The Mechanics and the Mystery

Some Christians say that you can just trust God, pray and then wait on God to help or do something. Others say that God helps those who help themselves and that we must do it. This is a tension that we may feel ourselves from time to time – the tug between activism (do it yourself) versus quietism (just let God do it).
Does relying on our actions or other means mean that we don’t trust God? Not necessarily. Nehemiah records of their approach to building the walls of Jerusalem in a time of spiritual danger: ‘we prayed to the Lord and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat’ (Neh. 4:9).
Certainly trusting in our own efforts or other means, and not in God, is a mistake. ‘The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord ‘ (Prov. 21:31). Much of Christian service is moved forward by the mechanics of diligent work (study, actions, preparation, hard work, use of gifts and skills, deployment of resources). The mechanics matter! Practicing your music is important if you use this gift in worship. Neglecting to practice and develop, and trusting in God to bless, may not be a blessed experience for others.
Yet there is still the magic of God’s surprising blessing, that cannot be engineered by us but sent down freely by the Spirit. We can ask for the blessing and pray for it, but without it we may not move forward. Always be ready for God to surprise with his ‘plus’.
Sometimes God will act directly without any human means at all, to remind us that He is in control and that we are not the source of our success. Like Mose and the Israelites at the Red Sea, when we cannot save ourselves, God opens the waters miraculously. This reminds us that the power of God is the key factor in all situations, and sometimes it is made inescapably obvious.
Ralph B. Bowles