The danger of a proud freedom …
How much can we accomplish without God?
That question has morphed into an attitude by which many live today, even those within the church. Instead of humbly walking with our God, we live our lives with self in control, intent on discovering just how much we can achieve on our own. Of course, we maintain a loose connection with God because, should we get ourselves into trouble out in the world on our own, we might need to call on Him to bail us out.
Living such a proud freedom will always get us into trouble!
In his book, “The Pressure’s Off,” Christian psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb tells this story from his childhood …
“One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone’s help. So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient.
“Then it was time to leave. I couldn’t unlock the door. I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn’t do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, ‘I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom.’
“My parents — and likely the neighbors — heard my desperate scream. ‘Are you okay?’ mother shouted through the door that she couldn’t open through the outside. ‘Did you fall? Have you hit your head?’
“‘I can’t unlock the door!’ I yelled. ‘Get me out of here!’
“I wasn’t aware of it right then, but dad raced downed the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bedroom window. With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with the same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.
“‘Thanks, dad,’ I said, then ran out to play.
“That’s how I thought the Christian life was supposed to work … God shows up. He hears my cry — ‘Get me out of here! I want to play!’ — and unlocks the door to the blessings I desire.”
That’s the mentality of those who, from a position of a proud freedom, try to live with the attitude of, “How much can we accomplish without God?”
Jesus has a different message for us: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:5.
Instead of wanting a savior who sets us free to walk with Him and serve Him, we really only want a lifeguard to stand by as we wade with pride into our freedom.
Watchman Nee tells a story of one of his experiences as a Christian leader in China. A group of young Christian brothers gathered to go swimming in one of the many creeks that run throughout the countryside there. Since most were not good swimmers, they were careful to remain close to the banks so as not to get in water over their heads.
One of the brothers got out a little too far and began to struggle in the deep water. Realizing his predicament, he began to cry out to his neighbors, who by now were out of the water and drying off.
“Help! Save me!” he yelled, all the while thrashing his arms and legs in a futile attempt to keep his head above water.
Brother Nee knew only one man was experienced enough at swimming to provide any assistance, so he turned to him for help. But strangely enough, the would-be rescuer calmly observed the man’s plight but made no move to save him.
“Why don’t you do something?” they all screamed in unison. But the man just stood there, apparently unconcerned.
After a few moments, the drowning man could stay afloat no more. His arms and legs grew tired and limp, and he began to sink under the water. It was only then that the slow-moving lifeguard dove into the creek, and with a few quick strokes reached the victim and pulled him to safety.
Once all was well, Brother Nee was beside himself. “How could you stand by and watch your brother drown, ignoring his cries for help and prolonging his suffering?” he questioned.
The man calmly explained, “If I were to jump in immediately and try to save a drowning man, he would clutch me in panic and pull me under with him. In order to be saved, he must come to the end of himself, and cease struggling, cease trying to save himself. Only then can he be helped.”
How much can we accomplish without God?
“… For apart from me you can do nothing.”
But we still try, thinking God will quickly pluck us out from getting in over our heads, like the good lifeguard we think He is.
Don’t be surprised if God waits until you come to the end of yourself, when you finally cease struggling and trying to save yourself — when you finally reach that point where you can be helped — before He responds to your pleas.
Jesus died to set you free, to provide you with real freedom. But not a proud, self-sufficient, freedom. Rather, the freedom to be able to humbly walk with Him …
“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8.
Instead of trying to see what you can accomplish without God, why not enjoy the great freedom of exploring all you can accomplish by walking humbly with Him?