August 4, 2017
Deepening Your Dependence
By Skip Heitzig
Years ago when I visited Japan, I learned that the Japanese have traditionally been concerned with the group rather than the individual—what is most important for the city or the country or the family rather than the single person. In our culture, there's been a shift in the opposite direction, from the group to the individual. The emphasis now is on self-reliance: "Don't trust anyone, including God. Depend on yourself." Can you say wrong move?
But this is what the Thessalonians in the early church were facing: they were so shaken up by the trials they were going through that they felt like God had passed over them, like the only people they could trust anymore were themselves. Affliction can cause you to trust and depend on God more—or less. Where do you stand today?
In 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Paul gave the Thessalonians four simple ways they could deepen their dependence and their trust in God rather than themselves. First, he told them to depend on God corporately: "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith" (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Paul asked them to pray, both for the delivery of the gospel and deliverance from gospel haters.
Now, that comes as a shock to some people—Paul, the great and mighty apostle, saying, "Pray for us." But one of the reasons Paul had such a glorious and effective ministry is that he had people who regularly lifted him up in prayer. And I think it's wise Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him; to get this group of people who were overwhelmed by trials to take their eyes off of themselves, Paul essentially went, "Hey! Look over here! Pray for us."
Second, Paul instructed the Thessalonians to depend on God's character: "But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one" (v. 3). In other words, because God is faithful and will establish and guard you, He's dependable. Now, to say He will "guard you from the evil one" doesn't mean He will keep bad things from happening to you; it simply means He won't let you be overwhelmed by the Evil One, the Devil, as long as your confidence rests in Him (see John 17:15). This is His character. And knowing God's character leads to depending on Him.
Third, Paul said to depend on God's keeping power: "And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you" (v. 4). Notice the way Paul phrased that: "We don't have a whole lot of confidence in your ability to commit to God, but we have confidence in God's ability to commit to you." There's a wonderful mingling of the divine and the human in that verse: "We trust that God will keep you so that you will keep God's commandments." If God lives in you, the result will be a cooperation and an obedience. Even when you fail, God can pick you back up and enable you by the Spirit's power to follow Him, love Him, and be effective for Him.
Fourth and finally, Paul instructed the Thessalonians to depend on God's comfort: "Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ" (v. 5). In other words, "My hope is that you would be so soaked in God's personal love for you that you would have the courage to keep on persevering and depending on Him." That word patience in verse 5 is the Greek word hupomoné, which means to bear up under a load. Knowing God's love for you gives you hupomoné, an unswerving constancy.
In closing, here are just a few practical ways you can deepen your dependence on the Lord, based on the principles above. First, find a prayer partner. Second, write a personal biography of God—His major character traits that you've seen play out in your life. Third, ask God to help you cooperate with Him to keep His commandments. And fourth, believe that God loves you personally. My prayer is that these four simple principles would become reality in your life—that instead of becoming self-reliant, your dependence on God would grow and be deepened.
Copyright © 2017 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.