By John Hintz
This past week at Sky Rose Ranch with our veterans was nothing short of amazing, and the “amazing” had nothing to do with anything done by man’s hands, rather watching God work in the lives of the men who attended the program. Something I’ve come to understand is this: no program or group of men is exactly the same, yet there is a commonly shared issue with the Warriors, and quiet literally, in my opinion, with all humans.
While sitting in our daily 6AM session leadership meeting, I was listening to the Team Leaders briefing the each other, the Program Manager, and the Program Facilitator, I was suddenly struck with a memory of my youth of my high school strength coach barking at me in disappointment saying, “John you are just strong enough to do it wrong.” Almost immediately it dawned on me that my former strength coach’s catch phrase really rings true as to how we approach our lives.
I recalled the poor form and brute force I was applying to perform certain lifts, how I often ignored my coach’s sage advice and how my pride caused me to ignore his guidance. Thoughts of “What does he know anyways?” and “Stop worrying so much, I’ve got this,” were my common responses to my coach’s desire to train me properly. In that same way, we were all observing that what these men were currently doing, what they had been trying for a lifetime: doing life on their own strength, was not working.
Our observations of the men were that some of them knew just enough scripture to be dangerous to themselves and others. Key scriptures that they had come to commit to memory as a means of navigating life but were largely taken out of their context. Or there were those who relied so much on their own strength, absent God, they were blind to the fact that this was the very reason they found themselves at the Legacy Program.
Now, to be clear, nothing I am writing is meant to point a finger at these participants, because God is clear that this is an area that all of us struggle in. When we have successes in our lives and we often do not attribute it to God, we are prone to think that these successes come from our own strength, ability, or knowledge. The danger is this: when we rely on our own strengths, ability, and knowledge we will eventually plateau or reach the maximum level of our ability. Another result of relying on our own brute strength is that we will eventually suffer injury. In that same vein of self-reliance, we think that we have no need for God and His grace and mercy provided through His Son Jesus Christ and His justifying and atoning work. We think our good works and abilities are enough.
God, in Proverbs 3 and through the pen of Solomon, warns us of this very dangerous thinking. The very first truth we are reminded of is to not forget the teaching and commands, and in doing so we will see God adding to the length of our days and our peace (verses 1 &2). As that chapter goes on, Solomon admonished his sons to
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6 ESV)
How many of us only trust God in certain areas? How often do we only trust Him when it comes to those spiritual issues and not in our everyday walks? How many of us fail to acknowledge Him in all our ways? How many of us rely on our own ability repeatedly until the injury comes, or we’ve peaked or plateaued, and only reach out to Him for that little extra help to get past the sticking point or healing from the injury incurred, and then return to our previous way of living? Even worse, we ignore the injury, in doing so exacerbating the damage, compiling injury on top of injury until we can no longer function in normal daily life.
Solomon goes on to write in Proverbs 3,
“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3: 7-8 ESV)
How dangerous and futile it is to rely on our own fallible, limited, and finite abilities? How many times has this thinking gotten even the most devout and theologically astute person in trouble? Relying on ourselves and our abilities to save us is nothing short of a pride-centered life. It is a frame of thinking and a manner of living that keeps us from growing in the strength and knowledge of our Creator, and even worse, it keeps others from even ever knowing Him and His saving grace. It is this dangerous thinking that somehow our own work and brute strength will save or allow us to weather the storms. Paul writes in his letter to the church at Ephesus our salvation is of God and His grace and, “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2: 9 ESV).
There are countless scriptures that urge us to rely on God. As a matter of fact, the entirety of His word urges us to rely on Him and not ourselves. This is the basis of our salvation – faith in Him and not ourselves.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8 ESV)
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