Day 25 – The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

Gideon was a mighty warrior—at least according to God (Judges 6). From his perspective, which he expressed while fearfully threshing wheat in the unlikely location of a wine press, Gideon’s family was the least in the tribe of Manasseh. He was also the youngest in his father’s house, and probably struggling with the “little brother syndrome” or something like that.

No Room to Boast

After working through considerable uncertainty—during which time the Lord was exceedingly gracious—Gideon set out with 32,000 men to confront a far-superior force. The Lord was not satisfied with the size of Gideon’s army, but not in the way that we might imagine. According to God, he had too many men! Before long, that number was whittled down to 300, and then the Lord smiled with satisfaction. What was God’s reasoning for creating this strange scenario?

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: ‘I did it myself.’” Judges 7:2 (HCSB)

The Lord was liberating an oppressed people, but he was doing it in a way that disarmed humanity’s natural tendencies toward self-glorification. The idea of 300 men defeating a vast multitude is so ludicrous that no one but God could get the credit. 

Human flesh boasts; that’s what it does. Always. The design of the gospel, and also of the Sabbath, is to remove the cause for human flesh to boast in itself.

Where our sufficiency ends, God’s grace begins. Do we not see that time and again in the Scriptures? Israelites in the wilderness, Elijah hiding from Ahab, Gideon’s army of 300. That no flesh may boast. If we understand this, we understand the very heart of the Christian faith. Boasting flesh is what created the pain-ridden mess that we call “the human condition.” There is no way that the Lord will allow human pride to be a part of His good plan.

I both love and hate writing books. I love the fruit that my books produce. But thinking back over all my works, I do not think that I completed even one without going through an intense season of brokenness. Usually, by the time I am finished, I feel as though I never want to write again. 

The more the potential for influence, the more the need for a broken and contrite heart.

The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

Why does the Lord allow me to go through these broken seasons? One of my biggest enemies in writing—and in all of life for that matter—is self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is a lie through and through. Just as no person can live entirely free of boundaries, so too, there is no such thing as self-sufficiency. We are all dependent upon others—and especially upon God—whether we want to admit it or not.

The myth of self-sufficiency is as deceptive as the serpent’s hiss in the garden. Peace—both internal and external—is one of the first casualties. The myth of self-sufficiency promises us freedom and significance, but instead exhausts us by setting standards and expectations to which we can never attain. Life becomes driven by a never-ending quest to prove ourselves. We must be seen in a good light. The world must know that we are worthy of recognition.

The Power of Weakness

It seems counter-intuitive at first glance, but weakness can enable us to be more effective and fruitful in our service to God. Not only does weakness drive a stake through the heart of self-sufficiency, it also compels us to depend heavily on the Lord. A whole new world is opened up in the process.

In referring to his own struggles, the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (HCSB)

I think that Paul’s approach to weakness might be even more amazing than the depth of his theology. Boasting in personal weakness is not something that people do. Leaders will boast in their great faith, or how strong they are in the Lord, or the scope of their ministry, or the lofty titles conferred upon them. But boasting of their weaknesses, not so much.

Weakness creates vulnerability, and vulnerability opens the door for judgment, ridicule, and exploitation. As children, we quickly learn that lesson on the playground. How incredible that Paul would have so lofty a vision that he would be willing to boast about what our human egos despise most!

Weaknesses and shortcomings help to thwart our self-boast. And sometimes, in His mercy, the Lord will allow our circumstances to be so rediculously difficult that we know beyond a shadow of doubt that the glory is all His. The door is then opened for us to abide in God’s grace.

Do you want peace in your heart? Stop trying to prove yourself—to yourself and to others. You are not sufficient, but the grace of God is. 

Self-sufficiency is a myth. Peace comes through admitting our need before God, and grace is where the power of true greatness lies!

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.