The War for Independence

independent-woman-3566942_1920“I REFUSE TO BE DEPENDENT,” proclaims an inspirational poster in the physical therapist’s office.

Amen. Why else would I be torturing myself twice a week and committing (more or less)to exercise at home?

Americans have always had a reputation for being fiercely independent. We celebrate the anniversary of our War for Independence from Great Britain every July. Much of our youth revolves around “growing up” and milestones such as getting our first job and our first car, then moving away from home.

That’s normal, right? Even preferable to being dependent on someone else.

We even let this attitude infect our spiritual lives: God helps those who help themselves. If you’re up for following a short rabbit trail, check out the discussion of this saying in Wikipedia. The final section, which covers how many people think this statement is in the Bible, and whether this idea is actually biblical, is fascinating!

In my life, the “War for Independence” is one of my primary spiritual battles. Winning this battle means I must lose my independence. Just as I rely on the Lord for salvation, I must learn to rely on Him for my other needs. Unfortunately, when my sin nature flares, I find that I don’t really like to be dependent on God. I want Him to be there when I need Him, yes, but I’m not wild about needing to need Him!

Does that make sense?

Adam and Eve apparently felt the same way. They opted for trying to become as wise as God. Abraham got tired to waiting for God to make Him the father of a great nation and took matters into his own hands. Satan may have been counting on Jesus to cease being dependent and submitting to His Father’s will when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

On my fleshly and feisty days, I dislike being a clay pot in the hands of the Potter. I’m like a terrible two-year-old, stomping my foot and saying, “No!”

But it’s the Potter’s job to make sure I learn to rely on Him and remember the good results when I do. Despite their Ebenezer stones, various festivals, and scriptural records, the Israelites struggled to remember and rely on God’s faithfulness. I journal and rely on scripture to remind me that God is always faithful and utterly reliable. As I review these and listen to fellow believers recount their own stories, the Holy Spirit strengthens me in my battle to depend on God.

I can adopt the posture of dependence more easily when I think of my relationship to God as a child to her Father. He invites us to bring our all anxieties to Him, which requires humbling ourselves under His mighty hand.

Why be dependent?

Only works done by the Spirit will last.

It glorifies God instead of ourselves.

It prevents lapsing into legalism and works-based religion.

We will grow in grace and become more like Jesus.

What better reason do we need?

Preaching to myself again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preaching to Myself: 99 Sheep Syndrome

sheepI memorized Psalm 23 in Vacation Bible School when I was seven. In the King James Version, of course–that’s all we knew. I earned a plaque of the psalm, but the gift I appreciated the most at the time was a Barbie doll! In high school, our choir learned an anthem called The New 23rd. It was based on the Living Bible version, and it’s beautiful. So is the classic Scottish hymn I discovered later.

My point? I’ve known this beautiful psalm most of my life–almost too well.

Psalm 23 was paired with Luke 15:3-7 in a reading this morning, and I almost opted for another passage because of their familiarity.

I’m glad I didn’t. The two passages stewed in my heart along with yesterday’s sermon.

I don’t know if I’m sheep number twelve, or number ninety-nine. But in the story in Luke reference is made to The Ninety and Nine, I’ve called the syndrome I suffer from “the 99th Sheep Syndrome.”

A not-too-recent Sunday sermon was a rousing reminder of our primary mission as Christians: seeking the lost sheep, aka number one hundred. The pastor admitted that the destiny of those who don’t know Christ is a hard truth to swallow, and he even reminded us of ways we cope with the truth that those without Christ will be separated from God eternally, in hell: we ignore the truth, we try to rewrite it, we believe it but do nothing–or we do something about it.

I wander between the do-nothing believers and the doers. I think part of the problem is the fact that I sometimes suffer from 99th Sheep Syndrome! Much of the herd is right there with me, scampering and bleating around the shepherd’s feet. “Baa! Baa! Look at me! Feed me! Listen to me! Hold me!”

Maybe we 99 Sheep Syndrome sufferers forget that we’re supposedly seasoned, mature believers. We like to ride on the shepherd’s shoulders and be coddled and celebrated. (Here’s where the sheep analogy breaks down a bit. Hopefully, we’re not quite as dumb as sheep are reputed to be.) The reality is, though, that we really (should?!) know how to feed and care for ourselves. We shouldn’t require the constant care of our leaders and our Shepherd. We have work to do.

The wonderful news is this: because of Who our Shepherd is, He doesn’t need to look at us, attend to us, or know us more. He already knows us fully, inside and out. Attending to the 100th sheep doesn’t diminish His attention to us one iota! He never fails to provide banquets, streams, fresh green grass, and healing oil.

Assured of his completely adequate protection, we can stop our bleating and look at Him, attend to Him, and learn to know Him more!

He’s chosen us to help search for the lost sheep! When we do bleat, may it be, “Baa! Use me!” 

Preaching to myself today!