By Neil Ahrens
as told to Adam Borries
On Saturday at Nationals, the Citizens had a firsthand lesson in putting faith into action. Last year, as a last-minute team, we were lucky if we had half the material covered at any one time. We were satisfied with our 37th-place finish, but we agreed that we would return the coming year, planned and prepared as a team, determined to perform to our potential.
Now, after all our hard work over the season, we were starting the bracketed day in exactly the same position – 37th place – and we all felt we could do better. As I prayed before breakfast, the Lord reminded me of the verse, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory rests with the Lord” (Prov. 21:29). We had done our preparation. We had studied up, practiced, and strategized. We were ready.
Taking the seats, we were encouraged, motivated, and focused, and we came out playing hard – and lost. And we lost the next one. After losing 2 more matches, we were emotionally battered. Yes, I reminded our team, we have trained, but that didn’t necessarily mean we would win; it only meant we would play hard, and leave the result to God. “We are going to trust God,” I told them, “to put us wherever He wants us at the end of the day. We will do our best, but where we end up is God’s business.” Doug S. encouraged us by borrowing words from the movie Facing the Giants: “We’ll praise God if we win, we’ll praise God if we lose.”
And something happened; suddenly, our final placing at the end of the day seemed to lose whatever false importance was attached to it. Our focus shifted to God’s priorities: we would quiz hard, care for the people around us, and have fun. From that point forward, we would honor God with our effort in the moment, and forget about the outcome, truly placing it in His hands.
And we won. In fact, we kept winning! And as we won, other verses kept coming to us: “I will honor those who honor me” (I Sam 2:30); and later, “Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). We set our hearts right, and played for God’s glory, and by the end, He had lifted us from 40th place up to 20th!
Now, I’m not saying that God will grant success every time; this is not a formula for making God do what you want. Nor is it an excuse to slack off and “just trust God”, as if we have no responsibility; the preparation for the “day of battle” is painstakingly careful and thorough. But I believe that God blessed us this way to make a point: We can and should strive to do our best, but placing our trust in God is the ultimate success, whatever the outcome. And not just in sports, but in every aspect of life. Even in the midst of straining to excel, when we submit our effort to God – leaving the result to Him, and trusting that He holds the very best for us – in this, there is always victory.