Who is ruler over men no matter what the culture.
Daniel rose to
great heights in
Both Joseph and Daniel also recognized the brotherhood of all men. This allowed them to work together for common purposes with those in the culture where they found themselves. Joseph could have said “I am not going to join in common purpose with those pagan Egyptians,” and would have accomplished little. He could have chosen while in prison to stay in his cell to avoid having to listen to the vulgar stories and witness the crude actions of the other prisoners. Instead he chose to minister and serve and this gave him opportunity to be present and of service to Pharaoh’s butler and baker.
have said “I am not going to be tempted by to serve a pagan culture. I
will not serve those who destroyed the temple in
The love of Christ compels us not to view those in the unchristian culture around us as enemies, but as lost sheep needing a Shepherd. We must work together with those sheep to bring them to Jesus. We also must work together as Christians to bring them to Jesus. It was when the disciples were united that the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1 could take place. Thousands were brought to Jesus in a single day by the power of that presence. A power that can only be present if we set aside the controversies that beset us and come into a unity that transcends issues of cultural difference.
The Bible speaks of the outpouring of the Spirit as a former and latter rain. The former rain started the grain growing after the seed was sown. The latter rain prepared the grain for harvest. There is a harvest coming soon, and God wants to share the latter rain of his Holy Spirit. We must somehow overcome the animosities that exist among us over culture, or we will not be among those receiving it.
“Only those who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light. Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it.” Testimonies to Ministers, pg 507
The Christian virtues tend toward unity, not disunity. In Testimonies, Volume 1, page 701 is a list of virtues: “energy, integrity, honesty, patience, courage, diligence, and practical usefulness.” These virtues were shared by both Joseph and Daniel and must be held by all who would “run with the horses” as they did. Note that none of the qualities that destroy unity are listed, qualities like criticism, gossiping, and hindrance of the ministry of others.
did not understand how important it was not to hinder the ministry of
others. Three of the gospels record Jesus correction of John regarding
this issue: “John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out
demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him
because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him,
for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My
name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of
Jesus Himself taught that unity among His followers is essential. We can find his words in John 17: 21-23. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
Notice that our unity witnesses that the Father has sent Jesus. Would it not bear true then that our lack of unity would witness exactly the opposite? That Jesus was not who He claimed to be? How can we take the name of Christian and dishonor Jesus in that manner? When we turn our back on our brother or sister, when we walk out on them, we are not witnessing to a spirit of unity. We are not witnessing to the truth of Christ’s testimony. Let us instead lift up one another and our differing testimonies to Christ. Each one of us is called as unique individuals to a unique ministry based on our individual experience. Yet in that individuality if we support one another with a unity of purpose, we will create a harmony of heavenly quality.
If you look in the hymnal at any hymn you will find that each is composed of many different notes. These include quarter notes, half notes, whole notes, stops and rests, yet while so many differences exist they all come together to produce harmony and a recognizable melody. If one note were to insist that all the other notes must be like him and see everything his way, there would no longer be harmony, no longer a melody. We could march lock step through the hymn singing the same note over and over but who would enjoy it? God made us all unique for a purpose. Harmony can only exist in diversity.
We live in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity and freedom to share the good news of Jesus. If we cannot do so in unity in such a time and place as this, how shall we do it in difficult times? If we cannot run with the footmen, how shall we run with the horses? In the words of Jesus, “If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:31. While we still have the opportunity let’s begin making beautiful music together. Let’s find a way to bring harmony from our many different perspectives. Let’s witness through our unity that Jesus is Savior, and we are His.