The Tension

The tension is real.

We all face it in one area of our life or another. We know in our hearts that the ultimate outcome of a situation, endeavor or goal is in God’s hands. And, at the same time, we know that we will have to work really hard to accomplish it.

Which part is up to God and which part is up to me?

Many years ago, while in a Bible study, we were studying the book of Nehemiah. Chapter 4, the campaign to rebuild the wall was underway – it was at half its height. And while they were rebuilding, they were ridiculed, and enemy troops were beginning to surround Jerusalem to attack it. Nehemiah knew that he was called to lead this work and would not be deterred. At this point a good friend of mine pointed out a key verse that I had overlooked. Verse nine says that Nehemiah “prayed and posted a guard.” There it is – the tension. God’s part and Nehemiah’s part.

Nehemiah knew that the outcome was in God’s hands. He prayed for safety, for deliverance, and the ability to complete the project God had led him to undertake. And he posted a guard. He knew that he had to protect the workers and those who were part of the project. It would be irresponsible to simply sit back and wait for God without using the resources he’d been given (these resources include common sense!) So, he prepared for the attack. Which one would ultimately protect them – their prayers or their readiness to fight?

What area of life are you praying and posting a guard? Pray like it’s up to Him and work like it’s up to you, right?

Those of us in ministry leadership feel this tension every day. God is at work and we see the evidence of His power throughout our organizations and the ministry that’s occurring. And… it is a lot of work. And it’s hard. We feel the tension in various aspects of the ministry.

Within my organization, I feel it most acutely in the area of fundraising. We have seen God say yes to so many prayers about our programming and we have grown significantly over the last couple of years. But the revenue/funding has grown at a slower pace. So I pray in the full confidence that all of our funding is in His sovereign and capable hands. I trust that He will provide. And, as we mapped out our plans for the year, I can see the path that we need to pursue in order to close the financial gap. It is a steep hill to climb and it won’t be easy. I know the fundraising activities, fundamentals, and best practices that we’ll have to do. Plenty of hard work.  The tension is real.

I was having coffee with another ministry leader the other day talking about this tension. Work like it’s up to me; pray like it’s up to God. As he listened, he paused, reflected and said, “what if those two parts are the same thing? What if your hard work IS God’s part?”

I was speechless.

Have I been looking at this wrong the whole time? Have I been trying to do God’s part on my own?

What if I looked at my to-do list as the way in which God will accomplish His plans? As I set out to do the things that I see need to get done, He is able take those efforts and multiply them to accomplish more than I ever could on my own. When I break down my view that there is His part and my part, He shows me that it is all His part and I am fortunate enough to get to be a part of it. And instead of simply feeling a sense of accomplishment for getting things checked off my list, the Lord multiplies my fulfillment in knowing that I am in His will. In addition, I feel His pleasure in the work and He renews my strength to continue along the path.

Each day since that conversation with my friend, I have thought about what needs to be done and offered my work to the Lord to use. I’m slowly learning that the tension is part of the process. But instead of the tension between two separate parts (my part and God’s part), there is a unity – a sense of oneness – that brings the parts together just like the coin in my pocket.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart. As working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”