The story is told of a seasoned woodsman who was accustomed to cutting wood the traditional way with his manual handsaw. He strongly resisted advances in electrical technology to make his job easier. One day, a local hardware owner tried to sell him an electric saw by promising him that, with the new saw, he would be able to cut ten cords of wood in a day. The sceptical woodsman half-heartedly agreed to try the new saw.
The next day, late in the afternoon, he walked into the hardware store, exhausted and visibly irritated. “You promised me that I would cut ten cords today with this new saw,” he said to the hardware owner, “but I worked till I was blue in the face and I only managed five.” The surprised shop owner took the saw from him and told him to wait while he diagnosed the problem. He examined it briefly before he plugged it into the electrical socket and flipped the switch. The startled woodsman looked at the saw and asked, “What’s that noise?”
Stories like that are typically too good to be true, but it illustrates an important point: Often, we exert effort until we are blue in the face, failing to remember that we have a source of limitless power at our fingertips. We fail to remember, in the words of Scripture, that we do not accomplish things by might or by power, but by the Lord’s Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
David expressed this reality in Psalm 20. Written as a battle psalm, the psalm expresses confidence in “the saving might of [Yahweh’s] right hand” (v. 6). David knew that his trust must lie in the Lord: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (v. 7). In battle, chariots and horses were paramount, but David knew that the most impressive arsenal was impotent without God’s blessing. Those who trust in chariots and horses “collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright” (v. 8). Relying on military might without divine blessing was like trying to use an electrical saw without power.
Little has changed. Nations still boast in the strength of their military. The Global Firepower website ranks the potential military strength of nations around the world based on more than fifty individual factors. Global leaders find great comfort in the firepower at their fingertips.
But let’s move away from military firepower. Be honest: How often do you rely on people and things other than the Lord? We easily fall prey to trusting in our bank balance, our job security, our stable health, or our family security rather than in the Lord. Ultimately, however, we must recognise that those who trust in those things—like the ancients who trusted in horses and chariots—will collapse and fall. Only those who trust in the Lord will rise and stand upright.
The Lord has a way of pulling the rug of trust from under our feet when we trust in anything other than him. Just ask the many kings and nations who fell before Israel in the Old Testament. Just ask the Israelites who fell before Assyria and Babylon and Persia and Rome because of their misplaced trust.
We cannot always claim to know why God does what he does in the world. Without direct revelation, we must be careful of assuming that God has allowed disruptive circumstances for particular purposes. But we can always ask what we can learn through the disruptive circumstances that he allows. It may be irresponsible to confidently claim that we know exactly why God has allowed the pandemic in which we find ourselves, but we should surely be examining our own response to God in the midst of the current circumstances and asking what we can learn through it all.
As you enter another day, perhaps still disoriented from the whirlwind around us, ask yourself, where is my trust? Am I trusting in proverbial horses and chariots, or am I trusting in the Lord? Am I working myself blue in the face with an electrical saw disconnected from its power source? Am I heading for a collapse and a fall or can I confidently look forward to rising and standing? The answer to that question lies in the source of your trust. We have the power. Let us prayerfully make use of it.