PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THIS STATEMENT by John Hawkins, Founder of Leadership Edge, Inc (LEI)

As I’ve mused over this phrase in recent months I’ve come to two questions.

• Does this statement fit with the Bible?

• Do I believe this statement?

I’ve also come to realize that understanding results as God does is challenging and partially impossible to come to. As to the Biblical basis for the phrase. Here’s what I’ve come to.

God’s Call to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3) Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The primary actions that God required of Abram were: to believe God (Genesis 15:6), move to Canaan (Genesis 12:5) and to make love to his wife (inferred). Only God could bring about the results that were promised in God’s call.

The Fall of Jericho (Joshua 5:13 – 6:27) And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” (Joshua 6:2-5)

The primary actions that God required of Joshua were: to believe in God (inferred), march around the city and blow horns as instructed by God. Only God could bring about the results that God promised in Joshua 6:2.

Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

This passage assumes that God’s people will do the manual work of building the house and watching over the city. It also states that unless God is also building the house and keeping watch over the city, the labor of God’s people will be in vain (i.e. deemed as emptiness or nothingness). It also says that in God’s eyes it is vain (i.e. empty or nothing) to conduct our responsibilities in a way that prevents us from rest or sleep. All of this suggests that if our goal is that our work honors God (is not deemed as empty or nothing by Him), then it must be done with trust and collaboration with God that not only is blessed by God but that also frees us to rest and sleep.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. This proverb has three commands – trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding and in all your ways acknowledge Him.

This proverb has one promise – if we do these three commands, He will make straight your paths. i Or as Matthew Henry translates it - He shall direct thy paths, so that thy way shall be safe and good and the issue happy at last. It is interesting to note that the verse doesn’t prohibit us from having our own understanding. It rather calls us to submit our understanding to God’s omniscience and providence.

I Corinthians 3:5-7 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Apollos and Paul were servants who did the tasks that God assigned them. God assigned the work and gave the growth.

From these five passages, and my belief that they are representative of the whole of scripture, and not cherry picked proof texts, I believe that the statement is reflective of the teaching of the Bible.

As to the question of do I believe (am convinced of it to the point that I shape my life around it) this statement – the answer is sometimes. The world, my flesh and the devil are constantly at war with my belief in this statement. There are deep and familiar ruts in my heart and mind that set disbelief as my default perspective. I find that when I do choose to believe, that God blesses that belief with eventual peace and freedom, such that I’m free to rest and sleep as Psalm 127:2 calls me to do. I also find that when I believe the truth of this statement, my sense of sanity regarding my responsibilities is restored, which allows me to work and lead more effectively, and with better results.

And finally – to my new found realization that our ability to understand results as God does, is challenging and is partially impossible for us to come to. One of the inherent challenges we have in understanding results is that we try to understand them immediately and we tend to expect them to be binary - succeed or fail, complete or incomplete, make the grade or not make the grade. The results that God accomplishes are usually not best understood immediately and tend to be for bigger purposes than our narrow binary frameworks. Deuteronomy 29:29 and the book of Ecclesiastes make it plain that there are things about God’s ways and purposes that are hidden from us. Romans 8:28 says that God works everything to good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose – but it is often hard in the short term and many times in the long term, how God is bringing this result about.

That the results God is accomplishing are difficult for us to see and understand should not discourage us from trusting that the results are up to Him and that He is accomplishing them. This should rather remind us that faith isn’t sight and that our trust is in Him and not in what we can see or not see.

As to how this statement (In faith I must do all that God calls me to do. Then I must leave the results to Him.) applies in our jobs, families, churches and communities where people are expecting us to produce specific results – I’ve come to the following perspectives. We rightly handle our commitments to meet targets, goals, deliverables when we practice the following:

1. We keep in mind - In faith I must do all that God calls me to do. Then I must leave the results to Him. This fosters humility and dependence upon God and leads to making wise commitments.

2. We do that which God has called us to do wholeheartedly and with all the strength God gives us. This means that by His grace, we work hard and excellently.

3. We manage expectations as to what we can accomplish. Our emphasis should focus more on the great effort we’ll bring than on insuring specific results that we know will happen. Whereas it is right for us to believe that God will bless our work as its done in faith and for His honor and glory, guaranteeing specific results is often ultimately beyond our ability.

4. When we must commit to accomplishing specific results within a specific timeframe (e.g. “I’ll have this report completed within these guidelines by next Tuesday”), we do well to think it through and pray it through before we commit, seeking to not commit foolishly or pridefully, but rather humbly with our trust in God to strengthen us to serve well. When commitments are forced upon us (e.g. “You must have this report completed within these guidelines by next Tuesday”) we can take this to God and seek His help in getting it done. Christians should be known as people who make and keep commitments. Yet because God controls the ultimate outcome and uses it to serve His purposes, the fulfillment of our commitments (getting the report done) is accomplished by God doing it with us (Psalm 127:1). 

The following notes on Proverbs 3:5-6 come from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete).

We must have a continual regard to God’s providence, must own and depend upon it in all our affairs, both by faith and prayer. By faith. We must repose an entire confidence in the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, assuring ourselves of the extent of his providence to all the creatures and all their actions. We must therefore trust in the Lord with all our hearts (v. 5); we must believe that he is able to do what he will, wise to do what is best, and good, according to his promise, to do what is best for us, if we love him, and serve him. We must, with an entire submission and satisfaction, depend upon him to perform all things for us, and not lean to our own understanding, as if we could, by any forecast of our own, without God, help ourselves, and bring our affairs to a good issue. Those who know themselves cannot but find their own understanding to be a broken reed, which, if they lean to, will certainly fail them. In all our conduct we must be diffident of our own judgment, and confident of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, and therefore must follow Providence and not force it. That often proves best which was least our own doing. 2. By prayer (v. 6): In all thy ways acknowledge God. We must not only in our judgment believe that there is an over-ruling hand of God ordering and disposing of us and all our affairs, but we must solemnly own it, and address ourselves to him accordingly. We must ask his leave, and not design any thing but what we are sure is lawful. We must ask his advice and beg direction from him, not only when the case is difficult (when we know not what to do, no thanks to us that we have our eyes up to him), but in every case, be it ever so plain, We must ask success of him, as those who know the race is not to the swift. We must refer ourselves to him as one from whom our judgment proceeds, and patiently, and with a holy indifferency, wait his award. In all our ways that prove direct, and fair, and pleasant, in which we gain our point to our satisfaction, we must acknowledge God with thankfulness. In all our ways that prove cross and uncomfortable, and that are hedged up with thorns, we must acknowledge God with submission. Our eye must be ever towards God; to him we must, in every thing, make our requests known, as Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh, Jdg. 11:11 . For our encouragement to do this, it is promised, "He shall direct thy paths, so that thy way shall be safe and good and the issue happy at last.’’ Note, Those that put themselves under a divine guidance shall always have the benefit of it. God will give them that wisdom which is profitable to direct, so that they shall not turn aside into the by-paths of sin, and then will himself so wisely order the event that it shall be to their mind, or (which is equivalent) for their good. Those that faithfully follow the pillar of cloud and fire shall find that though it may lead them about it leads them the right way and will bring them to Canaan at last.