The 70’s music group Three Dog Night had a big hit called ONE IS THE LONLIEST NUMBER. Perhaps as Christians we should adopt this phrase as our motto as followers of Jesus Christ. There is no doubt trying to make it through life on our own is a lonely and impossible proposition. Today’s message is about our misguided attempts and false assumption that we can be self-sufficient individuals. Simply stated, we can’t and we can’t because God designed us to be dependent on Him.
Allow me to use the analogy of a cane. As a reader of 4thdayletters you have likely read that I was recently diagnosed with a rare neurological disease that attacks both my optic nerve and the nerves in my spinal column. As a result, I sometimes have trouble with walking and balance now. My medical tests show that some of the nerves in my spine are now de-myelinated, and as a result, when my brain and leg try to communicate with each other occasionally they communicate well, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the signal to my legs to walk gets through to the brain, and I walk just fine, and other times the signal to and from my brain get corrupted and my leg just does its own thing, causing me to stumble. With my legs not always reliable, and with my vision still compromised from the optic nerve damage, walking is not as dependable as it once was. Perhaps ninety percent of the time all works well, the other ten percent of the time I am unsteady on my feet.
Here is my point, like I said ten percent of the time I need the assistance of a cane to prevent me from falling. The problem is I don’t know when the ten percent will occur.
Thankfully a few weeks ago a dear friend of mine who happens to also be a physical therapist came to visit me. Knowing of my diagnosis she brought me a cane.My wife is constantly insisting that I have the cane with me 100% of the time I am walking as a precautionary measure. So you might ask why she needs to keep reminding me and nudging me about using the cane. The answer is simple…I don’t want to use it. I want to believe I am self-sufficient. I want my independence.
Is there a Christian correlation here? I think there is, I hope I can explain.
The next time you happen to see me will I be using the cane? Maybe….maybe not. Pride and ego and self-sufficiency are hard to overcome. Now let me ask you a question: if I had the opportunity to meet or see you would I discover you to be a person who is relying on God in your life or still trying to rely on yourself?
I ponder the thought of what ever made us think we were self-sufficient in the first place. We did not make the decision to be born. We did not select the family, place, time, country or circumstances of our birth. We do not know when the date of our death will occur. God alone granted us life and He alone knows the date our death will occur. Knowing this, you would think we would be more willing to rely on Him, rather than trying to rely on ourselves.
We can simply look to Adam and Eve who had everything, but eventually their pride got the best of them as they tried to be their own gods. Look what their self-reliance led to.
By God’s design we need Him. Our very salvation depends on Him, and joy in this world comes when our wills are aligned with His. As followers of Jesus, with must know that Christianity was never intended to be a solo journey. We must say no to self-sufficiency. Ultimately any attempt on our part to be self-sufficient apart from God is a rejection of God’s love for us. What is it inside of us that causes this rejection of love and desire for self-sufficiency? It is pride.
Can I ask you; in what ways do you fail to rely on God?In what waysdo you place too much importance on your own ability? Are you trying to be self-reliant when you should be giving it over to God?
Let’s examine several Bible verses on this topic.
Here is what John13:8-10 says about Peter in his attempt to show his self-sufficiency; “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Jesus later went on to say: “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For you are clean ……but not all clean. Clearly that statement can be applied to each of us. None of us is clean and free from sin and only Jesus is capable of washing that sin away.
In 2 Corinthians 3:5 Paul tells us this: “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”
In Luke 12:16-21 we can read this: “And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?‘” Are you relying on your ability to store up wealth in this world while not spending adequate time in prayer with God, and preparing for the world to come?
Once again Paul reminds us that God’s grace is what we need to rely on when he writes this in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
In John 15:5 we are told that apart from Christ we can do nothing. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Finally in Ephesians 2:8 we are given a very clear message that grace, faith and our salvation are all gifts from God and that no amount of self-reliance could have provided us eternal life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
In conclusion, as I stated above if I continue to refuse to use the cane, chances are one day I will likely fall, and an unnecessary injury will result. If we as Christians refuse to allow Jesus to be “our cane”, if we try to trust solely in ourselves rather than relying on the grace of God, we will surly experience a spiritual tumble and fall.
Much like my wife’s insistence on me using the cane preemptively perhaps today is the day to examine your pride, and cry out; Lord, I am dependent on you for even the breath I breath, let me always trust in you! Start today and allow Jesus to become “your cane,” so that He can be the source of balance and stability and safety in your life now and always.
Dear Heavenly Father, far too often my pride and ego get in my way and I think I can make it through life on my own. Please help me to overcome my pride and place all of my trust and reliance on your son Jesus Christ. Amen.