There is a HUGE tree in my back yard that I love because of how tall it stands. When I look at it I see a beautiful creation of God that has taken decades to build strong. What makes it so strong? An extensive root system that is a complex interweaving of the underground part of the tree you never see. This has always fascinated me about trees. You can gaze upon how majestic it climbs to the sky, but really what makes it grow is what you never see below the soil. The same is true for our character and dependence. Character is NOT about what everyone sees, it is about what is driving you that often no one ever notices. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season...” Psalm 1:3
“The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence”
The harder the trial, the more you find out what and who you are depending on. Not too long ago my root system was challenged. Because I am intuitively a doer I want things to be, well, done. Before I knew it, all the tasks of leading the church, preaching, doing weddings, performing funerals, visiting the sick, making phone calls became a sick progression self dependence. After a three year season of planting the church, I realized subtly I had become dependent on my behavior and my routines and not the Gospel. As the days went on and on I became more dependent on the external factors of performance rather than the internal reality of being. My trial was one of perfectionism and performance based evaluation through the approval of others. As we live in the power of the Gospel and suffer, we realize His perfect story. The miracle of His creation, our rejection of Him, our redemption through Him, and now our approval by Him is His perfect plan for restoration. His resurrection changes everything!
Knowing – Being – Doing
One day, while going about my business, the weight of the following verse came crashing down on me. It was like the Word of God opened up and my life and future became clear. This was my dependence manifesto that was to mark me:
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10
I had to realize my first role was to be his disciple. There are three clear things that jumped out at me. These three things were working together to make me a disciple of Jesus fully dependent on Him. Struggling through trials requires a dependence on a knowledge of His will for my life. The trial I am traveling through may or may not have been created by me, but it has been determined for me. This is usually almost impossible to see when you are progressing through a difficult season and many times you will need someone else to point out the “point of it all.” Knowledge of suffering and Jesus on the cross helps us put in proper perspective our own suffering and trial.
Because of this knowledge we can then surrender our agenda and – just – be. I love how Being works in harmony with knowledge to give wisdom and understanding through a situation. During my season of reflection I realized that I needed to just be and STOP DOING. For me, this revelation was like a slap in the face. Being needs to be daily, weekly and routine. Most of my being time now is not spent trying to gather knowledge, but rather to gain wisdom and understanding through his friendship. I want to feel God.
Only when we learn to know and be, can doing be the pleasing evidence of a life well lived. I am sure you have heard of the saying, “too much of a good thing.” Well, I had too much doing and not enough being. In order to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord bearing good fruit I had to pause and make sure my life was in balance. To this day it’s not something that comes easy, but dependence is a DISCIPLINE.
The Triumph – Total Dependence
Most of us would say we want to have deep dependence on God. But sometimes deep character can be illusive through trial because of our blind spots and our bad experiences. But even so, here are some ways you can develop deep dependence on God in your life no matter what situation you find yourself in. And keep in mind, we develop strong character in order to stay focused on the mission God has for us.
- Stay in the Word – We can too easily forget the foundation of dependency starts with our relationship with Jesus. We must INTENTIONALLY make time to get away with him. I was just talking to my friend the other day and he told me he is taking a mini 12 hour retreat Sunday. Another friend is actually quitting his job for four months to be with God, pray, fast and learn to depend on Him more. Get away from all your distractions and be shaped and steadied by your time with Jesus. Let him root out destructive habits and incorrect thinking.
- Be Humble – If you have to take credit for everything good that happens in your work, family, etc. you have a problem. Pass along the credit and promote others. Do you always have to be right? Always have to have the last word? Always interrupting people to get your point across? Yep, that’s pride. And by the way, the moment you think you are humble you are most likely not. It is when you realize your pride when your character is deepened.
- Serve Continually – Every chance you possibly get you need to serve. Considering others’ needs will give you a strong root system that can’t be compromised. You can’t just serve when it feels good, but when it hurts.
- Select Friends Carefully – You need friends that will build into your character not tear it down. I’m not at all for isolating yourself from others who don’t believe the same way as you, but we must be careful who we bring close to us that INFLUENCES our thinking.
- Hold Your Tongue – Nothing will destroy your influence and character faster than a hasty, harsh word. The words you use define what you believe and who you depend on. The next time you want to say something brutal, slow down. Don’t make excuses for yourself either. NO ONE gets a free pass by saying, “that’s just the way I am.” If you want to deepen character it’s time to address the problem, your mouth. Quick to listen, slow to speak.
Questions to Consider
- What knowledge to you need from God in order to put in perspective your current trial?
- What is God saying to you about your being? Are you comfortable being with him and depending on him for friendship, forgiveness and your future?
- What about your doing? What do you need to do NOW, TODAY that God has told you to do, in order to prove your dependence on him and live by faith.
From Trials to Triumph
“Turning Deep Wounds Into Great Impact”
Full Book Releasing January 19th 2015 –
Josh is the lead pastor at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ. 217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 9:30 & 11am and Starplex Cinemas in East Windsor, NJ at 10:15. Our new East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday. If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information.