Devotional: November 13, 2020
Do your best, prepare for the worst— then trust God to bring victory.
Proverbs 21:31 The Message
The Book of Proverbs is packed with timeless wisdom. Here in a single verse, the writer of Proverbs gives a compact philosophy on how to live life. Various versions of this philosophy have been around for years. In fact, my guess is that some repeating this verse have no idea it even originates from scripture! “Do your best, prepare for the worst, and take what comes!” While this version doesn’t mention God in the third phrase, it does capture some of the spirit of this verse.
Here are some very brief thoughts on each phrase in this compact, three-line version of “words to live by…”
“Do your best.” Here, the author of Proverbs speaks of our human initiative. Often, what happens in life is due to whether or not we put in much effort. Proverbs makes it clear that we should not just aim for average. This verse does not say, “Do the absolute minimum.” No! It encourages striving for excellence: pushing ourselves to the limit. God appreciates it when we don’t settle for what barely passes muster. The Lord would rather we offer Him our best. Jeana always tells her students to “do your best”. She doesn’t say, “Do what you feel like doing”.
“Prepare for the worst” While we hope for the best, it sometimes does not happen. There are times when even the best-laid plans go haywire, and things do not work out. Sometimes, they even go from bad to worse. One of our local sports radio announcers talked about the most lopsided college football game in history, 222-0. The main difference? Preparation. Georgia Tech was an experienced team, who had practiced together regularly during the 1916 football season. The other team, Cumberland, was just a bunch of fraternity brothers recruited by a student, for Cumberland had disbanded their football team the preceding season. Thus, the extremely lopsided score! Lack of preparation can lead to disaster. Therefore, it makes sense to prepare for the worst, or the worst-case scenario.
“Trust God to bring the victory.” While we can put forth great and valiant effort, and try to prepare for any eventuality, including very unlikely ones, no one on earth knows exactly what will happen in the future. Therefore, we need to trust in the one who is not of this earth: God our Creator. As the saying goes, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future!” Trusting in God, and turning to Him in faith: these are good strategies for dealing with the unknowns of life. Other options include fatalism, “This just isn’t going to turn out well”, or “I’m not going to do anything, it’s already lost”. Pessimism is also an option: believing the worst is likely to happen. Yet there is a wonderful third option: realistic and faithful optimism: to have faith, and to trust in God. Coupled with diligent preparation and our best efforts, the result may be victory. We may not always emerge victorious in the eyes of the world, but with faith, we always win in the eyes of the Lord.
While all three parts of this verse are important, the last is the most important. Why? Because the Lord truly knows what’s best for us. The other option is to trust in ourselves, or to trust in fallible human beings, or maybe to trust no one at all. Often people with control issues feel they can do it better than the Lord. They do not trust the Lord at the helm of their life. This will lead to anxiety and stress. How much better to trust and rest confidently and peacefully in the Lord. He is with us, and has every situation in hand. This is true regardless of what happens tomorrow, next week, next year, or for the rest of our lives. So trust God, each and every day, for victory in all various realms of life.
Thank you, Lord, for wanting to be an integral part of my life. Help me to trust You in all things, not just the things I think You can handle. Remind me daily that You already know what the future holds, and hold me close. Help me to give to You the things I hold tightly, and teach me to trust You. I pray this prayer in name of Your son, and my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen