Is there really any part of the Christian experience that doesn’t boil down to that simple word? Yet, I think it might be the area I lack in the most—that or true humility.
A question that gets asked a lot during job interviews is, “What do you think is the most important leadership quality?” I’ve heard and given a lot of answers to this question, but I think the theme of this piece might be the best answer. Dependence is not a sign of weakness. It is the true sign of maturity in Christ (not a heap of works).
Your personal abilities will only take you so far. Having a charismatic personality, musical ability, life experience, being a passionate person, great leadership qualities or having connections and knowledge will only go to a certain point. We as people have a limited effect on others. To really help people—to really change lives, to really see God miraculously work through us—we must be dependent upon His Spirit.
As I was praying for some of my friends a few months ago, I felt a quiet voice ask me a question: Do you want to reach these men through your persona or through My Spirit? And I realized, a true leader is led himself.
How do we live in dependence on God? How do we live a Spirit-filled life? Luke wrote with a major emphasis on the Holy Spirit: first in the life of Jesus as recorded in Luke and then in the life of His disciples in Acts when they received His Spirit. By disciples I mean anyone who had confessed with their mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead—it didn’t end in the 28th chapter.
Luke uses the term “filled with the Spirit” often, and it is often preceded by an individual’s encounter with God. Wherever we see “filled with the Spirit,” we read about a powerful move of God soon after. (For an in-depth study of this, read The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke by Roger Stronstad—it’s heavy but will quite possibly rock your world).
True dependency boils down to this: if we want to live a “spirit-filled life” we must encounter God every single day. It has to be our priority. If flailing our works about in order to relieve our spiritual anxiety causes burnout, then being filled with the Spirit prevents it.
When our focus shifts away from our efforts and toward hope based on trust in Him, we begin to find Him. After all, that’s all He’s really asking of us—that we have a relationship with Him. Ministry and the Spirit-filled life explode out of this.
There are a lot of arguments and claims concerning the true sign of a Spirit-filled life, but I am convinced that the evidence is a changed life changing lives. The Spirit brings change. His presence commands dependency. God as our source—it is so simple yet so profound at the same time (some of my favorite things have this trait in common).
It is time for a paradigm shift. We have this idea of a distant calling on our lives—a place, a job, a position, a ministry, a family and/or an event that God has called us to. It’s this specific thing that God has called us to that we are constantly working toward, making decisions based on, praying for and talking about. This stresses us out. The pursuit of it can send us into active drowning spiritual anxiety. It can even become an idol in our lives.
We have it backwards. That future goal, that future event is not our calling. That is not our purpose. As mentioned before, our purpose is relationship with God. First comes our daily encounter with God as our priority. Second is our overall gifting(s): as a teacher, apostle, encourager, prophet, evangelist, pastor, leader, etc. (Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-13).
And lastly are the specifics of that distant calling or ministry. Our first calling is all that matters—to experience Christ in our lives, to live every moment (those that we feel are spiritual and those that we see as ordinary) dependent upon being filled with the Spirit.
When this occurs, our relationship with Christ, our worth, is not defined by leadership titles, the number of Bible studies we lead, how many ministry teams we’re a part of or how many services we attend. Our works-centered paradigms are shattered. We realize that all we are striving to be, and all that we’re fighting to obtain is what we already are in Christ—forgiven, restored and empowered through our relationship with Him.
Whatever struggle you are going through, whatever your hurt is, whatever scars you carry or open wounds you still have, whatever self-destructive habits are tearing you apart inside and you think you will never be free from, whatever self-made prison of personal image and insecurity you find yourself trapped in, know this: That is not who you are. You are not your struggles. You are not your anxiety. You are not without hope.
The key to true freedom and healing is dependency on God. If you truly put God first—before ministry, before friends, before your test tomorrow, before whatever you’re a leader in—and prioritize (in the truest sense of the word) a real encounter with Him every day, you will be free. If you decide to drop everything until you are in balance with Him, you will experience the miraculous, Spirit-led relationship in Him that is the deepest, most fulfilling desire of your soul.
He will do the healing, but He is waiting for us to take this step toward Him—to quit flailing and start resting in Him. It is not our Christian credentials that define us or make us effective. It is our daily, prioritized relationship with God. This is not a suggestion. This is a necessity.
Read Shattering Paradigms: Part One here.