The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence.
In a world where selfishness reigns and materialism prevails, Christians are different. We are different because we strive for complete dependence upon God; easy to say…hard to achieve. One outstanding example of success is George Mueller. In the 1830’s he began to build orphanages in the city of Bristol, England. Mueller was a man of prayer. He never asked for a penny for his work, depending instead upon the providence of God. He built and supplied the orphanages without ever incurring debt. During WWII, Bristol underwent heavy bombing attacks by the Luftwaffe. But, instead of scattering for the safety of bomb shelters, many of the people of Bristol stood around the orphanage buildings defiantly praying for God’s protection. George Mueller would have been proud!
Jesus demonstrates complete dependence upon the Father.
John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
30 I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
So, how can we who follow Christ be content to depend upon ourselves or any other human institution? Well, that’s easy – they are tangible. But tangible does not equate with trustworthy. As the old song reminds us:
Stand up, stand up for Jesus! Stand in His strength alone,
The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own;
— George Duffield, Jr. – 1858
It’s our human tendency to trust observable things. But, God calls us to trust His intangible self. Just like Israel, we drift back toward our idols because we can, at least, see them – touch them.
It is easy for us to get sucked up with millions of others in the pandemic of entitlement and dependence upon the money, military might, justice, democratic process and promised protection of the State. But, as the psalmist said, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man” (118:8). Jeremiah says,
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
On the other hand…
…blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
8 He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5ff)
A culture of dependence upon material possessions, government welfare and our 401K, works until hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, disease and catastrophe remind us that such trust is misplaced.
Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Even though my livelihood depends on the generosity of my partners, I have difficulty depending on others…including God. I carelessly and prayerlessly make plans, start projects, set out on journeys, deal with problems and worry about the future. I think this is partly because I’m a child of the West Texas culture of independence. At home, at school and the workplace I was taught not to depend on others but to “pull myself up by my own boot straps.” But here’s the fundamental fallacy: no one succeeds without help and opportunities provided by others. Alas, another flaw keeps even this proposition from being completely trustworthy – others are human. Humans are fallible. We forget stuff, overlook things. We tend to be self-centered, self-interested, forgetful, insensitive, careless and foolish. We easily disappoint each other and cannot co-exist without heavy doses of forbearance, patience, love and forgiveness. Only one being is infallible and absolutely dependable – God.
The task for one as unfinished as I is to murder self-trust (in cold blood); wrap it in my cast-off pride, resolutely dig a hole in my self-sufficiency and bury it. As Oswald Chambers put it, “Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.”
In these early years of the 21st Century, the greenback of the U.S. dollar still bears the phrase, “In God we trust.” But, in what do we trust really? Is it money, position, power, possessions, appearance? Would you agree that these are fleeting and fragile? Ultimately, we can only depend upon God. We look to His promises for something to hold on to – something solid, beneficial, hopeful and wise. It is this solid dependence upon God that sets Christians apart. It is one of the differences we must understand, practice and allow the world to see.