PREPARATION: WHERE VICTORY BEGINS by Ray Pritchard “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:31) When the Bible Bus passed through Proverbs 21 earlier this week, a long-forgotten melody rolled through my mind. Over 20 years ago, when Joshua was only two or three years old, and we lived in a church parsonage on Halcourt Avenue in Norwalk, California, I carried him on my shoulders and sang Scripture verses to him. I made up the songs as we walked along and eventually he would join in with me. We learned quite a few verses that way, including Proverbs 21:31. In fact, the memory is so strong that the tune won’t stop bouncing around in my head as I am typing these words. This particular proverb contains a finely-balanced blend of human initiative and divine sovereignty. Three thousand years ago every soldier knew what Solomon meant when he said, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle.” What does that entail? You have to round up the horses, feed them, check the bit and the bridle of each horse, find the right match of horse and rider, prepare the food the horses will need on the journey, make sure you have enough handlers so the soldiers don’t have to worry about anything but fighting, and you have to weed out the horses that are sick and lame. A few months ago I heard some military experts discussing the first stages of the war in Afghanistan. They made the point that when it comes to warfare, amateurs talk strategy, professional soldiers talk logistics. The Duke of Wellington said the victory over Napoleon was won on the playing fields of Eton. Most battles are won “behind the lines” in the planning and preparation that leads up to the clash of arms. Football coaches like to say that you “play like you practice,” and more often than not, it proves to be true. This means there is no substitute for preparation whether you are playing the piano, taking Advanced Geometry, or leading a company. Someone has to put in the long, hard hours of grunt work in any human endeavor if success is to be achieved. Victory never just “happens.” Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. But that’s not the whole story. The last half of the verse reminds us that victory comes only from the Lord. There is no conflict here. When facing any big challenge in life, we must do our part. We must plan the big picture, sweat the details, and burn the midnight oil. And we must pray fervently, calling on the Lord for his help, knowing that human effort apart from divine blessing leads to failure. So get those horses ready for battle. But while you’re at it, remember that victory still comes from the Lord.