They are in every church. They may be pastors or laypeople, deacons or committee members. They may sing in the choir or teach Sunday School, but they are there nonetheless. They are the ones who think that the kingdom of God cannot move forward without them. They believe that the blessings of God are upon the church because of their presence and that without them God will remove His hand from that place.
It is a dangerous road we walk when we start thinking that God has blessed us because of how good we are. In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon states that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Prov. 16:18-19). All that we have is a gift from God. Although we are called to obedience, we cannot do enough to merit God’s favor. All that we have and all that we are is exclusively due to the grace of God and His love for us.
In Deuteronomy chapter 9, we see that Moses continues his warnings to the people—in this case, cautioning them about trusting in their own goodness and abilities to carry the day. Moses tells them that they will cross over the Jordan River and face enemies unlike any they had ever seen, mighty warriors whose reputation preceded them (Deut. 9:2). Victory would be granted the Israelites, but not through their own might or righteousness: “Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to posess this land’, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Know then, it is not because of you righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:4-6).
Talk about bursting your bubble.
Moses made it very plain to the people this one simple lesson: God doesn’t need you, but you need God. This came as a surprise to some, and undoubtedly they were angered, at least at first, by what they heard. This is our reaction many times: we are confronted in our sinfulness by God and called to repent, and yet we think: “Who is this to presume to tell me what to do?” My friend, when the one speaking is God in His holy Word, He has every right to tell us what to do.
But there is a powerful truth we can overlook if we aren’t careful: God may not need us, but He wants us. His desire is for us to be obedient, so much so that He gives us the grace and strength we need to be obedient. All we have to do is claim that strength and carry out what He calls us to do (Phil. 4:13). It is amazing, almost beyond comprehension, that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). When we are faced with the amazing grace and love of God, we understand that we have nothing to be braggarts about: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The only thing that we can brag about is how awesome our God is and how wonderful the salvation is that He provides to sinners. Pride in ourselves provides trouble; faith in God provides triumph.