When we look in the Bible, we see the repeated theme that man cannot do anything on his own. Accept it: You can’t do it on your own. We see one example when Israel was defeated after they rebelled against the Lord and didn’t believe Him. When they were rebuked by Moses, they changed their mind and said they would go into the Promised Land. But the Lord was not with them. So they decided to go in on their own. You will likewise be in a world of hurt and always fail when you try to do it on your own. Overcome an area of sin on your own? Resolve an issue in a relationship or help someone you love that is struggling on your own steam? Good luck with that. Numbers 14:41-45 tells the story. “But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the LORD, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you. But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.” (emphasis added)
Are you trying to live the Christian life on your own? God is not your source? You are going to fail. What are the signs that we are relying on our own strength? We spend more time thinking, reasoning, strategizing than committing the concerns to Him. We spend more time striving and seeing little result than praying and believing. We find ourselves weary and frustrated rather than waiting and expecting. Jesus said in John 15:5, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” We can be like the 2-year-old child that thinks he can tie his shoes and doesn’t need help. Frustration ensues until he finally comes to the point of accepting the fact that he can’t do it on his own.
We get this in salvation. We understand that it is all God’s work to save us. That there is nothing that we can do, but it was done for us. We have it clearly in our minds in salvation, but we can find ourselves as Christians frustrated in our failed spiritual lives because we think it now all depends on us. We don’t realize that the principle is the same in sanctification: we in ourselves can’t be holy. God through His Spirit is the One who enables us to be what we can’t be. When we accept and embrace the reality that we can’t do it, we can begin to see what God will do in our lives.
The best place we can be as Christians is to realize that we can’t live the Christian life on our own but only God can give us the victory. We see a great example in David in 1 Samuel 17. David had it clearly in his mind that it was not his effort and ability that won the victory. It was the Lord. 1 Samuel 17:37, 45-47 gives us the standard of dependence. “And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.’” Zechariah gives us the same reminder in Zechariah 4:6: “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.’” It is not our work, our ability that gets us there, but the Lord.
Somehow we focus on our own strength as Christians. This is why Paul used the law to demolish our vain hope in ourselves in Romans 7. After all the frustration he expresses in this chapter, he comes to declare that God will give him the victory. Romans 7:24-25: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He sees his utter inability to live for Christ but great hope in what Christ can do through the Spirit!
As Christians, it doesn’t mean that we are totally passive, but we realize that He is the Deliverer. Paul doesn’t suggest that we should “let go and let God.” There is the part that we have to obey and not let sin reign and present ourselves to God instead of to sin. But the focus and hope are not on us but in the Lord. He is the Deliverer. The armies marched around Jericho in obedience, but God pulled the walls down. David slung the slingshot, but it was the Lord who gave the victory. That’s the place of power. Of seeing that ultimately it is not in ourselves, but He is the One who delivers us. The more clearly we see that we can’t, the more we will look to Him who can deliver us. This should help us to see our “glorious inability” as we wait for God to do what only He can. How do we apply this? The key is not to focus primarily on what you are to do but rather to set your eyes on Him and wait!