19 Jan Self-Reliance: Godly or Worldly
He was born after much prayers by his parents. His name means “the Sun or Bright Sun”. He was raised a Nazarite. He was set apart with supernatural strength from God to do His work in the nation of Israel. He was good-natured, sarcastic, full of humor, and fought with his wits as well as with his fists. Soon he became great in his own eyes and began pursuing women outside God’s plan for his life. He began to trust in himself, began to depend on his own abilities and strengths. In other words, he became worldly and self-reliant. In this state of mind, he was married to a Philistine woman. This self-reliance and not depending on God cost him dearly. His life came to an abrupt end, of course before his untimely death he repented and sought forgiveness and guidance from God. He realized that his strengths and abilities are best utilized when he depends on God. At the end of the day, he did a grand finale of God’s work.
Dear friend, you guessed it right. I am talking about the great body- builder Samson! Also, about self-reliance.
At this juncture we need to define what self-reliance is and the categories of self-reliance.
Collins Online Dictionary defines Self-reliance as “the ability to do things and make decisions by yourself, without needing other people to help you.”
Two kinds of self- reliance.
1. Godly Self-reliance: God wants every believer to be self-reliant. It means He wants us not to depend on others for our food, clothes, and other basic needs. Apostle Paul puts this very clearly in 2 Thess 3:8“…and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you.” (NRSV) In 3:11 he says, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
In this kind of self-reliance, we put our efforts, use our abilities, strengths, talents and education and more than those things we depend on God and His guidance. If we are living in Christ, He is our resource, and the Holy Spirit enables that power (Eph 3:16-20). We learn this from the lives of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty, Dan 3:16-17.
At this time in history, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was influenced by those around him to set up an image of gold and require everyone in the land to bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego respectfully declined. When the whole kingdom was following along, they stood their ground, with faith that God would take care of them no matter the result.
But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty that we will never serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up,” Dan 3:18.
Even in their position, Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego did not feel the need to defend their decision to not comply with the king’s edict. They remained calm and confident in the face of the King’s life-threatening anger at them. They had faith that God would save them because they trusted God would take care of them. But the part that is most astonishing is their focus on God even if He didn’t save them from the flames. Their faith allowed for contentment with whatever the outcome. They trusted God completely. They were not motivated by their own success or glory when they refused to bow down, but rather by the fact that God would be glorified through the result of either their sacrifice or their triumph.
Their unwavering faith in God even in the face of death is a testament that they totally relied/ depended on God which gave them contentment.
Sometimes though we have ability and strength God wants us to just depend on Him for achieving success or victory. We see this in the book of Joshua. When Joshua came up against Jericho’s stronghold, he didn’t rush in to fight; instead, he asked God what to do. The story in Joshua 6 shows how he listened to God and followed all the steps necessary to win the battle. He told them to go around the city quietly every day for seven days. Seven priests walked ahead of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, blowing on the ram’s horn. On the seventh day, they walked seven times around the city before Joshua told the people to shout! They took the city once the city wall collapsed. When God commanded him to undertake something as absurd as a combat strategy, he obeyed God to the letter, aided the people in cooperating, and they won the fight.
The Children of Israel lost a fight to the small city of Ai after they won at Jericho. Because of greed and lust, some of the first fruits from Jericho were kept from God, which was against what God had told them to do. Achan took some of the goods and put them in his tent. Because there was sin in the Israelite camp, the people of Ai killed some Israelites, and the people’s hearts “melted and became as water.”
Joshua was so happy about winning that he forgot to ask God what to do about the city of Ai. Instead, he sent his men there to look around and report back to him. He took their advice instead of asking God what to do, which led to the deaths of 36 people.
Joshua got down on his knees and cried out to God. God told Joshua where the sin had come from. God woke him up when he showed him what had happened. When Joshua asked Achan what he had done wrong, he admitted it. He and his whole family were then stoned to death and burned. The things he did because of his greed hurt the whole town and cost him and his family their lives.
After Joshua dealt with the mistake and asked God what to do, the people got back on their feet and were able to attack the city of Ai by surprise. They didn’t get boastful about their win. Instead, Joshua had them worship and make sacrifices, and God’s Word was shown to all of Israel.
