Self-Reliance or God-Reliance?

Which one is true of you? Are you self-reliant or God-reliant? Or maybe, as with me, it varies depending on what is happening in your life.

When we act in self-reliance we, in reality, are telling the Lord that we don’t need Him. We forget to pray and don’t spend time with Him or even read His Word. Maybe it is because life is going smooth. Or maybe it is because our crammed calendars tell us that there are too many things going on and there isn’t time to fit it in. And then as decisions need to be made we choose to go by our own wisdom rather than seeking His because it feels safer and we feel more in control. We figure we have as good as plan as any. We forget how fragile and needy we are. Sound familiar? We run in independence, relying on self so easily through life.

We forget God, we diminish our need for Him. We aren’t the first to do this. The Israelites did the same thing. In Deuteronomy 8:11-14 Moses warns them “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His commandments and His judgments (precepts) and His statutes which I am giving you today, otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply and all you have increases, then your heart will become lifted up [by self-conceit and arrogance] and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” 

We forget all He has done for us and the greatness of our need for Him. We forget when life is going well and we feel satisfied and nothing is pressing hard on us.

As I thought about the way the Lord worked in the recent circumstances of my life, I realized that He showed me His presence and power when I chose to abandon outcomes to Him. I mean when I admitted I needed Him and His help and His wisdom.

The Lord doesn’t grab the reins of our lives from our hands and tells us to do it this way. But when we stop and let go of our control and ask Him to take over, He is able to do so much more than we can ask or imagine.

When my hands, heart, and mind are busy controlling outcomes I miss looking for, praying to, and trusting in the Lord. It is only when I recognize my need for Him, and let go of self-sufficiency that I then seek Him in the desperate, fragile, needy way of reliance. It is then that my eyes are searching for Him, His power and His presence, and it is then that my hands, heart, and mind are free to focus on Him and His faithfulness. Empty hands can be lifted up in praise and thanksgiving.

What are your hands filled with?

Is it the many material blessings He has given? Is it the overwhelming problems you feel weighing you down that you are trying to carry in your own strength? Is it all of the things on your endless to-do list?

There has to be something that keeps us from Him, that allows us to forget Him. There has to be something that keeps us moving forward at break-neck speed relying on self.

When our hands are filled and our houses are stuffed to overflowing and are calendars are bulging with too much to do and too many people to see, it is then that we forget God. We forget prayer, we forget praise, we forget to seek Him in His Word. It is in those times that it is too hard to lift our hands and our hearts. In fact, it is on those times that I find myself much more likely to grumble and complain.

I am not sure that I had realized that before, but I recognize that as being true now. My grumbling and complaining come because the weight of it all is way too heavy. Self-reliance weighs us down after a while. We weren’t created to rely on ourselves.

Self-reliance say: “I can do it!” “I’ve got this.” “I don’t need help.” “It is best that I… ”

God-reliance says: “Lord, I must depend on you, I don’t know what to do.” “Oh, help me Lord! ” “Lead me Lord, give me direction. Where do I go from here?” “Grant me wisdom, Lord! ”

What do you hear yourself saying most often?

I know it seems like I think that I can control and manipulate things so I work hard to figure it all out. But the truth is, it usually does not work out well when I do this. I need His wisdom and knowledge to lead me.

In Psalm 103, the psalmist tells his soul to bless the Lord. It is thought that this Psalm was written by David at the time he was pardoned of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15). David wrote this after the child, conceived with Bathsheba, became very ill and was near death.

Can you imagine how he felt? It was from that place he pleaded with his soul to bless the Lord and to not forget all the benefits from the Lord.

When things are out of control, which is true often in our lives, we get to choose how we will respond. Will we try to manipulate circumstances? Or will we remember Who God is and remember His faithfulness in our lives and then choose to bless His name? Remembering how He has been at work in our lives builds our level of trust.

It would be difficult to choose to step onto a single-strand ladder and feel even a tiny bit safe. But when the ladder rungs are made of rope with several strands braided together we feel more secure.

So it is with trusting in God and learning to rely on Him to lead and guide us. The more we see Him at work in our lives,  taking care of situations, and resolving problems that frustrate us, answering our prayers in amazing ways, the more strands of faith we have getting braided together building our trust.

David knew that his heart needed lifting, he needed hope. David knew that in gratefully praising God for all that He had done for him and the Israelites, new hope would be found. He would remember God’s faithfulness and find reason to rely on Him again.

