Trust and Self-Sufficiency
Self-sufficiency is independence from God and others: if I am self-sufficient, I don't need God or other people. I myself provide what is adequate for my life. If this isn't a brazen lie, it's not clear that anything is. We invoke "independence" to get our own way in many situations and even to break relationships with other people. Indeed, we exalt "independence" as if our lives depended on it. Actually, our lives need the opposite: dependence on the One who alone can sustain our lives. The darkness of this world promotes independence from God; it advances the seeking of my will rather than God's will of perfect love. In sharp contrast, Jesus, the Light of the world, promotes dependence on His perfectly loving Father.
Jesus commands faith in God (Mk. 11:22), but not guesswork or wishful thinking about God. Faith in God is trust in God, in response to God's faithful intervention in our lives. Faith, as trust, in God is a needed anchor for faithfulness toward God. It includes an attitude of obedience toward God and what God wills. Such obedience includes my submitting my will to God's will, just as Jesus did in Gethsemane. The apostle Paul uses talk of obedience and talk of belief/faith interchangeably (Rom. 10:16-17; cf. Rom. 1:5, 16:26). Likewise, before Paul, Jesus acknowledged a crucial role for obedience to God's will in relating to his Father (Matt. 7:21). Similarly, the epistle of James makes obedient action an essential component of vital faith in God: "... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (Jas. 2:17, NIV). Many people shy away from this important theme, for fear that faith may be confused with "works." Obedience, however, is not what Paul dubs "works." Instead, Paul thinks of "works" as what one does to obligate God or to earn something from God (see Rom. 4:4). We do well, then, to avoid any confusion of biblical faith in God with either guesswork, wishful thinking, or a leap in the dark.
Faith, as trust, is God's chosen avenue for bringing people into a saving relationship of friendship with Himself. Thus: "... it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph. 2:8-10). Even faith is a gift from God. We do well to ask for faith from God in light of our desperate need of it (cf. Lk. 17:5), for God alone can supply the kind of faith that serves as the channel for receving His love. Some people talk as if faith is our hard work that obligates God to respond favorably to what we request. This is a dangerous distortion. It portrays God as tight-fisted, in need of our earning before He becomes loving. It conflicts with the biblical truth that God first loved us, even when we were enemies of God (see 1 Jn. 4:10; Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:1-5). God is eager to give us faith in Himself as we ask for it in order to yield to His will of perfect love. Regarding faith in God, we have not, because we ask not.
acknowledging faith as a gift from God, we place our focus where it should be:
on the gift Giver rather than the gift itself. Faith in God is valuable
owing to its giver (namely, God) and its object (namely, God). We thus have
no ground for boasting before God, as if our faith made us worthy of boasting
about ourselves. Instead, our faith in God, as a gift of trust in God, offers
a salient opportunity for thanksgiving
toward God. Once we become honest about the wonderful life-sustaining gifts
God has offered us, we see that self-sufficiency is at best a myth. We then
see that God is worthy of our full faith, that is, our full trust that leads
to faithful and loving obedience toward God. In the end, before God, "the
only thing that counts is faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6, NRSV).
Given such faith, we enter in to a friendship with God that makes idols
pointless and even repulsive. We become free indeed, thanks to the One who faithfully
rescues us, if we but let Him. Will we let Him?
I find myself
paid the price