Luck? Skill? Or, Something Else?
I was hunting one January near my home in Western NY. The
snow was deep—above my knees. Thus, I was tired after walking for several hundred yards. I stopped to catch my breath. I rested my Dad’s lightweight 12 ga. semi-automatic shotgun on my boot and took a deep breath.
That’s when chaos erupted!
About two feet behind me, a partridge had buried himself in the snow. When I stopped that close, he panicked and exploded into action. The sound was like a bomb going off. I screamed and threw the gun up—forgetting how light it was—and literally almost lost my grip as it swung way above my head.
Subconsciously, I realized that this was a partridge, not a landmine, so I began following him with the bead on the shotgun. At the last split second—just before he completely disappeared behind a think line of brush and trees—I pulled the trigger.
I couldn’t see so I wasn’t sure I hit him. I knew that if I had, it would have been a pretty lucky shot. Sure enough, when I worked my way through the brush and crossed the stream next to it, I found him on the opposite bank.
What do we call it?
I've thought about that shot many times over the years. Was it luck? Was it skill? Or, was it something else?
Scripture tells us that "every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17)." So...did God just miraculously guide a pellet or two from my shot shell to strike the bird? Some would say, "Yes."
Making sense of God's Sovereignty and the random (or, not-so-random) happenings of life is a challenging task. Theologians, philosophers, and scholars much smarter than I have wrestled with these questions for centuries. I find the more I read from some of these great thinkers, the more confused I get...some of them make my head ache.
In truth, I think the solution is quite simple. In brief, when something amazing happens, it's an "all the above" cause and effect situation. In other words, it's not as simple as saying, "That was lucky," or, "That was simply the hand of God," or, "Wow--look at how skilled I am."
Sometimes, it's a combination of things.
Take my partridge shot for example. I had practiced and shot competitively for several years by the time that event happened. On the other hand, the snow, my shattered nerves, and the impossible terrain made that an unlikely shot for anyone--skilled or not. And, of course, God is good to His people and I had prayed that morning...so, having partridge for dinner is a "good and perfect gift," thus He clearly allowed it and maybe helped me too.
How did it happen? All the above. Skill/training, luck, and some blessing too.
Now before I close, I want to say a word to Christians who will no-doubt write to chastise me for using the word "luck." In my defense, I'll quote someone the Bible calls the wisest man who ever lived, "But time and chance happen to them all (Eccl. 9:11)." God's sovereignty allows for randomness in the world and the universe at large. Call it luck, call it chance, call it randomness--the fact is God doesn't manipulate every detail...and that's OK.
So, my advice is this. Prepare and train. Practice and grow your skills. Pray like it all depends on God (since ultimately our lives DO depend on Him). Then, when a "lucky" opportunity arises, you'll be ready. If it works-out. Praise God and celebrate the victory.
I recommend this over endless wrangling about skill vs. luck vs. God's blessings! Ultimately, God created it all and all of us too, so giving him glory is ALWAYS the right approach!
To that end,