Cultivating an Ambitious Dependency
“You are not raising a child. You are raising an adult.”
The minister’s potent words were ringing in my ears as I contemplated the arrival of our first child in late June. While my wife and I will be highly intentional about raising an adult, our son will be heavily dependent upon us for a substantial portion of his life. From food to clothing, toys to shelter, entertainment to transportation, he will constantly turn his eyes upward to his mother and father for meaningful provision.
Steered by sound discipline (Proverbs 22:6) and appropriate boundaries (Psalm 16:6), in time he will transition from dependence to independence. Our focus as parents will be raising a man who heeds the enduring words of Paul in I Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
In I Corinthians 13, Paul speaks of putting aside the immaturity of adolescence and embracing the responsibilities of adulthood. What’s arresting about spiritual growth, however, is that it’s predicated on the premise that we should approach God from a place of dependence – like a child would. A childlike faith. In the words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Like a small child full of wonder and hope, Jesus is calling us towards complete dependence on an unambiguously dependable God. And though there are numerous benefits to fully relying on a generous Father, four readily stand out.
As author Greg Laurie puts it, “You cannot have the peace of God until you first have peace with God.” Discovering the peace of God that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7) begins with the recognition that our works count for nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9) and the death and resurrection of Jesus counts for everything (Romans 5:1). He loved us to the point that he would become the complete and total propitiation (payment) for all sins (I John4:10).
This first peace with God, that is, total restoration through the redeeming work of Christ, is further supplemented by a second peace that lives within. It descends from on high, courtesy of the restoring Savior. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Like the frightening waves that crashed hard against the disciples’ boat, life is full of storms, both small and grand in scale. But what Jesus said among his friends still rings true for us in the here and now. “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). Rest in the presence of the Prince of Peace.
According to the ancient prophet Isaiah, peace is the natural outflow of trust. He puts it like this: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You” (26:3). Trust in God releases fear and anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7) too, provided that we are willing to let go of the desire to control and the accompanying angst. Instead, let God provide as only he can. In the words of Dr. John Piper, “If we live by faith in this promise of future grace, it will be very hard for anxiety to survive. God’s ‘riches in glory’ are inexhaustible. He really means for us not to worry about our future.”
An ever-growing dependence on God bolsters faith, faith that will facilitate clarity and direction to our steps (Proverbs 3:5-6;19:21) and his larger purpose for the whole of humanity (Isaiah 46:9-11). Faith is the antidote to fear. The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and lust for stuff have a compelling capacity to create a stranglehold on our ability to grow spiritually (Mark 4:18-19), but faith snuffs out fear like light to the darkness.
Dependence on God reveals a desire to cling to him as a safe place. The warrior poet David says that God is a refuge for us (Psalm 62:8). Psalm 91, along with the refuge reference, adds shelter, fortress, and shadow as protective descriptors for the Almighty. The psalmist also describes God as a mighty bird that covers with protective feathers. The redeemer of our souls is a most glorious, safe haven for our souls.
May our dependence on God stir our desire for him and increase our peace, trust, and faith in his ability to be a refuge. Here’s Dr. Piper again: “We should give all glory to God, and be content with an utterly dependent Christ-exalting happiness in God.” As the author of life and the giver of good things, an absolute reliance on God is not just the best response. It should be our only response as he will never falter or fail to reveal the magnificent scope and sweeping grandeur of his ability to showcase what total dependability is firmly rooted in, both now and forever.
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