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Our dependence on God

Man is wholly dependent on God.  This is not merely pious rhetoric but thoroughly biblical. We have been created (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13) and are sustained by God (Hebrews 1:3). We cannot live one hour (Luke 12:25-26) or even take a single step (Acts 17:28) apart from His power and foreordination.  

Even more, it is not only in the biological realm that we find our utter reliance on God but also in spiritual matters. It “is impossible” (Matthew 19:26) for man to save himself. Man’s heart is so depraved that he cannot even desire God but hates Him (Romans 8:7; John 3:20) and, therefore, God must sovereignly and supernaturally change man’s heart and save him (John 3:3, 6:44). Indeed, even faith (Matthew 11:27) and repentance (Acts 5:31, 11:18) are gifts of God, eliminating any remaining reason to boast in ourselves.

Yet it would be quite wrong to conclude that our dependence on God stops at the point of conversion. Rather, seeing our tremendous weakness and desiring to know and serve Him, Christians are increasingly driven to the Rock of Ages from which “[e]very good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) flows. The Christian cannot understand God’s Word apart from the Spirit’s power (John 3:27, 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13) and cannot do any good work on their own strength (John 15:4). Unless God intervenes, we are helpless against the attacks of Satan (Luke 22:31-32; cf. Ephesians 6:12-13). The temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13; Matthew 18:10-14) and evils of the world (Psalm 3), too, or even the pains and struggles of life (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) would prove too much for us if God did not hold us and sustain us every step of the way (Psalm 94:17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Romans 8:38-39).

Thus, a Christian would affirm such a great and all-encompassing dependence.  Despite this, there is often an apprehension toward going to God and seeking Him and His help. “I can’t go to Him now, can I?”, the thought goes.  Our minds come up with all sorts of reasons to dissuade us from fleeing to God, and we — myself certainly included — are quick to believe them. After all, we think, we do not want to presume on God’s grace, nor would we want to come to God in an unfitting or wrong manner. Such objections sound reasonable and reverent, yet they are so often neither. Indeed, in such times, far from honoring God, we diminish God’s grace and power, forget our dependence on Him and, as articulated in Ichabod Spencer’s A Pastor’s Sketches, desire to establish our own righteousness by which we are then “worthy” to come to Him. Let us now examine a few common scenarios, showing how our fears are ungrounded and that there is never a situation in which it is wrong to go to God in prayer and to read His Word.

Many Christians believe they cannot come to Christ because they do not have the right feelings to do so. When they feel down, apathetic, tired, or anxious, they ask themselves if it is even right to pray or read the Bible in such a state because they feel they should be joyful instead (or because they think they are not “sad enough” about their sin to ask God for forgiveness). While it is a good thing to be joyful and we do need to be repentant for our sins, it is vital to remember that we should not judge our standing with God on our emotions. Doing so will lead to innumerable troubles. It is not the amount of joy or the depth of our sorrow that renders us right before God; if it were, we would all be hopelessly lost, for our emotions are imperfect and polluted by sin. But our standing rests on the work of Christ and His righteousness, and, therefore, our emotions, which come and go like the wind, have no reason to hinder us from going to Christ. Resting on our emotions suggests that we need to bring something to God rather than understanding we rest on His grace alone, which frees us to go to Him despite our frailty and weakness.

Some, too, wonder if they can truly go to Christ amidst temptation. “The temptation is so strong, and I feel a desire to give in.  How can I go to God with such a heart?” But how do you expect to prevail in temptation if you do not flee to Christ? Further, the Bible tells you to come to Him in times of trouble (Matthew 6:13, 26:41; Hebrews 4:16). To not cry out to Him when facing temptation is to say either that you don’t need God to overcome it or that you need to prove to God that you are “good enough” for Him to love you.

Lastly, some Christians are weighed down by their own sin and believe they are not good enough to pray or read the Bible. But such hiding will do you no good. The only thing that can is going to God, confessing your sins and resting on Christ’s work, not your performance, for your salvation. Remember this: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Yes, we still sin, but that does not undo our salvation as it never rested on our works but on Christ’s finished work. By turning our eyes towards Jesus and confessing our sins, we understand both our unworthiness and the overflowing abundance of grace by which “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1).

Let us, then, remember that no matter our situation or state, it is never wrong to go to God, but it is quite wrong to refuse to His invitation. So let us go to our Savior with everything and in everything, for we are in great need of Him and His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Andrew Sveda is a senior at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in political science and theology. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at asveda@nd.edu or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.