My brother told me to read the book Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell. It is an excellent book, leaving you thinking whether a “carry a big stick” or political approach is better. I still do not know. Bomb and end the war quickly, or don’t bomb and drag the fight out. Anyway, I digress. In the book, Gladwell talks about a psychological concept I’m calling “relational strength.” (I do audiobooks so I couldn't find the clinical name he used.) He referenced this with Churchhill as a master of making friendships with people who had the strengths he needed. This is not an alliance. This is when you have a close friendship or relationship with someone to the point you can assume their strength as your own strength. Gladwell said Churchhill was a master at this.
We see this in marriage. My wife is very hospitable and makes the house presentable when people come over. I can assume this as a strength because together it is. I handle the finances, and Ava’s credit score is very high. It is a strength, why? It is my personal strength. Together we are strong. Gladwell says, that when a spouse dies they feel like a part of them has died. In part, this is true. Parts of their lives they assumed were strong because of the relationship has died with their partner. In very strong relationships, each partner can assume strengths as their own that actually belong to the other person.
We have been talking about growing away from complacency and towards greater dependency. When we think of dependency, do we realize who we are relationally connected to? Do we realize His strength? How do we go about living as if His strength is flowing through us?
I want to share a story with you. It is long. I probably for the sake should tell you go read ______. But human nature is, we won’t go read _______, we will assume we know the passage and scan quickly for the main points. I get it. I do it as well. I am going to share a large portion of 1 Kings 18. As you read it, please do, I want you to highlight any area you see that shows “dependent faith.” Ready?
20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. 36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. 41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. 44 And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man's hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” 45 And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. 46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. ~1 Kings 18:20-46
It is a crazy story. Do you see the dependency? This is life or death. Elijah is literally a dead man if God does not show up on this one. Elijah mocks the other prophets. He soaks the offering. He prays for fire to come from heaven. Then when waiting for the promised rain from God, he hears of a little cloud. Then runs to tell the king a monsoon is coming! A monsoon from a hand cloud? Yup, if God says so! How can Elijah act this way? He is relationally connected to the One who is more than able. He is not going into this battle in His own strength, He does so in the name of God. This whole chapter, I believe, is the type of bold, dependent life God wants us all to live. Maybe we see fewer miracles today simply because we have fewer dependent Christians.
So, as we close out this lean-in campaign, allow me to leave you with five things to consider moving forward to continue in a state of dependency.
A dependent person looking to have the power of God flow through their lives will stay connected to God. We must be intentional about this. Name a relationship that is unintentionally strong? Few and far between. Relationships take work. Jesus talks about this in John 15. Here he reminds us that He is the vine and we are to stay connected to the vine! So as you move forward, stay connected! Put a daily alarm on your phone to read and pray. Connect with God’s people as you pursue community that is encouraging to your faith. Be consistent in a life group. Listen to worship music as you drive. Work through the Bible in a year. Routinely ask people on social how you can pray for them and then pray. Why did David feel like Goliath was no match for His God? Because he knew his God. You will not slay giants if you are not intentionally connected to the giant slayer.
Repurpose Your Freedom
You have freedom. We call this free will. Christian freedom is based in dependency. Yes, you read that sentance right. I chose the life of Christ as the best life for me. My freedom is completely handed over to my King. My free will is writing this blog post. My free will woke up this morning to read. My free will had dinner with my wife last night. When we repurpose our freedom for the purposes of the King, we worship our King. Here we are so in love with our Father, we want His life to be our life. Out of love we say, “I get to worship God.” Those living under oppression of religion will say, “I have to worship God.” Here we understand the absolute power of God and know that my freedom in His hands is so much greater than in mine. I want to make much of my life, and so I freely place my life into the hand of one who is able. My life is not my own; free will and all, I have willfully surrendered it over to Christ.
Christians are not called to be normal. And sadly here is where I need to say, please don’t be a weirdo Christian. When I say normal, it is striving for the American Dream. When I say normal, I mean, the normal I think everyone else is living. Do you know what people that work for churches do on Christmas Eve? They work. Do you know what people do that work for churches do on weekends? They don’t camp, they work. That is professional ministry. But it is true in everyday Christianity. Normal is living with your boyfriend or girlfriend, embrace abnormal. Normal is trying to get ahead in your job by cutting corners, embrace abnormal. Normal is a night or two off to just veg at home, embrace the abnormal. We strive to live a normal life, to give our kids the good life, and while striving for the normal good life we rarely make much of Jesus. I don’t want the good life, I want the God-honoring life. If I can live the God-honoring life, that is the good life! If you want to be like everyone else, that is a one-way ticket to complacent Christianity. There is no such thing as casual Christianity. Embrace, as a Christian, that you will live an abnormal life.
David ran into battle confidently saying, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.” 1 Samuel 17:45-46B. David’s never defeated a giant. But he has seen God deliver bears into his hands. Point is, David knew his God. In knowing his God, he ran confidently into battle. His confidence rested in his dependency. Trust in Jesus will bring you to the front lines, in complete dependency upon Him to show up. How often do you put yourself in a situation where you need God? I didn’t say “get yourself in a situation.” Many of us get ourselves into big ol’ messes where we throw up hail Mary type prayers, and we ain’t even catholic! If I am living dependently upon the God I am confident of, I am going to take myself places for Him to shine through me. I am going to do things I can’t do on my own. I am going to put myself out there and when I look back and try to figure out how it all worked out, I won’t. It worked because God worked. GO. DO. SOMETHING. You are not building God’s kingdom from your couch. In the words of Jesus as He left the earth (Matthew 28,) allow me to scream through the screen, “GOOOOOOOO.”
I won’t say much here because we wrote about this last week. But if you have leaned into prayer this month, why on earth would you want that to stop? Keep it going. Prayer is a lifeline to the heavenly realms as we battle in the earthly realm. If you are going to make an impact for the kingdom, you will certainly need to be a person of prayer. As you get out of your car and lock it from your key chain, you are praying as you walk into the coffee shop for an opportunity to share the love of Jesus. As you drive home, you spend that 30 minutes praying about your unbelieving friends in your neighborhood. As you pray, you really feel God telling you to turn down what seems to be a no-brainer, you can’t shake it. You turn it down. And later you realize you would have had to have sold your soul to the company to keep your job. A Christian not looking to live in a state of complacency is always praying, THY WILL BE DONE. And then, allows his or her will to be undone in the hands of God!
Keep praying for One. Go ignite a craving for Jesus. More passionate followers building passionate churches. There is work to do.