My Vietnamese friend, Pastor Sang, recently taught me the blessing of utter dependence upon God. For two weeks we traveled together to minister among Vietnamese tribal groups living in the central Highlands of Vietnam. The roads and trails leading to these villages are often impassable for anything but a four-wheel drive vehicle. For this reason Sang needs reliable transportation. During our travel together, his SUV developed a serious mechanical problem which we earnestly prayed about, however, it was only diagnosed upon our return to Ho Chi Minh City.
When Sang's mechanic informed him that the repair bill would be a staggering $1000, I fell into a state of despair for Sang. I knew that his ministry was completely without external support from any denomination, organization, or any particular group. It's what you would call a 100% faith-based ministry; he is utterly dependent. Sang explains it this way, "God is omnipotent and fully able to accomplish anything and everything he desires, whenever and wherever He chooses". Sang believes that he is merely a vessel waiting to be used whenever God chooses to do so. He is a servant waiting at the table of the Lord and he receives nothing until the Lord gives it to him.
Psalm 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, KJV
While I fell into despair over this crisis, Sang on the other hand was absolutely certain that it was not his job to worry. He said, "My job is to do and God's job is to provide so that I may do. God provides and I spend. I cannot spend what God does not provide”. Sang realizes and is comfortable with his utter dependence. To him, living by that kind of faith and that kind of dependence is the only kind he has ever known. Seven years of incarceration in Hong Kong as part of the ‘Vietnamese Boat People’ refugees prepared him to be utterly dependent upon God for everything. He understands something deep and penetrating about God's omnipotence that shapes his faith and confidence in God as he ministers.
The other day I was thinking about how different we are; Sang and I. As an American, who has never in a material sense, seen a day of complete and utter dependence upon God, I have learned something quite different from Sang. I have learned “where there is a will there is a way". If I want a new car I can go out this afternoon and buy it. I do not have to wait upon the Lord for the means to proceed. I have money and credit. If I want it, it must be God’s will. This of course is a self-deceptive curse. It is in fact, actually nothing less than the modern equivalent of Satan's lie:
Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: KJV
The heart of Satan’s lie is that we can somehow be independent of God and live. Satan says that God has given us free will (true) and we can exercise that with impunity (false) and we never have to check with Him about anything (also false); we can be independent of God and live. What a lie! Once learned, however, this erroneous lesson cripples us for the rest of our lives. Every decision becomes fraught with peril because it is so easy for American Christians to acquire anything they want with or without God's approval. If we have the money for it and want it then we often reason that God must approve. Our financial resources give rise to an arrogant self-sufficiency; we live as if we are independent from God.
Through Sang, I now see that dependence upon God is a huge blessing and thinking that you are independent from Him is just the opposite; it is a curse. By his example Pastor Sang has taught me one of the very first lessons of the Bible and that lesson is the incomparable blessing of utter dependence.