How to Keep Your Spiritual Horse from Racing to the Barn

Our greatest motivation to obey comes from a better place than fear.

Have you ever ridden a horse that wanted to run for the barn? You have to keep constant tension on the reins, and never for one moment relax your grip. Actually, you’re riding that horse right now. 

How to Keep Your Spiritual Horse from Racing to the Barn

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

I remember once as a boy riding a horse on my grandfather’s farm. The horse figured out he could go to the barn whether I wanted him to or not. So, off he (not we) started running! After about 60-seconds of a full-on run, the saddle loosened and I fell off sideways— spinning and flipping in prairie dust and brambles.

My only consolation was the hope that the saddled chaffed the horse as he wore it upside down.

For some real horses, you have to keep them from even seeing the barn. If you neglect to control your mount, and that animal begins to trot barn-ward, you will find yourself riding an animal out of control. There’s no stopping it.

I can’t think of a better illustration for the struggle in your spiritual life.

Keeping a Short Rein on Your Heart

The secret to handling the horse in our hearts comes from keeping a tight rein on our sinful nature. Never give it an inch of slack. As docile as it promises to be, as tame as it has proven itself over the years, never trust it.

It will betray you if you let it.

But there’s another part of our hearts that isn’t so glandular or instinctive. Its motivations find their passion and absolute delight in everything that is God. This part of our lives comes from the Spirit of God who lives within us, blessing us with the natural outworking of his nature. When we surrender to his control, we find our lives portraying his character of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

These two natures within the Christian are diametrically opposed to each other and will never shake hands.

  • One is a magnet, the other is a commitment.
  • One is a reaction, the other is a decision.
  • One is immediate but temporary, the other is delayed and eternal.
  • One makes our heart long for the here and now, the other makes our heart ache for the next life.
Our Greatest Motivation

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

This tension is summarized well by Paul’s question:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? —Romans 7:24

The tension only ends when life does and we go home to Jesus.

Our Greatest Motivation

Interestingly, the strongest argument for faithfulness comes from a desire to love God—not from a fear of His punishment. The reason we choose to obey Him comes from the reality of who owns our lives (see 1 Cor. 6:15–20). We are not our own. We were “bought with a price,” body and soul.

Hold those reins!

Question: What helps you keep your horse from running to the barn? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • K Boone

    the only thing I say is the spirit that worketh within me because that is all I can say. I know I am doing nothing on my own because tried and true I can make a very impulsive decision based on emotion alone if it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. So in short being intentional about keeping the Lord before..”me”

    • You’re right. The secret to victory in the spiritual life begins and ends where we focus our minds— as we trust the Lord above our own understanding.

  • Lolita

    What helps me keep the reins on my heart is remembering God’s character and how to behave as the woman he created me to be.

    • That’s a great plan, Lolita. Thanks for sharing.


    I really don’t know how to keep my horse from running to the barn Wayne,what i can see right now is confusion,i have been trying to follow God in the right way,but i failed so many times,i have many problems need to be solved first,but unfortunately that problems are related to the my relationship with God and my prayer for what i really need in my life,i’m facing the great problems right now Wayne,only God Himself can solve.

    • Your challenge then, and mine, is waiting on God to bring about the solution only He can bring. Just cling to Him day by day—trusting Him.

  • Michelle thick

    Knowing that there are consequences for every decision I make. And I want my choices to bring me happiness and God’s protection. Knowing Him better helps me from running to that barn. God’s love is wonderful and his presence is oh soooo comforting. I make an effort everyday to stay close to him. When I have something that’s not of God and it’s hard to control it. I get on my knees and ask God to help me. I can’t do this on my owm. I am currently struggleing with one right now and i’m going to defeat it through God grace.
    Thanks wayne; always good reads.