The story is told of an elderly gentleman who’d never flown in a plane. He didn’t trust them. One day, however, someone convinced him to try. So up he went, into the wild blue yonder. Sometime later, he returned to earth and dismounted from the planeunharmed. “Well, what was it like?” someone asked. “Okay, I guess,” replied the man, “But I never did put my full weight on the seat.”
This story is a picture of how some of us deal with God. We know, intellectually, that we’re called to fully rest our weight on Him, to rely on Him and not on ourselves (Prov. 3;5,6), but we find that hard to do. So we go through life relying too much on our own strength and not enough on His. Last week I discussed what that imbalance might look like. This week I want to focus on ways that we can learn to rest more on God’s strength and less on our own.
How can I learn to rely more on God’s strength and less on my own?
1. I learn to rely more on God’s strengthby spending quality time interacting with Him
This is, of course, one of the default answers for spiritual growth in general. Deliberately taking time for prayer, Bible reading, meditation, worship, and so on resets our focus on God. So much spiritual growth happens unconsciously and organically just by exposing our hearts regularly to the loving presence of God.
2. I learn to rely more on God’s strength by constantly asking for it
Our devotional time is meant to be a setup for a day-long dialogue with God. Part of that dialogue is constantly reaching for His hand; frequently asking for His help. These can be longer conversations, but often they’re lightning fast popcorn prayers like “Help, Lord!”, “Give me wisdom here,” or “Strengthen me to deal with this”.
3. I learn to rely more on the Lord by setting the spiritual bar as high as God sets it
Superficial, outwardly impressive spirituality isn’t that hard, really. We can learn to ape the manners and mores of godly people, at least enough to pass muster with most of those around us. God’s true standards, however, the ones expressed in the Bible, are dauntingly high. He wants us to love Him with “all our heart, soul and mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you do that? I don’t. Can you do that? I can’t, at least not without huge assistance from God. In fact, only God living in us and through us can make this happen (and usually gradually over a long period of time). Godliness to the bone is the goal and trying to do it without the Holy Spirit is like trying to leap tall buildings in a single bound. If you aim at true godliness you will driven to rely on God.
4. I learn to rely more on the Lord by putting myself in situations that require his assistance
This is somewhat similar to the last point, but focuses more on action. It’s easy to protect ourselves by only taking on tasks that we are confident we can achieve. But imagine David marching out to face Goliath on his own strength. Or Paul, as an apostle, who says that in the province of Asia “we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death…” Paul says, “Man, we were in way over our heads.” His last sentence, though, is the clincher, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8b-9). Our reliance on God grows when we, prayerfully, put ourselves into situations which are too much for us without God’s help. It may be taking on a ministry that seems too hard, or seeking reconciliation with a person who intimidates us, or facing a personal weakness that’s got us buffaloed.
5. I learn to rely more on God by hanging around people who are advanced in this area
They are somewhat rare, but if you can find folks who’ve learned to relax and “cast all their anxiety on him” they can be contagious. My mentor in seminary was big on trusting God and I often found my anxiety (and I carried a lot of it) diminishing in his presence. Paul also constantly expressed joy and confidence in his letters that must have given heart to his people. He’d say things like: “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Phil 1:18c-19). Conversely, limit your time with the whiners and worriers, since they also rub off on us.
6. I learn to rely more on God by yielding to His will; His agenda, not my own
One of the reasons we don’t rely on God is because we’ve included a caveat to our trust. It goes like this: “God, I will rely on you, if you do things my way. I want to be healthy. I want to have “X” amount of money. I want my kids to do well in school, I want to be happy, popular, successful. . .” Fill in the blank. Did God promise all this stuff? Read Paul’s descriptions of life as an apostle in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. Despite his strong reliance on God, he suffered greatly and was regarded by many as the “scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” What we are relying on God to do is not to make our lives cushy, predictable, and safe. We’re relying on God to make our lives glorifying to Him; to help us accomplish His will and purposes.
How can I know that I’m learning to rely more on God and less on myself?
Let’s briefly reverse the clues about non-reliance on God given in the first article.
1. I know I’m learning to rely more on God when my worry diminishes
2. I know I’m learning to rely more on God when I focus more on Him and less on my own performance
3. I know I’m learning to rely more on God when I gain a more expectant, optimistic vision about what God can do through me
4. I know I’m learning to rely more on God when I give people space to choose and quit trying to manipulate them
5. I know I’m learning to rely more on God when I find myself less vulnerable to exhaustion and discouragement
6. I know I’m relying more on God when I maintain His high standards for my spiritual life
Relying on God is what makes the Christian life more enjoyable, bearable and productive. It honors God. Are you willing to grow in that direction?