What does being radically dependent on God mean? Pastor Eugene looks at Luke's emphasis on Jesus' prayer life to reveal what radical dependence looks like.
I’m a creature of habit. At the nearby hawker centre, I often patronise the same familiar stalls during lunchtime. I pick predictability. I do my work in a similar way. Regular routines, schedules and rhythms help me to stay organised and to complete my tasks on time.
There is, however, a spiritual downside to my penchant for plans. Familiarity can breed complacency. When that happens, I slip into ‘auto-pilot mode’. I simply get on with what needs to be done, without much deliberate dependence on God. I wrongly assume that I can achieve ‘results’ merely through human effort and ability. But as the saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
In my ongoing struggle against self-sufficiency and self-reliance, prayer is a timely reminder that God is God and I am not. For what is prayer, but a coming to an end of myself and a humble cry to God for grace?
This is the reason why I am grateful for our theme this year: Radical Dependence. ‘Radical’ here refers to how we are fundamentally, thoroughly dependent on God. If we are to please God, then He must work in and through us. Without Him, we can do nothing. So then, I ask myself, does my life show more self-dependence or radical dependence?
We have been working our way through the Gospel of Luke in our sermons for over a month now. One of Luke’s distinctives is his emphasis on Jesus’ prayer life. For example, before Jesus chose the twelve disciples, He went out to a mountain to pray and continued in prayer all night. Luke also records unique parables related to prayer and its necessity in the life of a disciple of Christ. We are encouraged to pray, because God will hear the pleas of His people.
This focus on prayer is very much in line with one of the key themes of Luke: Jesus Christ comes to save ‘outsiders’ who humbly acknowledge their need before God. Jesus proclaims good news to the poor. Indeed, those who see their spiritual poverty will look beyond themselves for help and trust in a merciful Saviour. Otherwise, why would we turn to the Physician of Souls, if we think we are well?
Luke’s Gospel teaches us to be radically dependent on God, who empowers us by His Spirit. Even Jesus Himself lived and ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus began His public ministry, the Holy Spirit descended on Him (Lk 3:22). Then, being “full of the Spirit”, Jesus was “led by the Spirit” in the wilderness for forty days (Lk 4:1). Jesus afterwards “returned in the power of the Spirit” to Galilee (Lk 4:14). In the sequel to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus promises His disciples that they will “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). They will then be His witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
So what does radical dependence look like?
1. We live by faith in Jesus
Luke portrays Jesus as the Spirit-filled Messiah who comes to seek and save the lost. Let us shun self-sufficiency and embrace the all-sufficient Saviour!
2. We listen to God
A dependent disciple sits at Jesus’ feet and humbly submits to His word.
3. We talk to God
Prayer is an expression of our reliance on God. We humbly cast our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us. We draw near to God with confidence, and find grace and mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ.
God says through Zechariah the prophet: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” (Zech. 4:6) The call to radical dependence is an invitation for us to trust that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. We don’t have to present a false façade of strength. Instead, we can boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon us!
Do pray for God to powerfully work in and through us when we gather as a church this Sunday. Dry bones cannot live unless the breath of God blows in our midst. Therefore, let’s ask God to prepare hearts to receive His word. We will be hearing from Luke 4:1-13 about how Jesus was tempted in every way, and yet without sin.
Do also pray for the newcomers’ lunch, which will take place after service. I’m grateful for how God has been bringing new visitors to us. May we continue to be a welcoming community that displays Christ’s love to strangers!