Among folks who look to the Bible for daily guidance there is a centuries-long, lively debate that can be boiled down to this:
Is our impact in life shaped by our efforts, or God's?
It's an important question, because of the extremes—on the one side, well-intentioned hard workers who write things like "The world is run by tired men" to maddeningly passive trusters who intone "Let go and let God."
So what's the answer?
"The horse is prepared for the day of battle; but the victory belongs to the Lord" —Proverbs 21:31
There's a lot of rich history around horses going into battle. If you are taking a horse to a fight, you have to decide what kind of horse (typically lighter horses to get you to the battle were exchanged for heavy horses in the thick of the fight); how to armor the horse (protect the horse, protect the rider, or both); whether to ride or drive the horse; whether to mount the horse or attach a chariot; how to feed, train and groom the horse ... you get the idea.
Volumes have been written on how to train and prepare a horse for battle and the answers given depend on the era, the relevant geography and the current weaponry technology.
All of that to say, it's not an easy thing to prepare a horse for battle. There's a lot of thinking, working, strategizing, analyzing, trial and error to consider. Lots of hard work.
And then the battle comes.
Hopefully the horse is well prepared and hopefully the warrior has considered all of the contingencies and made all the right decisions.
But, at that point, it's out of the warrior's hands—victory belongs to the Lord.
Any warrior reading this proverb would have been bit uncomfortable—after all, they were highly trained in equine warfare, experienced in battle, dependent on their own knowledge and resources.
None of that is discounted.
The implication—live a considered, strenuous, self-disciplined life, giving it your best energy, preparation, thought, fitness level, strategy. The battle will be tough and you best be prepared.
But realize that in the end the result is God's, not yours.
Be hyper-prepared and hyper-trusting.
Both of them. All the time.
Are you better at being prepared or trusting? Chances are you excel at one or the other.
Thank God for the one in which you excel, and ask him where he wants to strengthen you in the other. This should be a great conversation between you and him!
Related Preaching Articles
By Peter Mead on Aug 12, 2012
Let’s pour our energy into effectively speaking of the God who reveals Himself in the Word.
By Stuart Strachan Jr. on Aug 10, 2018
What are the most important things you need to let your guest preacher know before you head out of town?