In just a few days we will be experiencing the excitement and pageantry of yet another Winter Olympics games! It’s a grand opportunity for so many countries on a world stage with all the pageantry and national pride. Athletic contingents are representing their countries, many of which a large portion of the viewing audience don’t even realize that they exist (as nations). But there they are, all decked out in their indigenous colors; the cameras don’t miss a thing. Their facial expressions of nervousness, anxiety, anticipation, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s all there – nothing missed. In fact, in the 2012 Summer Olympics, one couldn’t help noticing (correction; the camera made certain that we didn’t help noticing) a tattoo on the back of one athlete’s hand. It simply said, “Proverbs 21:31”; that’s all. Naturally, the media wouldn’t go to the trouble of telling the audience what the verse said. They might have to explain it, and what a “sticky wicket” that could turn into, huh? Well, to my reading audience, let me be so bold as to venture where the media would not. Proverbs 21:31 says this, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Now what do you suppose they mean by that? Equally as important, what do you suppose the athlete means by displaying such a verse in such a tremendously public forum?
In the midst of all this national pride and, as it narrows down to the individual athlete’s personal pride, there beams a ray of humility. My thoughts go back to my years in the residential real estate business. As a real estate sales associate, I would spend hours interviewing potential purchasers to try and narrow down their likes and dislikes, their needs and their wants, how much they could afford and how much they wanted to spend. All those factors certainly were important to successfully matching up a purchaser with the property they not only approved of, but were also capable of purchasing. All too often a customer would be shown house after house, appointments would be made, hours of research and scheduling and touring… only to have them reject everything they inspect. That’s no fun! It wasn’t till I sat down one day with my father, the broker and owner of our company, that I learned some important advice. Dad said, “You have to be sure you’re asking the right questions, and that you’re asking the right person. There are “contributors”, and there are “decision makers”. You have to determine who the decision makers are. “Daddy” can tell you what his wants are all day long, but in most cases, “Momma’s” the decision maker. If Momma’s not happy, Daddy’s not going to be happy.” All my preparation goes for naught if I’m not in tune with the one who can “make or break” the sale. I might look like the super salesman, but I don’t sell the house. The “decision maker” makes the sale possible.
You can scrub that horse, comb his mane glossy smooth, put on his armor, “prepare him for the day of battle”, but the victory, (the sale), rests with (the decision maker;) with the Lord. This is an athlete that realizes that all the hard work and preparation, the grueling hours of preparation that comes down to this moment, the Olympics, is not what will ultimately deliver the victory. It is the one who blessed them with the physical body, the skills, with which to be developed who will provide the victory. And this athlete recognizes and acknowledges their dependence upon God in their endeavors. We can really get wrapped up in our successes. In fact, success can be to our disadvantage.
In Deuteronomy 8, Moses instructs the Israelites as they prepare to go in and take the Promised Land; the land that God had promised through Abraham. He tells them not to forget who it is that provided this land; when they prosper, who it is that makes it all possible. Remain humble and give thanks to your provider, otherwise, 17You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.
As a minister, after an uplifting and relevant sermon, it can be tempting to accept compliments and praise as a ‘reward for all my study and hard work’, to soak it all up as if I had earned it somehow. But I have on my desk a 3”x 5” note-card with the words of the apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 which says, 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. I have that passage on a note-card holder where I can see it all the time I’m working. The study, the hard work are all necessary, but it’s the Lord that gives the victory. He’s the one that gives the message relevance to those who hear. “It is He who gives the ability”. And God doesn’t mind providing for His children, in fact, He desires for us to depend upon Him and His leading. Just be humble, and remember “from where your help comes from”. Psalm 121:1