husband, Brad, was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force when we met.
We married overseas, and our first years of marriage were spent
in an entirely military environment.
What an eye-opening experience for
me! There's no boot camp or basic training for spouses, and I
was overwhelmed by the realization that, for all intents and purposes,
I now belonged to this organization.
The Air Force and its affiliates
filled the roles of employer, landlord, law enforcement, local
government, medical care provider, grocer, retailer, restaurateur,
barber/beautician, plumber, insurer, and utilities provider. The
military had the right to call Brad into work or send him overseas
at any time, and if he wanted to travel more than three hours
from base he had to use vacation days, even on weekends.
We couldn't do anything without
military interaction and support--they even controlled when air
conditioning could be used in many housing units.
It was hard for me to adjust to
being "owned" by an organization, even a noble one. I felt helpless
and insignificant. Even worse, I myself had absolutely no role,
rank, or standing in the sight of the Air Force--without my husband,
Staff Sergeant Schafer, I was nothing.
On paperwork I, as well as every
other military spouse, was listed under the category "dependent".
I hated that term. It made me sound like a worthless moocher,
someone who had nothing worthwhile to give: a mere recipient of
undeserved support from the Air Force through my husband.
My response was only natural--I
think we all rebel a little at the thought of being dependent.
From our earliest years, we struggle to learn and grow so that
we do not need the help and support of others, and our proudest
moments are those when we first accomplish something "on our own".
But actually, my experience with
the military is a good metaphor for our spiritual lives, because
our spiritual success hinges on our ability
to embrace our role of "dependent."
To be saved, we have to give up
our theory that we have something worthwhile to offer, that somehow
we can earn God's favor and work our way into heaven. God's Word
shows us that in reality, all our good works amount to nothing
but a pile of dirty rags when compared with the perfect holiness
of God (Isaiah 64:6). It is only by God's grace, His unmerited
favor, that we are saved--and that grace is only extended to us
through belief in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8).
Without Christ, we have absolutely
no membership, no role, and no standing in the sight of God. The
Bible plainly says, "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that
hath not the Son of God hath not life" (I John 5:12).
Even after salvation, learning to
grow spiritually by depending on God may be difficult. Since our
physical growth can be measured by our increasing ability to function
independently of help from others, we often make the mistake
of thinking that we grow spiritually by learning to be good "on
Nothing could be further from the
truth! In John 15:5, Jesus told his disciples, "Without me ye
can do nothing". He also taught that "none is good, save
one, that is, God," (Luke 18:19).
Just like we had to depend on God
for our salvation, we must now rely on the Holy Spirit
within us to supply the goodness that the Bible says we lack.
For spiritual success, we don't need to learn self-confidence.
Self-confidence doesn't hold up in a
vs. Goliath situation. Instead, let's make our assurance be Saviour-confidence.
Most of us, however, have two lifestyle
obstacles to Saviour-confidence: misplaced
confidence and premature boasting.
Misplaced confidence is the feeling
that you're "big enough" to handle a problem, situation, or temptation.
You think you have everything under control and you effectively
tell God, "Step aside, God, I think I can take care of this one
on my own."
There are many examples of people
who made the mistake of misplaced confidence--one notable incident
was the battle of Ai, which is recorded in Joshua 7-8. The children
of Israel were on a roll; with God's blessing they were defeating
every foe on their way into the Promised Land.
They'd seen the walls of Jericho
fall down flat without even a shot fired, so they were sure that
the little town of Ai wouldn't pose the slightest problem. Into
the battle they went, without consulting God or asking for His
help. The result was an astounding defeat, resulting in the deaths
of thirty-six men.
It didn't take long for Joshua,
the leader of Israel at that time, to fall down before God's face
to ask what went wrong and to make things right, which is the
only way to correct the error of misplaced confidence.
The second trap you'll find along
the path to learning dependence on God is premature boasting.
This happens after you've sought God's help, admitted your own
inability, and received His blessing and strength. You're on your
way! Like Peter, through Christ's power, you're doing the impossible
(in his case, walking on water), when suddenly, something goes
The best way I can personally relate
premature boasting is to tell you about a college tennis game.
I was in the middle of a tight set, and I was a little overmatched,
but I was giving it my all--not only was my coach watching, but
also a male friend of mine had come to watch me play.
Back and forth the ball flew, until
at last I maneuvered my opponent out of position and lobbed the
ball up and over her head.
What a sense of victory I felt as
I heard the cheers from my coach and friend, and I smiled confidently
as I walked back to set up for the next serve.
Imagine my surprise when I suddenly
felt a whizzing ball rocket past my right ear, then turned to
see my opponent doing her victory dance! Somehow she had
scrambled back in time to return that ball--I still don't know
how she did it. The smile wiped from my face, I felt like such
a fool, because I'd been caught displaying premature boasting.
Now, that was just a tennis match,
but it's an easy way to remember that in the spiritual realm,
God will humble us every time we begin to glory in ourselves.
"Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," the
Bible warns (I Corinthians 10:12). If it looks like you're succeeding,
remember that it's God working in you, and He's not finished with
When we follow God's call to embrace
our dependence on Him, what a burden is lifted from our shoulders!
It's a relief to know that He understands our weakness, and He
doesn't expect us to do it all on our own. Instead, he patiently
stands by, waiting for us to call on His infinite strength. I
don't know the struggles you may be experiencing, but He does,
and He cares about you. Please admit your need of Him in prayer