John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This may be noble for public service, but it does not work when it comes to serving God. We are made in His image and are nothing more than reflections, depending on Him for all that we are. We come to Him empty-handed and the best we can do is ask Him to give us what is needed to serve Him.
One of my seminary professors emphasizes that we are created to be dependent, to receive what we need from outside of ourselves. Personally, I don’t like feeling needy, but know that he is correct. Besides, depending on myself rather than on God quickly becomes idolatry.
Jesus hints at this need for God in what He said to the woman at the well . . .
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10–14)
I can meet my need myself, or depend on others to help me, but by depending on Jesus, I am eternally satisfied. Not only that, I am declaring His worth rather than my own. Another way to say “declare His worth” is “worship.”
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24)
Worshiping God in spirit and in truth goes far deeper than anything I can give God. I need Him to fill me with His Spirit, to enable me, to open my eyes to truth. Even for worship, I am helpless without Him and totally dependent.
Those who wrote the psalms realized their dependency on God too. They expressed it many ways. This is one of my favorites . . .
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23–26)
Some laugh at Christians who pray about everything, but Jesus tells us to say “Give us this day our daily bread” so is that any different from praying for wisdom to write an exam, or grace to visit a friend in the hospital, or even for His help to find a parking place? In the kingdom of God, “I’ll do it myself” expresses immaturity.
Of course, the ultimate need of life is to stand justified before God. The Bible is clear on this one; we do not deserve it and cannot earn it. Jesus illustrates with this story of one man who offered what he thought God wanted, and another who realized that he had nothing to offer . . .
Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:10–14)
Accepting dependency is a lifelong learning curve. From youth, most of us “seek our independence” but as a Christian, I have realized this is a form of idolatry for it winds up with me relying on me rather than Christ. Yet even a cursory comparison of my credentials and abilities with His and I see the folly of my independence and the wisdom of relying on Him for everything.