It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” – William Ernest Henley
I have always been prone to self-reliance. To me, such autonomy was the fourth virtue (right behind the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and love – from the letters of Saint Paul). I cherish my personal sovereignty (or independence, if you prefer). And, in some respects, I still struggle with the foolish idea that I am the lone master of my own fate.
I suppose my journey of discovery began when the 127th Psalm became entrenched in my mind. I pondered these words,
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Here are two verses that declare the pointlessness of self-reliance. As I studied more on the subject, I came to understand the vanity of believing that I could ever accomplish anything of eternal value without God’s help, empowerment and approval. Even imagining that I could was… well, arrogance.
Mankind in the hands of God
I truly believe in the absolute sovereignty of God over all our human endeavors. So, If God has the last word, why would we expect that anything attempted without Him would achieve lasting success?
Now, my detractors will say that there are many examples of those who attain much success and prosperity without ever once acknowledging God. They are of course correct. Many do achieve a measure of earthly success in spite of their godlessness. But from a Christian perspective, any success lacking God’s blessing is pointless. I like what Jesus said,
36”And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” – Mark 8:36 (NLT)
Remember the biblical story about the self-absorbed man with great wealth?
16“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17To himself he said, ‘What should I do? I don‘t have room for all my crops.‘ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I‘ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I‘ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I‘ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?‘ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” – Luke 12:16-21 (NLT)
You can amass a tremendous fortune in this life and be a very good and generous person. But die without God and you will be weighed in the balances and found wanting. That principal is taught in the Bible. Life is just empty existence and our hard work pointlessness without Him. Genuine success has its roots in God.
18”Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.” – Deuteronomy 8:18 (NLT)
Even if you have never recognized the authority of God in your life, He still may allow you to succeed and drink from the cup of human achievement. There is a reason for this: Divine kindness is intended to be the pathway that leads to Him.
4”Don‘t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can‘t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” – Romans 2:4 (NLT)
God thru the hands of Mankind
The absolute authority of God does not, however, eliminate human responsibility altogether. Christianity is lived out in a partnership with the Almighty. “We are laborers together with God.” – I Corinthians 3:9
God uses people as His tools. He accomplishes His purpose on planet earth through the labor of the redeemed. Recall what Jesus had to say about the source of both His power and our abilities as His messengers,
10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me? What I say to you, I do not say by My own power. The Father Who lives in Me does His work through Me. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me. Or else believe Me because of the things I do. 12 For sure, I tell you, whoever puts his trust in Me can do the things I am doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:10-12 (NLT)
It is our absolute trust in Jesus that empowers us to continue in His work and accomplish even greater things. This “ability” is put within us by His Spirit. We must not evade that duty.
Freedom and Rest in God
Understanding God’s sovereignty is also therapeutic. When we maintain a proper balance between the divine authority of God and our human accountability to God, worry will begin to evaporate. If God is in control, I am not! No more chains of oppressive anxiety.
Once again, Psalm 127:2,
2 “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
How‘s your diet? Eating the bread of fear and anxiety? Washing it down with the wine of cheerless drudgery? If God has the power to influence behavior and direct the course of human events, why would you find reasons to hold on to worry anyway?
The New Testament writer, Paul said,
6-7”Don‘t worry over anything whatsoever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (Phillips)
I admit, in the heat of life‘s battles and trials, it‘s easy to forget that God is in control. When that happens, we need to stop for a moment and ask ourselves a fundamental question, “What am I doing?” You just might be surprised to discover that you have taken on encumbrances that God never asked you to carry.
God has promised that we would find rest in Him.
28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (Phillips)
Jesus offers us liberty. We trade the burden of guilt, anxiety, fear, failures and regrets for the yoke of rest. That is the best part of being His Child. And remember, children don‘t worry! The very essence of salvation is learning to rest in His everlasting arms. Stop over analyzing every moment of your life.
“Oh, but you don‘t understand, what if I haven‘t done enough to please God. What if I‘m not good enough?”
You are correct. You haven‘t done enough. You‘re NOT good enough. You never will be. That‘s the point. His redemptive love doesn’t depend on how good we are or how much good we do. You are accepted by God just as you are because of what Jesus Christ has already done for you. The only relevant question you need to ask is this: “Have I truly put my absolute trust in Him alone for my reclamation?” If your answer is YES, He promises that you will now find rest for your soul.
Your move. He‘s calling. Why not answer?
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656