Diligent dependence is your holy horse
“Diligent dependence is your holy horse.”
By Warren Mainard
How to find a balance between faith and faithfulness in ministry.
As a church planter, pastor, and Christ follower we often find ourselves in the midst of an array of spiritual “tensions.” From the “already, but not yet” tension of living in the Kingdom of God to the tug of war between the new creation and the old self that still resides in our flesh. Tension is an ever-present reality in the life of the believer. As Andy Stanley and the Catalyst Conference declared a couple of years ago however, sometimes, the “tension is good.”
One such tension we wrestle with is the pull between an encompassing faith in the sovereign power of God and our responsibility to be faithful to all that God commands us to do. It is the balance between a philosophy of “Let go and let God” and “God helps those who helps themselves.” Both of these popular philosophies can lead people down a path to spiritual ineffectiveness and impotence.
As I have spent the last several months focused on preparing to plant Essential Church in Seattle, WA, I have found myself trying to define in my spirit what it is that the Lord requires of me in this process. The end result has been a pervading statement that has served to guide me, and our church plant team as we have prepared for the battle ahead- “Diligent dependence is your holy horse.” I hope this blog might assist you as you develop a personal ministry philosophy for a healthy approach to ministry effectiveness. The scripture that illuminated this concept to me is Proverbs 21:31,
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”
In this passage, we see two opposing ideas. Depending on your personality, emotional make up and spiritual gifts, you will likely tend to focus on one idea, to the exclusion of the other. Yet, it is recognizing the symbiotic relationship between the two that makes this principle effective in our lives.
The first philosophy is that each of us must learn to “prepare your horse for the day of battle.” In Solomon’s time, the warhorse was a key military instrument used by the armies of the enemies of Israel. Interestingly, there was a Divine command against the hording or assembling of warhorses (Deuteronomy 17:16), but Solomon transgressed it (1 Kings 10:29). Clearly, God wants His people to recognize that it is “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” (Zechariah 4:6) that the battle is won. Yet, there is a certain aspect in which God requires us to make ready our horses for battle. The key trait involved in this part of the equation is diligence. Diligence is defined as “constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.” Whether you are planting a church, leading a ministry, or preparing for a ministry event, we must be diligent in our work. God does not honor the efforts of a lazy person who is just “letting go, and letting God.” We are called to work hard to prepare for all God has in store for us.
“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4
Diligence as a Christian and in ministry is synonymous with faithfulness and it is faithfulness that the master will applaud and reward His servants for.
“His master said to him. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”Matthew 25:23.
It should be our great desire to hear these words from the master spoken over us. A diligent faithfulness to do all God has commanded us to do and to work hard in all of our preparations is essential in pleasing God and aligning ourselves with His blessings and greater opportunities.
While diligence, hard work, effective planning and strategizing are all critical to ministry success, a good work ethic and ministry plan alone will never add up to authentic fruitfulness in ministry. It may result in positive numerical results, but transformed lives and Kingdom growth must include another component in our desire for true ministry effectiveness. There is a recognition of this truth in the second portion of Proverbs 21:31, “the victory belongs to the Lord.”
No matter how great our plan, preparation, or work ethic may be, true success depends on the Lord.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7
The key trait involved in this part of the equation is a holy dependence on God. Dependence is “reliance, trust, or confidence” in something other than yourself.” We depend on God and that dependence is our faith in Him. Many believers find new life in Christ through faith yet try to live for Christ by works. The righteous “live by faith” and faith is a recognition of our dependence upon God. Jesus said, “apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Over the years, I have mulled over what Christ meant by this profound statement. Certainly from a grand scale, as Christ holds the world together, nothing in this world exists or functions apart from the creator and sustainer of all things. On a deeper, more personal level however, I believe Jesus was speaking about those things that have eternal significance and impact that we can only accomplish through an abiding faith relationship with Christ. This conscious dependence upon Christ is what it means to remain in Christ and stay connected to the life-giving vine.
So, as we prepare and proceed in ministry, we are called to live in the tension of a “Diligent Dependence” upon God. Striving to do all we can to prepare for the battle, while trusting that the battle belongs to the Lord. We make our horse ready, but we do so knowing that if our horse is not God’s horse, we are doomed. It is a balance of faith and faithfulness, diligence and dependence that must guide our ministry steps.
One of my favorite illustrations of this truth is the story of David when facing Goliath. We often emphasize how David was clearly outsized and outmatched by the towering, well-trained, powerfully equipped giant. We applaud David for understanding that King Saul’s armor and sword were not going to get the job done. Of course, we celebrate David’s bold declaration that “the battle belongs to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 17:47) All of these things are true, and they all reflect that David had a heart full of faith and a holy dependence upon God. But, we must also recognize that David was not picking up a sling for the first time. He was a skilled warrior with a proven track record for using his weapon effectively. Over the years, he had obviously spent many hours practicing his aim, perfecting his stance and form. David had been very diligent in his efforts to prepare for whatever God had in store for him. So, when David bent down into the stream to pick up those smooth stones, he knew that he had been diligent in his preparations for this moment, but that he was depending completely upon God to guide his stone to its fatal conclusion.
As a church plant team, we have begun saying, “Diligent dependence is your holy horse” to remind each other that we must remain balanced between a dependent faith and a diligent faithfulness. As you incorporate this philosophy into how you pursue the vision that God has entrusted to you, you can rest in knowing you have done all that you can do and trust that God will do what only He can do.