Her face caught my eye on Sunday, the mixture of awe and hope, the trace of tears, a bit of self-consciousness as she whispered her new-found faith. And then later she posted for everyone to see, “You’re my one defense, my righteousness– oh God how I need You.” Her need and God’s supply fit together like pieces of a whole: The Way-Things-Should-Be. Or maybe it was she who was finally made whole, when she was re-created at the Cross, born anew into the person she was always meant to be. But it’s funny how we often get that far and then start thinking it’s up to us to finish this faith-journey on our own. It’s not a new stumbling-block by any means; the Church-planter Paul scolded the believers in Asia Minor for the very same idea: “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Galatians 3:3)
I heard an older, wiser man sharing last week how he didn’t start growing in his faith until he gave up on the idea that he was a pretty good guy– realized how very much he needed God’s help to follow Christ. It is a truth we can’t side-step, and one we would all be wise to learn sooner rather than later: our need is the common denominator for all spiritual growth, because until we recognize our own lack we cannot begin to seek Something More. It’s what brings the sinner to the cross, seeking forgiveness. It’s what brings the believer to his knees every day, seeking the power to live as a new creature. Because both new birth and transformation depend on my realizing just how unable I am to achieve God’s goodness and follow His ways on my own.
The crazy-wonderful thing about it is that God loves to hear our cries for help. It’s Heaven’s turning the world’s perspectives upside-down again. We grow up physically and learn to be self-sufficient, equate maturity with independence. But our heavenly Father says dependence on Him is “sufficient for every need” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and child-like trust in His right to rule is “measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13) It’s what Adam and Eve didn’t grasp in their fruit-tasting experiment– refusing to admit their need for the Creator’s guidance and choosing to step out into their own understanding of The-Way-Things-Should-Be was not growth at all, but stunning failure. So we are learning in our spiritual growth to live as children again, under the authority of our heavenly Father… re-discovering innocence, faith, hope that wonderful things can happen in the world.
As we study the growth of the Spirit’s fruit in us, this “good work” He is doing, I see over and over again that my part is dependence and trust, being willing to be an empty clay pot and seeking More of Him to fill the need in myself. And I look around at this Family of brothers and sisters and wonder if it is not the mark of every passionate Christ-follower to be willing to live in a state of paradox: always hungry, and constantly filled, crying out in need, and constantly helped. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted….Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3-4, 6)
“Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest;
Without You I fall apart;
You’re the One that guides my heart.
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You…”
(Lord, I Need You, Matt Maher)
“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” (Psalm 127:1)