Friday, February 19, 2016

God Reliance v. Self Reliance

You are a strong individual. You can do it. Go for it! Yes I can! That is the mantra of our nation in so many ways. Yet, I proclaim that this is a misreading of the Founding Fathers’ and God’s ideas.
I just read a Wall Street Journal Economic research paper saying that the more religious a nation, the less innovative. The conclusions identify that religion make you inflexible and not open minded to new ideas. This will bring less healthy economies. I have a problem with this thesis.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7;9:10). This simple phrase is the foundation of life with the Creator of the universe, the One who made all and is in all.  This thesis is about the awesome respect above all for the One who knows all and is unchangeable. Wisdom is a central theme of Proverbs and many other books of the Bible. For it is from the Lord that we receive wisdom. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as high as the heavens are higher that the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Since the beginning, God who made man in His own likeness said subdue and have dominion over all the earth. He gave us free will. “Therefore whoever the Son sets free will be free indeed” (John 8:36).  We have had free will ever since the Garden of Eden. There, mankind changed Paradise into toil and sweat by our own decisions to be God.  This was Satan’s error and why he was kicked out of heaven. Pride and arrogance is the beginning of the fall. It is indeed a great temptation to think that we know more than God in directing our steps.  Proverbs is pretty clear about that too, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Life is full of trials and storms for every one of us. If you have not experienced this, you are now, or you are about to. It is in the storm that we find our true compass or show the world who we really are. Do we trust in our selves, or are we God-reliant?  I have learned over and over that when I trust in myself that I am on my own and my world falls apart.  Fear and anxiety take over and the results are not pretty.

Yet, the world looks to the strong leader who has “the right stuff” to handle the situation. David Brooks new book, The Road to Character, speaks to this problem. The “Big Self” is the problem. Humility — which Brooks defines as “the awareness that you are an underdog in the struggle against your own weakness” — is the beginning of any plausible solution.

God’s grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Paul goes on to say that, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” This is one of the incredible paradoxes of Christianity and the Bible.  Author Dan Schaeffer addresses this in his book, The Power of Weakness. Our weaknesses are magnified every day, but we are apt to hide them or downplay them in favor of our strengths.  Dwight L. Moody said,
“When God wants to move a mountain, he does not take a bar of iron, but he takes a little worm. The fact is, we have too much strength. We are not weak enough. It is not our strength that we want. One drop of God’s strength is worth more than all the world.”
An interesting paradox is that as our body deteriorates, our emotions become more fragile. How do we come to a place where we realize that we glorify God in our weaknesses? The world would say, “Believe in yourself,” drive, ambition, success.   What if the path to true power isn’t trying harder, but giving up the attempt to be powerful altogether?  Is it possible that it is through your weaknesses that God wants to demonstrate His power?   What did He say to Zerubbabel? “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). 

 God wants us like Paul, to boast in and embrace our weaknesses.  Even Christ in Gethsemane was not perfectly strong.  Look at the Hebrews 11 faith chapter. It is filled with people “Who from weakness were made strong” (Hebrews 11:34).  God’s power is launched from weaknesses, not strength.  Paul and Moses humbled themselves and became obedient. This is about vulnerability, taking a risk. Will this threaten our self-image? It is hard, because we fear being sidelined.  Think of Joni Erickson-Tada or Corrie Ten-Boom, paralyzed but useful to the kingdom. We live in a world of people trying to appear strong.  But the gospel says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” Ephesians 6:10).  I think we have trouble trusting that God will show up.  He was with the Hebrews in the fiery furnace of Daniel. He always has a holy purpose in our circumstances; we just need to submit. Paul reminded Timothy that God had given him a spirit of power.

I think many Christians fear because we have a lot of baggage and we are worried it will be found out. God works in spite of it. We have losses and as C.S. Lewis said, they feel like fear. Those with PTSD are counseled to go back into the fear or hurt, that is where the healing takes place. It is hard to consider it pure joy when we come into trials as James tells us. It is there where God is making us mature and complete. And if we don’t know what to do God says just to ask him.

Embracing our weakness is taking our eyes off ourselves and fixing them on Jesus. Trust Him as the Perfector of your faith. Don’t be double minded and do what He tells you. Stop worrying and do it now.  Oswald Chambers said, “God comes in where my helplessness begins.” Success is about what He can do through you if you let Him.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts.