"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Prayer of Jabez - Dependence

I'm finishing up a few notes from the book I read on Sunday. Particularly note the last two phrases of this prayer as I write a few things from the book about dependence.

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. -- I Chron. 4:10

This goes against my cultural upbringing. In America we highly value our independence and individuality and our rights to the extent that being a dependent person has negative connotations. How often have I come across articles on codependency and ever seen that in a positive light? So reading these things is challenging.

In The Prayer of Jabez, author Bruce Wilkinson recalls a time when he had prayed this prayer and God started blessing and giving him more responsibility as He "enlarged his territory." Bruce recalls how with this added responsibility came the feeling of helplessness because he felt ill-equipped to handle everything. So he talked to an older, wiser man and poured out his heart to him about these feelings he was having. After listening for a while, the older gentlemen replied with kindness, "'Son,...that feeling you are running from is called dependence. It means you're walking with the Lord Jesus. . . Actually, the second you're not feeling dependent is the second you've backed away from truly living by faith.'" (pg. 47)

The author also reminds us, "God's power under us, in us, surging through us is exactly what turns dependence into unforgettable experiences of completeness." As Paul writes in II Corinthians 3:5-6,

5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

(pg. 53)

The author writes: "Ask for the Father's touch. Because for the Christian, dependence is just another word for power." (pg. 61)

So how fitting is it that I checked my e-mail this morning and saw my brother had sent me Little Is Much When God Is In It?

Mr. Wilkinson reminds us how often people will be blessed by God and forget that this blessing came from Him. He quotes from another, "blessedness is the greatest of perils because 'it tends to dull our keen sense of dependence on God and make us prone to presumption.'" (pg. 64)

The more God blesses you and starts using you for His glory, the more Satan will attack you with "the enemy's unwelcome barbs -- distraction, opposition and oppression, for starters. In fact, if your experience is anything but that, be concerned." (pg. 64)

One final thing to share from this book and it addresses what I wrote at the beginning about my culture. The author asks,

Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God's dream for us? We're steeped in a culture that worships freedom, independence, personal rights, and the pursuit of pleasure. We respect people who sacrifice to get what they want. But to be a living sacrifice? To be crucified to self? Like Jabez, we should plead to be kept from the powerful pull of what feels right to us but is wrong." (pg. 70)

Wow, yes, that definitely is a powerful pull! I like that: "what feels right to us but is wrong." I suppose this is why feelings can't always be trusted, and we need the absoluteness that is God! As I've heard my preacher say, "I don't feel saved until I've had my coffee in the morning." Thank goodness, salvation is not based on our feelings! My feelings are often all over the place!

I am glad I "happened to find" this book lying so innocently as a decoration on my inlaws' coffee table on Sunday. It was short, but challenging and worth the hour or so that it took to read.


Angela said...

Yes,,we must be very cautious with feelings and emotions....they are so fickle. Oh how I KNOW that word codependency..LOL. Did a bible study on that.

Joni said...

I've been thinking about independance lately too - but in a different light. Like you I've been thinking about how God wants us to be more and more dependent on him, and the more we are like him the more we depend on him. I've been ruminating on how hard it is for us to give over control and to depend on him.

Then I though about my children and how much they depend on us as their parents. How many times as a parent do we talk about the importance of INDEPENDENCE from us as our children grow up? We teach them to walk on their own, to ride bikes, to get themselves dressed, to clean themselves... I encourage them "you can do it!" and other assorted phrases to encourage their sense of self-reliance with self-care.

But I started wondering, I am I doing them a disservice in this? Am I teaching them to be independent when they willy only have to struggle to UNlearn this as followers of Christ?

Susanne said...

That's a really good question. I remember when we read "The Shack" how startled I was to realize how NOT cool independence was perhaps in God's view. It was like mild blasphemy to my American mind. :-) As an American, "independence" is right up there with, well, baseball and apple pie! Even as I read through the OT, I realize how individualistic our society tends to be (likely because of our love of independence) vs. the more community-minded Middle Eastern society of the Bible days. It's been interesting to me to consider how our cultures are different so I have to try understanding some biblical truths from a more "we're-in-this-together" mindset (e.g. when Achan sinned, the whole family was stoned and all of Israel was defeated).

