Summary: We think we’re independent and to some degree self-sufficient, but what God wants of us is to be radically God-Dependent
January 13, 2008
What do you think of when you hear the word helpless? Do you think of a little baby? Babies are certainly helpless. They’re absolutely dependent on their parents for their very life. If parents don’t feed them, don’t take care of all their physical needs, that baby is helpless to do anything about it, and that baby will die. Of course, that’s true of most infants in most species, though it seems human infants are among the most helpless at the very beginning of their lives.
You might think of other things when you think about helpless. Needless to say, as a dad standing over my daughter’s hospital bed yesterday not knowing where all this is headed is a rather helpless feeling – and a rather timely illustration for this sermon.
Other thoughts that might bring to mind the word “helpless?” How about any team facing the Boston Celtics these days? How about Ohio State in the face of the onslaught from LSU? See, something for everyone in this sermon. Babies, sports….
Just as in the beginning of life we’re helpless, sometimes at the end of life we’re almost as helpless. Sometimes, we must rely on other people for our most basic needs. But somewhere in the middle of life, from toddlerhood to old age, where most of us are, we’re not so helpless.
Or. are we really more helpless than we think? We have this tendency to think we’re independent. We also have this tendency to want to be independent – to want to be in control. But an experience like our recent ice storm, or the past few days with Lisa’s illness, shows us that our supposed independence, what we thought was largely control of our lives, is a thin veneer, easily shattered with just one or two events.
Think about this for a moment. When we come into the world, we are helpless. Often, but not always, when we are ready to leave this world, we are helpless. Sometimes that helplessness comes with old age. Sometimes it comes with illness. Often, it comes with both.
In between the beginning of our life and the end, we develop a measure of independence, don’t we? But despite what we might think, we are never truly independent, and we’re always reliant to some degree on somebody. In that sense we’re helpless.
We could think of dozens of everyday examples, from the electric company, to farmers who get us the food we eat, to manufacturers who make our cars, and those who make the clothes we wear, and on and on. I don’t care how handy you are – even if you’re Paul Burgard or Steve Staub, or Jim Garrett, some of the handiest guys I know, you still have to rely on someone to make the tools for you to be so handy. You still had to have someone to teach you the things you’re handy at doing now. You still have to learn and you still need the raw materials.
Of course, even if we weren’t at all dependent to some degree on other people, which of course we really are, we’re always dependent on God.
Acts 17:25 He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things;
Acts 17:28 (NIV) ’For in him we live and move and have our being
We’re dependent on God for our very existence. Someone once said:
Man, despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication and many accomplishments, owes the fact of his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.
Of course, I would add that the Creator of that topsoil, and the very reason that it rains at all, is the One to whom we owe the fact of our existence. But how we handle that dependence is still a choice. We can seek independence from every one and every thing – which will always be a losing battle. Or we can yield, recognize our total helplessness, and be radically God-dependent.
Sometimes this dependency is forced upon us, and sometimes we choose to yield to it before we have no choice but to yield. But the reality is we’re all radically God-dependent, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. We sometimes have this dependency forced upon us because of our innate emotional need to control our circumstances and our environment.
To some extent, every one of us hates to lose control of any aspect of our lives. We all need other people. We just don’t want to need them. For some of us, this is a bigger issue than with others. But the world has control issues, and all God’s children have control issues. I believe our need to control is rooted in original sin – pride…
Adam and Eve wanted control – they didn’t like God’s rules. Actually, there was only one rule, and they couldn’t even obey that.