Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and standup.
Most of us know this verse; to be honest it’s exceedingly “tweetable” and though few of us have chariots or horses at our disposal we generally agree with the point being made: Our hope comes from God’s strength and not our own. But if you’re anything like me it’s easy to slip into “chariot trusting”. We usually do it out of good intentions.
Let’s take leading a small group for example (or planting a church, or starting a ministry). We start off wanting to honor God by planning and preparing well. So we create a compelling mission statement (good) and build a strategy to accomplish that mission (also good). We turn over every rock and think through every angle until our strategy is fine-tuned. The final product? A well executed small group meeting.
But what happens when the small group meeting gets off track? What happens when the new couple brings their two year old who proceeds to disrupt the entire night? If you’re like me you conclude that a toddler has defeated God’s entire discipleship process. I know you walked on water Jesus but did you hear how loud that kid was? There’s no way anything positive happened tonight.
I’m quick to trust in the event that I’ve planned rather than God’s promise to build His church. So when the event gets off track I conclude that discipleship has been defeated. I’m trusting in my version of a chariot.
One of the many problems of trusting in our own efforts is that it leads to pride when things seem to be going well and despair when things seem to be stalled. So when you have great attendance on Sunday you feel great; but when things are a little sparse you feel like a failure. The problem with this is twofold: 1. It’s exhausting 2. It fundamentally denies the truth of the gospel.
As Tim Keller has so aptly put:
The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
The gospel tells you and me that nothing we do on our own is good enough to make an eternal difference. It doesn’t matter how great your preaching is, how welcoming your first time guests team is, or how on point your small groups are; if God doesn’t empower our efforts they won’t make a difference.
But the Gospel also tells us that God is with us. His love doesn’t change when our event bombs; and His grace is powerful enough to work through a toddler terrorized small group meeting. When we apply the gospel to our strategy it allows us to maintain humility in the midst of success and it keeps us from despair in the midst of struggles.
So the question is how do we faithfully strategize without moving into chariot trusting? Here are three action steps that I think can help us:
- Spend as much time praying as we do planning
- Prayer makes us slow down and remember that our hope comes from God.
- Get feedback from others
- Things are rarely as bad (or good) as we think, the perspective of others helps balance our view.
- Remember whose mission it is
- No one is more concerned with making disciples than God.
We honor God when we faithfully plan but the truth is that we’ll always make mistakes. Our hope isn’t our strategy but our God. Maybe you need to be reminded like I do of the time-tested adage “God hits straight licks with crooked sticks.”