As a young pastor I was asked to do a ministry for the churches in my area. This ministry didn’t have a lot of promise, it was small, there was almost no money to run it, and most people didn’t particularly care if it happened or not.
Strangely enough, I felt it was important because it educated people in a vital ministry of the church. I was young and nervous, though, and I remember that before our first meeting I wanted assurance from God that this was going to work.
We had a box of “promise cards” at our house. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, it’s a lot of little cards in a box with a different promise from God’s word written on each of them. Generally, you draw out one a day and it’s encouraging to read what the Lord has promised. I hardly ever do this but I had such a need of assurance that day that I prayed, “God speak to me through one of these cards.”
So, like a blindfolded contestant reaching into the grand bin and drawing out a lottery winner, I carefully pulled one out and … (you’re waiting for me to say that I got the verse, “Judas went out and hanged himself” aren’t you?) … I got a jewel.
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17). “
All right! Yes! God’s going to give me feet like a deer!”I imagined myself bounding off at high-speed, white tail flagging, occasionally leaping up into the air like a deer who has drunk too much Italian espresso. I applied that to the ministry I was beginning and really began to anticipate what was coming.
It came and it was hard. Though we didn’t achieve outstanding success, we made it! We certainly didn’t see bounding-deer results as I had dreamed, but it was good—small scale, but good.
I still wondered about that high-speed Bambi, though. That didn’t seem to characterize anything we did. Then one day I found out a little bit about deer feet, because in my bounding excitement I hadn’t paid any attention to the end of the verse:
“He enables me to go on the heights.” Ah! It’s like Paul’s good news/bad news statement, “… because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” (1 Cor. 16:9, NIV) Love that open door part but I’m a bit less enthused about those opponents.
Those narrow paths on mountain heights are difficult to walk on. Converse and Nike won’t help you much, so you need hooves that dig in, and legs that can bound from tough foothold to tough foothold. You need some winter treads under you because where you are, traction is more important than speed.
That described that particular ministry much better than hyperactive deer feet setting a world’s record for the 100-meter dash. High-places feet aren’t flashy but they’re efficient.
Maybe you’re in a tough place today. “You think, ‘I had about enough of this. I’m getting off this mountain. I know God called me here but surely he can’t expect me to try to walk on a muddy path like this.”
Why don’t you ask Him to issue you some “deer feet” — that ability to hang in there and to negotiate those slippery places where most people fall off the edge? These feet aren’t extra fast but they’re indispensable when you’re walking where most people don’t dare to walk.