We know that some forms of dependence are unhealthy. If we teach our children properly we expect them to mature to adulthood, becoming independent. They leave us and become one flesh with their spouse, forming their own family. While they of course continue to honor us as their parents, they however work with their own hands and provide for their own needs. Grown children who continue to depend on their parents for their physical needs are clearly unhealthy.
Mental health professionals have a term called codependency “in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition” according to Wikipedia. Unhealthy excessive dependence or addiction to prescription medication is now commonplace in some western countries. Is it possible that many Christians are dependent upon God in an unhealthy and unscriptural way?
Our first impulse would be to say “of course not.” We are taught to trust the Lord in all things, whether on earth or in heaven. Above all else, we are to depend upon God. We are in agreement with this. So how then can we have an “unhealthy” dependence on God?
Relationship between parents & grown children
Well, let’s take another look at the relationship between parents and their grown children. Godly parents want their children to become like them, and even to do better than them if possible. In the same way, Jesus wants us to be filled with his Spirit and to walk in holiness as he did as we mature:
2 Corinthians 13:11 Aim for perfection…
1 Peter 1:15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…
He also wants us to do the works that he did—and even greater works:
John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
We are only scratching the surface
But hardly do we hear teaching about actually becoming holy in our daily lives as the Lord is holy. Far more common is teaching on God’s unlimited grace and mercy on us sinners. The only way we hopeless sinners can achieve perfection is by physical death after which we will find ourselves suddenly perfected in the Lord’s presence. We only hear about trusting the Lord to lead us not into temptation, and to forgive us when we do fall. Rarely are we taught actually how to walk in obedient holiness before the Lord. After all, obedience smacks of works, and we all know that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. Therefore in popular theology obedience is a “dirty” word. After all, it’s all about grace, isn’t it?
Even more rare than practical holiness is teaching about actually doing the works that Jesus did—healing the sick and casting out demons as he preached the kingdom of God to the lost. Instead we are only taught to trust the Lord to heal the sick and to deliver the demon-oppressed as we pray to him and wait on him to perform miracles.
Yes, of course we begin by trusting the Lord. But this only scratches the surface.
“When I was a child…”
When our children are little, we of course do everything for them. We change their diapers, we cook for them, we clean for them, we provide for them and do everything for them since they are helpless. But we will be sure that they will learn to do these things for themselves as they grow up. Moreover we teach them so that as adults they will be God-fearing and law-abiding citizens. They will no longer need to depend upon us to help them obey the Lord. Rather, the Lord himself now lives in them.
To a good extent the same is true with the relationship between God and his people. When we were helpless infants he fed us milk and did everything for us. But as we grow in him, he teaches us how to exercise authority over our flesh by his Spirit and thus to walk in holiness.
Romans 8:13 …if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
We no longer simply “trust the Lord” to keep us from sinning and leave it at that. Rather we have learned with authority “to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” We become like the Lord himself by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. That should be the end result of truly “trusting the Lord” in a scriptural way.
Authority over disease and demons
Similarly, the Lord has given his disciples a measure of authority over disease and demons, especially to be used in proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost.
Luke 9:1-2 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
But Christians are almost never taught to heal the sick as Jesus did. In some evangelical circles it is deemed heretical. Instead all we do is to pray to God for the sick, asking him and trusting to him perform the miracle while we simply wait on him.
How would we feel if our fully grown children sit around the house and wait for us to do everything for them as we did when they were infants? Would we acquiesce to their requests and thus reinforce their behavior? Of course not. No wonder we see such few miracles when we trust God and ask Him to heal the sick, but we ourselves do not lift a finger to heal the sick as Jesus commanded.
Many of us are still spiritual infants
In the important areas of authority over the works of our flesh and over disease and demons, most Christians are still spiritual infants even after having gone to church for years and years. The reason is because in these areas they have been given only milk to drink. We have not been taught that in the areas of our lives where the Lord has entrusted authority to us, we are to take responsibility and get the job done by the power of the Spirit in us. We do not simply “leave it up to God” and sit around helplessly. No. Rather, we take active authority over the works of our flesh and say “no” to it; we take authority over diseases and demons, rebuking them harshly and commanding healing in Jesus’ name—especially when sharing the gospel with the lost.
Luke 10:1, 9 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. …Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
If we truly “trust the Lord”, we will learn to obey his commands—especially in the areas of holy living and sharing the gospel with power. We will become like Jesus in holiness and in power, in word and in deed. It pleases the Lord when we abound in the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives—love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—as well as minister to others in the power of the Spirit to produce good fruit for the kingdom of God.