A few days ago I mentioned how I like “tension” verses—verses in which two opposite Biblical truths are held in tension in order to provide the perfect balance for us. I would submit that 127:1 is one of the great ones, and it holds a great depth of meaning for us.
When it comes to getting things done in God’s kingdom, there are two extremes into which we can fall. On one side you might find people in the “faith” column. When confronted with a problem, they want to pray about it and trust God to work everything out. Their favorite passage might be Eph 2:8-9—“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” or Psalm 46:10—“Be still and know that I am God.” On the other side you might see people in the “do” column. When told we’re going to call for a prayer meeting, their initial response is “Enough praying, let’s just DO what God wants!” They love passages like James 2:14-26—“faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Do you see why God’s word provides such a perfect balance for us? To the first group it tells them “Yes, the Lord builds the house, but you do too. He’s not going to build it for you. Yes, he guards over the city, but the verse is assuming that you have human guards as well.” To the second group the verse says “Unless the Lord is behind what you’re doing, you’re wasting your time at best. At worst you’ll actually be working against his purposes, and only a fool wants that.” One of the best examples I’ve seen of this balance is Nehemiah. When he returned to Jerusalem to start rebuilding the city wall, he encountered violent opposition from Israel’s enemy neighbors. So what did they do? They “prayed to [their] God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
This principle of “prayer and work” can be applied to so many areas of life, it’s almost uncanny. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I totally believe Eph. 2:8-9. We're saved by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing. But he expects fruit to come out of our salvation. And this principle especially applies in the area of sanctification, the process of growing to be like Christ in your daily life. He gives us the resources to grow closer to him: his word, prayer, church fellowship, church leadership, and particularly the work of his Spirit within us. But we have to use them, otherwise they’ll do no good.
It’s also found in the area of church growth. As I write this, our church is on the cusp of a large evangelistic outreach campaign. Unless the Lord “builds” the house, we’ll accomplish nothing and I want no part of it. We desperately need to pray for wisdom, strength, the work of the Spirit on unsaved hearts, etc. But he’s not going to do it without us.
When I think about it, this can really be applied in just about every human endeavor. Do I need to find a job? Pray and trust God, and pound the pavement. Do we need to improve our marriage? Pray for God’s blessing on it, and take practical steps to seal up the cracks and strengthen the foundation.
So why don’t you and I take a moment to see what areas we’re not following this balance in our lives?
Lord Jesus, I tend to be lazy and wait for you to do something when you’ve already done everything you’re going to do. Please give me the strength to do what you want me to do.