David was quite aware of the mess he had made by following his own desires and lusts. We too find ourselves in the middle of messes unsure of what to do. Maybe you are there right now. Maybe you have made a string of decisions based on your own wisdom and knowledge, pure self-reliance, and now you realize you are in too deep. The Lord waits for us to let go of control and turn it over to Him. There may be consequences, but the Lord is faithful to give us the help we need and He will work in the middle of the mess. We, like David, can choose to bless His name in the middle of the mess. We just need to remember Who God is and all He has done, pray for help, and watch Him work!

Psalm 103:2 KJV “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.

This is the path to seeking to choose God-reliance over self-reliance because our trust in Him grows through it. This is the path I want to take, how about you?

 

 

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The Path to a Thankful Heart: Psalm 92

Psalm 92 begins by telling us that it is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Him.

Now that it is November and Thanksgiving is really only a few weeks away it seems appropriate to fill these hearts of ours with praise and thanksgiving.

The psalmist says that giving thanks and praising God benefits us. I have never thought of that, but reading this made me want to explore why. One of the first things that came to mind was how when I praise God or give thanks, it comes out of a heart filled with exuberance for who He is or what He has done. I feel this joy in the love He has shown me by acting on my behalf, or just from the recognition of His presence in my life. The book of Proverbs tells us that “A joyful heart is good medicine. But a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 NASB).

Medically, it is a fact that joy or delight in our hearts produces nitric acid in our bodies which provides a good flow of blood. Research also show that joyful people are less likely to have health problems like heart attacks, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Praising God is a way to attract God’s presence. One very real example of this is when the Lord answered King Solomon’s sacrifices and praises as he dedicated the temple in 2 Chronicles 7 by sending down fire.

Another way praise and thanksgiving benefit us is by leading us to recognize God’s great power and sovereignty. Consequently this helps us to grow in humility before our Holy God.

The psalmist suggests two things we can do which can help our hearts be filled with gratitude.

1. Proclaim or declare the Lord’s unfailing love in the morning.

What is the first thing that you think of in the morning when you wake up? Usually with me it is the running list of things I have to do. How different it would be to consider the Lord’s love for me! He has demonstrated His love to me in so many ways. How beautiful it would be to voice those to Him with praise and thanksgiving.

2. Proclaim the Lord’s faithfulness in the evening.

What is your dinner conversation like? How about at dinner or before bed gather the family together to share how they have seen God’s faithfulness that day? If you live alone, call a friend and have that discussion. Psalm 37 in the Amplified version talks about feeding on the Lord’s faithfulness. Graze on how the Lord has shown you His faithfulness, fill up on it, and learn of the magnitude of His love for you by doing so.

One of my favorite lines in Psalm 92 is verse 4 in the NLT. Here the Psalmist says that the Lord “thrills” him because of what He has done. What kind of enthusiasm do you feel for the Lord’s work in your life? Do you sing for joy because of it? Do you readily recognize the Lord’s goodness in your life? It is so easy to be overwhelmed by the mundane that monopolizes us and miss the miracles of God.

The psalmist continues by marveling at the depth of God’s thoughts.  Romans 11:30 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable are His ways.

His wisdom and knowledge are praiseworthyWhere would we be apart from all that He does for us?

There are many people who are blinded to the reality of God’s greatness. The ignorant and foolish still don’t get it. And today, we still see the wicked flourishing, just as the psalmist saw in his day. But the truth remains, their end is eternal destruction. The wicked will perish, but our God is eternal.

The Lord is good to us, He gives His followers strength and refreshes us by His great power. He causes the righteous to flourish, protecting them, and prospering them. He lengthens the days of the righteous and strengthens them in their old age. What a blessing the elderly Christian man or woman is as they share about God’s goodness throughout their lives!

Psalm 92:14 says “Even in old age they will produce fruit and remain vital and green.”  Psalm 1:3 makes this clearer “He is like a tree planted by a streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.” This verse in psalm 1 speaks of a righteous person, even in old age they are stiil “green.” And in their flourishing they declare the Lord is just. His greatness continues to all generations. The Lord is our rock, He is our firm foundation for all of life. He is good, and there is nothing but goodness in Him.

Throughout all of life we can bring glory to His name by our thanksgiving and praise. How will you practice this today? It is good to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to Him!