I think children are supposed to be independent of their parents. God designed even the animal kingdom in such a way that the babies eventually leave their moms; the birds even throw them out of their nests. In that regard, it's good to teach your children they can develop skills in order to grow and learn and do things on their own. You don't want a 13 year old that you still have to spoon feed in the high chair! Likewise, I do think God's children have to develop skills (eat the meat of the Word and be weaned from the milk) so they grow in knowledge and truth. (Study to show thyself approved unto God ... rightly dividing the word of truth.) However, we should be mindful always that our source of strength comes from God.

I believe you can teach your children to be independent in their developmental skills while at the same time conveying the relational importance of depending on God. Just as we don't have air or another heart beat without Him, we can grow up realizing, "yeah, I may be independent from my parents in the sense that mom no longer dresses me, but in the bigger realm my health, my job, my talents come from the Lord and that's OK." Dependence on God is true freedom. Without Him, we don't live .. literally. Can you force your heart to beat? Can you supply your own oxygen?

Thoughts? Thank you for your thought-out reply to this post. I enjoy hearing from you. You make me think!

Carmen said...

Great post, Susanne. I missed a LOT when I was on vacation. :)

The topic reminds me a small bit of my "white flag on a stick" blog. I mentioned that surrender is looked at as such a very bad word in the sense of "giving up" and "quitting" or "admitting defeat". I brought to my blog the idea that surrender is rather saying "God, I need you" and "I can't do this without you".

We do tend to pride ourselves on being smart enough, educated enough, strong enough, etc to do things on our own. The Bible clearly tells us though that we can do all things THROUGH Christ who strengthens us.

I know that I have a hard time trusting such an untangible God. I know the truth and I know my past experiences with my very real God but sometimes my human mind and the realness of the world I live in, can distract me from what I know to be true.

This quote made me think.

"God's power under us, in us, surging through us is exactly what turns dependence into unforgettable experiences of completeness"

Wow. Powerful.

And so very true that our feelings can't always be relied on.

Another thing that I think as Americans, and a people who are so proud of the freedom we possess, we tend to have a sense of entitlement. I know I especially see it in the young teenage generation but I'm sure it's in me too.

What I should be remembering is that I am nothing without Christ. He is who completes me and makes me worthy to receive the grace and mercy He offers.

Back to the prayer at the beginning of your post. That prayer was very unselfish. He wanted to blessed so that it would benefit GOD's kingdom. He also wanted to be kept from evil so that he wouldn't CAUSE any pain. Hmmm. Again, very unselfish. Wonder if that's why God granted his prayers as he asked for them.

Susanne said...

Great comment, Carmen! Thank you!

Very true what you wrote about surrender. How often do we think of surrendering being a GOOD thing?? I know I don't!

You said: "The Bible clearly tells us though that we can do all things THROUGH Christ who strengthens us." -- so true..."through Christ" would show our dependence on Him. Great point.

"We tend to have a sense of entitlement." -- I've noticed that as well. Do you think it's because we have grown up basically spoiled and taking freedom for granted because **others** sacrificed for us? So maybe we tend to feel we are entitled to our rights, freedoms, stuff? Do you think because WE have received these things so freely, we feel entitled to them whereas former generations fought and suffered and basically EARNED that freedom so we could enjoy it?

I love what you said at the end about his prayer being unselfish. I read it and think it's kind of selfish to ask to be blessed and to have more territory until I see the underlying things he is asking for. Plus Jesus told us to ask so that we may receive so it seems our Father wants to give and bless us...we just are often too shy, reluctant, scared to ask. Maybe we don't feel worthy because we are sinners or we know we don't witness/live our faith as we should. Hmmm.

Thank you for adding your thoughts.

Btw, are you still blogging? Let me know if you are so I can add you to my Reader. :)

Carmen said...

I certainly think that one of the reasons that we feel so entitled is because our freedom has come without our personal sacrifice. We really haven't had the experiences many men and women years ago did.

We haven't really gained many new freedoms. People before us, those who were segregated or couldn't vote. Those who couldn't worship the way they desired. They all were without freedoms and gained them. I can't think of any freedoms that I've gained in my lifetime.

In 2 Chronicles when is says "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and turn from their ways then I will....", it makes me wonder what would happen to a country like ours if we took that "If...Then" statement literally. How could we be transformed. What blessings would we see. What harvest for the Kingdom would we experience.