Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Ye were running well: what did hinder…?” Something had broken in and interrupted their running in the spiritual race. This was extremely serious and disturbed Paul to the depths of his being. They seem to have been of that temperamental constitution which corresponds to Christ’s words in the parable about seed falling into shallow soil. The seed was received quickly and earnestly, but did not go on to produce a harvest. There are some people who make an enthusiastic start in this way and make quite a stir about it, but then do not go steadily on. These Galatians were like that; they made a tremendous response; they loudly protested their devotion; and then they were very quick to drop out of the race. Why? Because they lived on their emotions, on their feelings, and these were changeable. This may well be a matter of temperament, but in fact something of such a characteristic can be found in most of us. We respond to an appeal, come under the power of a great emotion, and then slack off. In the words of the Lord Jesus: “When tribulation or persecution ariseth… he is offended” (Matthew 13:21).
Clearly, then, if you and I are going to persevere to the end we must have a greater power than that of our natural emotional life. The only hope is that it may be true of us, as of Paul: “The love of Christ constraineth” (2 Corinthians 5:14). There is all the difference between the natural and the spiritual in this matter of the energy of love. This word translated ‘constraineth’ is the same one used over the arrest of Jesus when it says: “the men that HELD Jesus” (Luke 22:63). So it is that the love of Christ should hold or grip us, conquering our natural emotions by the mighty power of the Spirit. Our feelings come and go. They may be strong at times but they can also grow very weak. If we do not know something of the mighty grip of Christ’s love, we will never go right through to the end of this strenuous race. After all, it is the love of Christ which makes for the fullness of Christ. If we finally come to that fullness it can only be by the constraint and holding power of His love.
“Ye were running well: who did hinder you?” The answer is: you ran in the strength of your own emotions; you ran as your enthusiastic response to God’s call because it affected your feelings for the time. The letter to the Galatians is devoted to emphasizing the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, for He alone can supply the necessary energy of love for us to go on running well.