Confession time. Just a few minutes ago I was snippy with the bagboy at the grocery store. He kindly insisted on pushing my cart to my car and unloading my groceries for me, and I don’t like that. I can take my cart out and unload my own groceries, thank you very much. It was all I could do to be sweet to the kid, who was only being thoughtful, who would not take the tip I offered. What in the world is wrong with me?
I think I have a teeny (read: ENORMOUS) problem with self-sufficiency. It’s the American way, right? Our nation was born when we declared independence. When one of my sons was little and needed help with a task, he would push me away with his chubby hands and proclaim, “I do it MYSELF!” That was exactly my attitude when the bagboy maneuvered my cart away from me. Pride keeps me driving forward under my own steam. I only ask for help reluctantly when I can’t possibly do it myself. Heaven forbid I appear weak or incompetent, to myself or to anyone else. So if it’s to be, it’s up to me.
Which is why I don’t like it when Jesus says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV) Those words completely undercut my can-do attitude, but of course He is right. Just as surely as I did not create myself, I cannot keep myself alive. I cannot save myself, and I certainly cannot make myself holy, righteous, or even nice. Small moments like my confrontation with the bagboy show me what my heart really looks like. If I have a tough time being civil to a helpful kid, I clearly can’t handle real challenges like fighting temptation or loving difficult people without His guidance and strength. As Paul said to the Galatians, “How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (3:3 NLT)
So for those of you who, like me, are dead-dog tired of your own impressive self-reliance, what’s the solution? Abiding, remaining, staying in Christ: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser… Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:1, 4) The relationship of branch to vine is one of utter dependence. The vine supplies everything the branch needs to do what the branch was made to do: bear fruit.
It’s a relief, really, to accept my dependence on God, because all my effort is getting me nowhere anyway. I am exhausted with trying. Try as I might, I cannot manufacture my own love, joy, peace, patience… Andrew Murray describes what the yielded, abiding life looks like: “Blessed rest! The fruit and the foretaste and the fellowship of God’s own rest! Found of them who thus come to Jesus to abide in Him. It is the peace of God, the great calm of the eternal world, that passeth all understanding, and that keeps the heart and mind. With this grace secured, we have strength for every duty, courage for every struggle, a blessing in every cross, and the joy of life eternal in death itself.” (Abide in Christ, p. 19)
Jesus, teach me that apart from You, I can do nothing, but I can do all things through You, Who give me strength. John 15:5, Philippians 4:13
Such confidence we have through Christ before You, Lord. Not that we are competent within ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from You alone. Your divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. 2 Corinthians 3:4, 2 Peter 1: 3
Father, forgive me when my attitude says, like the Laodiceans, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” When I am self-reliant, I am self-deceived, and do not know that I am wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. But because You love me, Jesus, You rebuke and chasten my pride; I repent of my independence from You. Rev 3:17, 19
I fear you, Lord, and I obey the voice of Jesus, because I understand that without You I walk in darkness. I choose to trust in Your holy name, and rely on You alone. If I choose to light my own fire, and provide myself with flaming torches, I will only be choosing to lie down in torment. Isaiah 50:10-11 NIV
I pray that I will not think of myself more highly than I ought to think, but to think soberly about who I really am. For it is by Your grace that I have been saved through faith, and that is not my own doing; it is a gift from You. Romans 12:3, Ephesians 2:8
Father, I know that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Please give me a humble spirit. Sometimes there is a way that seems right to me, but its end is the way of death. Lead Me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long. Proverbs 16:18, 25, Psalm 25:5 ESV