Have you ever attempted to do a job on your own, only to discover that it was more than you could handle? The following accident report describes in excruciating detail one fellow’s traumatic experience working solo:
“I am writing in response to your request that I explain in more detail what I meant by the cause of my accident, as I simply wrote ‘Trying to do the job alone.’
“I am a bricklayer by trade. At the end of my work on the roof of a six-story building, I had about 500 lbs. of bricks left over. Rather than ask someone to help me, I decided to lower the bricks in a barrel using a pulley. After loading the bricks into a barrel, I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to assure a slow descent of the 500 lbs. of brick.
“Now you will notice above on the accident report that I weigh 135 lbs. In my surprise of being jerked off the ground, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down, which explains the fractured skull and broken collarbone. I continued upward until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley.
“By this time I had gained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain. At about the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out, changing it’s weight to about 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight mentioned above.
“As you might imagine, I began a rather rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I again met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two broken ankles and the lacerations of my lower body. The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lesson my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks, and fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked.
“I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks, in pain, unable to stand and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my presence of mind, and I let go of the rope. The empty barrel weighed more than the rope, and it came down on me and broke both of my legs.
“I hope that I have furnished enough information about the accident, because, you see, I was trying to do the job alone.”
What a painful lesson! Doubtless, we’ll now be more careful around barrels of bricks!
The difficulty of working on your own not only relates to your employment, however, but also to the Christian life. As a disciple of the Lord Jesus, you are not to live for God on your own.
How can you avoid the tendency to live independently?
1. First, focus your attention on God’s resources for your life in Christ. Since you have been made spiritually one with Christ, you have His life in you. This is why the apostle Paul could reassure the Philippians, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
Why do we tend to shift our confidence to our own feeble abilities? Perhaps it is due to the “flesh” in us that has been programmed to live autonomously. We’re told: “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” The tendency of the self-life is to echo Frank Sinatra’s song–“I did it my way!”
As we renew our mind by God’s Word, the Holy Spirit redirects our focus to the sufficiency of God’s resources for us. We are to totally trust God in every area of our lives. Depend on Him for guidance: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Depend on Him for strength: “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Depend on Him for godly character and actions: [Christ declared] “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). There are so many Scriptures that affirm the wonderful truth of God’s provision for our lives.
2. Second, recognize your need for support. Not only are we to live in dependence on God, we also called to interdependence with our fellow believers. As Galatians 6:2 reminds us, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
But, does this interdependence reduce the importance of our complete dependence on God? No. Who are your fellow Christians? Scripture reveals a profound spiritual connection of fellow believers. We are organically related to one another as members of Christ’s body (Eph. 4:4). These spiritual connections are both “vertical” (with God) and horizontal (with one another).
You recall Christ’s rebuke of Saul of Tarsus when He stopped him in his tracks. Christ asked this persecutor of Christians, “Why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul’s hostility toward Christ’s people was actually toward Christ Himself. Why? Because believers are members of Christ’s body! Romans 12:3-5 counsels us to “think soberly … For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” This perspective is not exaggerated nor idealistic; it is realistic. Whether we grasp it or not, we are members of each other in the faith!
If you live in interdependence with fellow believers you are helped by Christ in and through them!
Later in Paul’s’ life, the sandal was on the other foot. As an apostle, the former persecutor became an object of persecution. Notice Paul’s perspective: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). When Paul suffered as an apostle, Christ Himself suffered!
A.B. Simpson described the role of interdependence in the abundant life:
“Sometimes our communion with God is cut off or interrupted because of something wrong with a brother, or some lack of unity in the body of Christ. We try to break through to the Lord, but we cannot because we are separated from some member of the Lord’s body, or because there is not the freedom of His love flowing through every part.
“Therefore, we must be right with all His children, and meet in the body of Christ in the sweetest, fullest fellowship if we would keep our perfect communion with Christ Himself. Sometimes we find that an altered attitude to one Christian will bring flood-tides of His fellowship. It seems impossible to have faith without love or to have Christ alone without full fellowship with all His dear saints.”
The passage on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians paints a picture of the necessity of interdependence among believers:
“… there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary … that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Cor. 12:20-22,25-26).
Since this is God’s design for us, why do we neglect interdependence? Could it be due to pride? We need to humble ourselves to accept assistance from a fellow Christias.
There is great potential in Christ-centered, grace-oriented fellowship. A missionary to China in the 1920’s witnessed the vitality of Chinese believers under the oppression of Communism:
“How would you like to sit through a meeting which began at 6 pm and ended at 5 am the next morning? Almost the whole of the meeting was taken up with testimonies, and comments by the chairman or pastor. No-one who testified was limited in time and no-one was bored. The congregation finishes these long, long services refreshed and full of enthusiasm.”
If you’re not “refreshed and full of enthusiasm,” maybe you’ve been trying to live independently. In Christ, there is a better way: dependence on the Holy Spirit and interdependence with fellow believers. You’re not alone, so depend upon God’s bountiful resources that are yours in Christ!
 Achieving True Success: How to Build Character as a Family (Int’l Association of Character Cities, 2000), p.46.
 A. B. Simpson, quoted in Closer Walk (Walk Thru the Bible/Zondervan, 1992), 191.
 D. Vaughan Rees, The Jesus Family in Communist China, (CLC, 1959), 100.
Copyright (c) 2001 by John Woodward. Revised October 2015. Permission is granted to reproduce Grace Notes for non-commercial purposes. Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (c) 1982 Thomas Nelson (unless indicated otherwise).
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