Monday, July 23, 2018

Dependence in God's Kingdom

Every year, Americans around the world celebrate Independence Day on July Fourth, marking the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. While I am very grateful for America's independence from England and it's crown, I would like to talk about the need for dependence in the kingdom of God and why that is so important.

Someone I love and care about recently said to me that dependence is a problem. This person happens to be a former follower of Christ, who is no longer following or serving the Lord. He no longer wants anything to do with the Church or the Lord. But I think that this false notion that dependence is a problem is a worldly and a demonic one that has crept into the Church, and it threatens to choke the life out of those who believe it.

All throughout the Word of God we see dependence, as well as interdependence, in God's Kingdom. Here are some of the verses that teach us about it:

Dependence on God
Obviously the primary dependence that we all have is on God. He is the One who gives us all life and breath. As the apostle Paul said, "He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else." (Ac 17:25, NIV). Every breath you take, every beat of your heart is a gift from God. Job said, "If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust." (Job 34:14-15, NIV). Isaiah said the Lord gives breath to the people on earth, and life to those who walk on it (Is 42:5). Just think about that! The very breath of God is in your nostrils. So at the most basic level of life, which are your vital signs, you and I depend on God.

No matter what you undertake to do, you depend on God. If He is not doing it, then you are wasting your time. Whatever you seek to do, if the Lord does not undertake on your behalf, then your efforts are all in vain. As the psalmist wrote:

"Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain." (Ps 127:1)

The Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn 15:5, NIV). Apart from Him we can do nothing. That is total and complete dependence on the Lord.

We depend on God for everything, including forgiveness, daily bread, and deliverance from evil, not to mention the salvation of our souls. That's why the Lord told us to ask the Father for these, as He taught us to pray:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one."
(Mt 6:9b-13, NIV)

Interdependence of the Members of the Body
Not only are we dependent on God and His Christ for everything, but the members of the Body of Christ are all interdependent upon each other.

One of the things my friend proudly stated to me recently regarding dependence was, "I do not rely on churches or...assigning myself to some groups." However, the Church is the household of God (1 Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19), also known as the Body of Christ, which is a worldwide group meeting in local gatherings. Hebrews 10:25 says, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

There is one body and each member of Christ's body belongs to all the others. "For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Rom 12:4-5). If you cut your finger, arm, leg, or foot off your body, how long do you think that member of your body will survive on its own? All the parts must remain together and connected to the Head, which is Christ. When you cut off a body part, it rots and stinks and perishes, and that is what happens to anyone who becomes disconnected from Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

"Now if the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don’t need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don’t need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Cor 12:15-27, NIV).

Any time a member of Christ's Body says they don't need the Body, they are declaring their independence, thereby separating themselves and creating a division that ought not to be there. We depend on each other in many ways, even for things we may take for granted like prayer and encouragement. Pastors depend on God to provide through the generous tithes and offerings of the members of the Church. Missionaries, evangelists, and others in ministry rely on the generous financial and prayer support of others in the Body of Christ. You cannot get around this dependence, because it is built into the fabric of our lives. That's why our relationships to one another are so important.

Dependence in Nature
We see dependence all throughout the earth in nature. God has created the world in such a way that everything is dependent upon Him for life. Job said, "In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10, NIV). The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah about His provision of water for the wild animals:

"The wild animals honor me,
    the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen."
(Is 43:20, NIV)

The psalmist also wrote about the earth's dependence on God:

"You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
    you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
    and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
    the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
    and the valleys are mantled with grain;
    they shout for joy and sing."
(Ps 65:9-13, NIV)

It's easy to see. The grass depends on God for the rain and sun, as well as on the nutrients in the soil. The sheep and deer and other animals depend on God for the streams of water, as well as the grass and other plant life to eat. The fish in the sea depend on God for the water they live in to be clean and for the food He provides for them, whether it is plankton or other fish. For there are countless inter-dependencies within the food chain, including marine life. In fact, the entire food chain is a series of inter-dependencies. If any part of the ecosystem becomes out of balance, lacking in some way, then it affects all the other members of the system.

In fact, you can even see the dependencies in our earth's atmosphere. We depend on God for clean air to breath, although man does things that pollute that air. We depend on God for protection from harmful cosmic rays, particles, and objects like meteors, asteroids, coronal mass ejections, ultraviolet rays, magnetic storms, and many other threats to life on this planet. Even the very distance of the earth to the sun is perfect. Otherwise, if we were a little farther from it, the temperature would be too cold, and if we were a little closer to it, the earth would be too hot. Likewise, even the angle of earth's tilt is lovingly provided by God to sustain our life here on this planet. He is gracious and compassionate.

Jesus said: "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?" (Mt 6:26-30, NIV).

Dependence Magnified in Time of Need
One thing that really helps to show a person their dependence on God is to be in need. If a person finds himself suddenly unable to breathe, and he feels he is suffocating, that will do wonders to help him realize his dependence. Initially he may receive help from another person, so that he can breathe, but ultimately that help would be useless without God. And it is God who provides the other person to help, since all things are from Him.

Likewise, if a person becomes ill to the point of being unable to take care of himself, he will quickly come to realize that he is completely dependent on others to care for him, and ultimately that means he is dependent on God to provide those people. That applies whether it is the money to pay for professional care in a hospital, nursing home, hospice, or from a home care provider, or whether it is from members of church or family or neighborhood. If he is without any of these in such a situation where he has become an invalid, then he would surely die unless God miraculously sustained him. Therefore, nobody should proudly boast that they don't depend on anyone.

Nevertheless, that is not a reason for us to neglect our own responsibilities to work for a living and to take care of ourselves and our families. It is not a license to intentionally depend on others for a free ride through life, because idleness is not a virtue. For Paul the apostle clearly taught that  "You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." (1 Thes 4:11b-12, NIV). Therefore, do your part to the extent that you are able, so that you will not be dependent on anybody, while understanding that we are all interdependent upon each other in the Body of Christ, and there are certain times when we may have to depend on others to help us.

Putting it All Together
As we have seen, dependence is not a problem as some may think. Rather it is embedded into all life, so that we may ultimately realize our dependence on God. He is our Helper, our Provider, our Healer, our Deliverer, and our Savior through His Son Jesus Christ. Our hope and our strength are in Him. Therefore, while man may celebrate his independence, we celebrate our total dependence on God.

Attribution notice: Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zonervan, used by permission. 

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Power of Two or Three, God's Supernatural Provision Using People, God's Supernatural Hand During CrisisWhy is the Body So Divided?, A Biblical View of the Poor, The Bad News About the Good NewsIs Tithing Required for Christians?Where Should You Give Your Tithe?The Kingdom of God is Like This, Multiplication, as well as other articles found on the Home page of this blog. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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