2. Worldly Self-reliance: This kind of Self-reliance stems from pride and an overestimation of oneself. This kind of Self-reliance is a lie from the devil himself. He is described as the “deceiver, a liar, a thief and a murderer” who is very crafty.
Sarah, the wife of Abraham is an example of this type of self-reliance. God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child but had not told them when the child would be born. It was a period of waiting and most people don’t like to wait. But it is through “faith and patience that they inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12). Sarah was not concerned about the glory of God; her only goal was “that I may obtain children by her” (Gen 16:2). Perhaps there is a hint of disappointment with God and even blaming God when she says, “The Lord has restrained me from bearing.” It has often been said that “God’s delays are not God’s denials” but Satan whispers to us “God is holding out on you! If He loved you, things would be different! Blame Him!”
Sarah clearly ignored the promise and depended on her own plans and efforts. She wanted to have a child soon. She didn’t wait for God’s timing. She thought she is self-reliant. She could take things into her hands. And she urges Abraham to go with her maid Hagar so that she may bear a child for her. Genesis 16 records a painful detour that Abraham and Sarah made in their self-reliant walk, that brought conflict not only into their home but also into the world.
Prophet Isaiah says that arrogant pride and self-sufficiency are particularly related to the denial of the authority and majesty of God in all spheres. We replace God’s uniqueness with trust in human ingenuity or foreign gods (Is 2:11).
John Piper writes that “the most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness.”
Three consequences of this kind of self-reliance:
1. Self-reliance leads to further sin.
2. Self-reliance ultimately ends in defeat.
3. Self-reliance leads to broken relationships.
Self-reliance leads to further sin: We see this language clearly as we look back to the account of Jonah. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah “got up to flee from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the Lord’s presence” (Jon 1:3). Then as this ship was on the sea and the violent storm was whirling about them it says this about Jonah: “Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down to the lowest part of the vessel and had stretched out and fallen into a deep sleep” (Jon 1:5). Jonah’s egoism and self-reliance led to further sin.
Self-Reliance ultimately ends in defeat: It is natural for man to assume that self-reliance is the key to success in life. After all, we tend to have a high opinion of our ability to handle things by ourselves. But self-reliance can only take you so far. Now if you were God on the other hand, self-reliance would get the job done every time. You would be indestructible. But since you and I are not God, we are neither invincible nor unstoppable. We all have limitations. We all have shortcomings. We all have sin. And this is why self-reliance is not the be-all and end-all it purports to be.
Self-reliance leads to broken relationships: Self-Reliance causes separation as seen in the following verse: “but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, that he will not hear” (Is 59:2). Sin draws us away from the God of life, the source of power that makes us alive. God is within you and me. That is why we rise from the dust where we came from. When we sin, we drive away God’s presence in us.
Believe it or not, worldly self-reliance ultimately ends in defeat, since, it is filled with pride, arrogance, and boasting.
As creatures that God created, we have limited strength and rely on Him. We are not infinite like God. And we are not self-sufficient like God. One of the biggest lies of our time is that we only need ourselves, and that we only need God sometimes.
We should give ourselves over to God because our spiritual and physical lives depend on Him. Through prayer, we should be honest with God about what we need and believe that He will take care of us based on His love and wisdom. We should thank God for always making sure we have what we need.
Our need for physical rest points to our need for spiritual rest (Ps 4:8). And our need for physical food points to our need for spiritual food (Jn 6:51). We must serve God with our whole heart, for He has called us from before the foundations of the world and has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. All things are under our feet and God gives us the strategies and the victories. In
Him we have rest. God Bless!
Reset – David Murray
Disappointment with God – Philip Yancy
Dr YVR Prasanna Kumar, Asst. Professor in English and HOD in a Government College. He has been associated with the UESI since 1990, and a resource person for Missions. He was involved as National Cell Chair of Neighbours Cell, Career Guidance, and Secretary in various State level committees. He lives in Suryapet, Telangana with his wife Karuna, Teacher and UESI-TS EC Member, blessed with daughter Rithika Felecia studying UKG. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org