Home > Blog > Effort, Power, and Trusting the Lord

November 24, 2015

Effort, Power, and Trusting the Lord

By Shawn Lovejoy

We keep rubber bands around the house for everything. They substitute for garbage ties, potato bag clips, paper clips, and even glue at our house. If you think about rubber bands, by their very nature they exist to create tension. If a rubber band loses its tension, it’s useless. If it’s stretched too tightly, it eventually breaks!

I share that with you as a picture of the tension that exists every day in our ministries. The Holy Spirit was placed in these jars of clay, our imperfect bodies, so we would rely on His power, not our strength and effort alone. However, this creates tension. Without human effort, God says we’re a sluggard, a fool, a lazy person! Without effort we’re disobedient to the Great Commission!

Without God’s power, our efforts are useless. And I would suggest we will eventually break! One of my favorite verses about the tension between effort and power is found in the book of Proverbs:

“A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31 (HCSB)

In Biblical times, oxen and donkeys were used primarily for work around the farm. Horses on the other hand, because of their speed and strength, were trained for use in battle. They were used to pull chariots and lead armies in battle. A horse preparing for battle symbolized all of the preparations an army would make to be ready to fight.

Here in Proverbs, like many other places in the Bible, God warns us about over relying too heavily on our own strength and skills. The horse is prepared for battle, but victory comes from the Lord!

We need to be prepared. We need to train. We need to stay sharp. We need to work hard. We need to be ready for the next battle. But just as a trained, prepared army can still lose without God, all our efforts at winning in ministry are in vain if God’s not in it! So the question we’ve got to ask ourselves today is: “What areas of skill and strength do I tend to on, at the expense of looking to God first and foremost?

Who are the horses and what are the chariots in our lives?

Well, most often, we are the horse. We tend to rely on our people skills, our ability to woo people, our preaching skills, our experience, or our ability to build great systems, or whatever. The list goes on. In my book for pastors, The Measure of Our Success, I say that: “Our greatest assets, outside His Lordship, become our greatest liabilities.” [1]

Horses and chariots can be other people, other pastors, or other churches. They can be mentors. My tendency is always to run to another pastor, church, mentor. or coach for advice, rather than first looking to the only One who can deliver the victory. God says that anytime we rely on our own horses or chariots, at the expense of looking to His power; we jeopardize a victory. The horse is prepared for battle but victory belongs to the Lord! God told Zerubbabel:

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6b (HCSB)

It’s only when we bring all of our effort in contact with all of His power that we can win. Some of us need to be stretched in the area of effort. God won’t do this without us! We can’t just sit on our hands and pray! Today, maybe you need to develop a new disciplined plan to grow in skill and strength. Are you preparing to be used greatly by God?

Others of us might recognize that we have been running over the hill into battle at the expense of constantly being filled and fueled with His Spirit. Maybe we’ve tried everything in our bag of tricks in our ministry to no avail lately. What’s wrong? The horse is made ready for battle, but victory comes from the Lord! When our effort comes in contact with His power, we will experience a new victory. Do you believe that? What you do next will prove it.

[1] Lovejoy, Shawn (2012-05-01). The Measure of Our Success, An Impassioned Plea to Pastors (Kindle Location 209). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.


Shawn Lovejoy

Shawn Lovejoy is Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com. They facilitate leadership growth and organizational health for leaders through executive coaching and organizational consulting. Shawn has been a successful real estate developer, a church planter, megachurch pastor, and now leads a fast growing coaching and consulting organization. Shawn is the author of three books, most recentlyMeasuring Success: Your Path To Significance, Satisfaction, & Leading Yourself To The Next Level. Shawn has been married for 25 years to his best friend Tricia and they have three children: Hannah, Madison, & Paul. They all live in Trussville, AL, a suburb of Birmingham.


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