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Purity 101

Should I be an Independent Woman?

 

     My 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 our own".
     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

 

David 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 wrong.
     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 you yet.
     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 today.

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