This week will celebrate a century-old holiday known as April Fools’ Day. While the day entails playing practical jokes on others, life can sometimes feel like it’s playing a practical joke on us. One of the contributions to painful life experiences is derived from self-reliance instead of relying on God.
Self-reliance is defined as relying on one’s own abilities and resources rather than on God or on others.
If we are living in Christ, He is our resource, and the Holy Spirit enables that power (Ephesians 3:16-20). Self-reliance stems from pride and an overestimation of oneself. Beneath pride lays a bed of fear, unbelief, and doubt.
When we don’t trust God and operate in unbelief, it’s often because we believe God didn’t come through for us the way we thought He would. We believe He abandoned us when we needed Him most. We expected Him to act the way we would have in that situation or the way we think He should have. When God doesn’t meet the expectations we define for Him, it’s tempting to buy into the idea that God can’t be trusted, and we are alone. We believe we can take care of ourselves better than God can – and that’s when we take the bait offered by Satan.
Satan is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), he is a liar (John 8:44), he plucks the word of God out of our hearts and chokes our faith (Mark 4:1-9). Therefore, when we believe his lies and act on them (sin), we set ourselves up for negative consequences.
Self-reliance looks like pursuing happiness through materialism, money, sex, status, appearance. It can mean self-medicating on codependent relationships, social media, digital games, excessive work, and addictions that don’t deliver what they promised. They leave us empty and in worse condition than when we started (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3, 2:10-11).
God-reliance looks like us pursuing a relationship with God, walking in His will, and relying on and trusting in Him for our every need and desire.
In turn, God fills our emptiness and gives us peace, joy, and contentment. Remember, happiness is only a temporary state of mind.
Self-reliance can mean depending on people’s approval for our worth. This concept means we will have to practice dishonesty and manipulation in hopes others will approve of us and see our worth. When we are God-reliant, we can know and embrace our worth and understand who we are in Christ and how much we are loved and accepted by Him (Romans 8:38-39).
- Self-reliance makes us feel hopeless in our circumstances. God is our hope in all circumstances. (Hebrews 10:23)
- Self-reliance paralyzes us and keeps us stuck in fear. God-reliance overcomes fears. (1 John 4:18)
- Self-reliance makes us unfaithful because we position ourselves to not need anyone for anything. God-reliance is faithfulness to God and to others.
- Self-reliance causes us to be unbelieving. We only trust what we can see. God-reliance exercises our faith in God and what He can do in our life.
Self-reliance comes in many forms and often ends in pain, bad experiences, and bad decisions. The Bible shows us self-reliance leads to further sin, self-reliance leads to discipline from God, and self-reliance leads to broken relationships.
One example is Adam and Eve. They believed the serpent’s lie and doubted what God said about the tree of life (Genesis 3:4-5). They acted in self-reliance when they decided to eat the fruit despite God’s instructions, and God disciplined them (Genesis 3:16-19). Once sin entered the world, Adam and Eve’s relationship changed, as did man’s relationship with God.
Another example is Abraham and Sarah’s story. God promised Abraham descendants. Still childless years later, they wanted to help God with His promise. Their sin bred an illegitimate child, who grew up to be “as untamed as a wild donkey,” not the promised child (Genesis 16:12). The relationship disintegrated between Sarah and Hagar, and there was a conflict between Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 16:5).
How do we become God-reliant?
- Talk to God and tell Him all your fears, disappointments, anxieties, desires, dreams, frustrations, sins. Prayer is not just giving God a laundry list of what’s wrong. Listen to His response. Is He leading you to read a specific verse in Scripture, listen to a worship song and spend time praising Him, talk with a godly friend or sit quietly before Him in love, adoration and confidence that He is with you and for you?
- Confess your self-reliance as sin and ask for forgiveness. God is faithful to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).
- Ask God to help you rely on and trust Him and not doubt. Ask Him to help you with your unbelief (Mark 9:23-25).
- Give everyone and everything to God. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
- Choose to believe God will help you.
- Get to know God’s attributes. He is kind, loving, and merciful – not cruel, hateful, or merciless.
- Like any relationship, the more we know God, the more we trust Him. We get to know Him by reading what He says in His Word.
- Practice asking God for His help. Everyday.
- Ask God to heal you in those places where your defined expectations of Him did not meet your expectations. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
When we rely on God and not on ourselves, there is freedom, freedom from worry and fear.
Would you like to experience freedom?