When we read the life stories of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul and the other apostles, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Amy Carmichael, Adoniram Judson, Jim Elliott and others, we are awed by the total commitment these people had to follow the Living God. What was it that caused them to love God more than their own life and impact their generation and the world in the process?
I believe there was a common denominator in each of their lives: a continuous work of the Lord, removing their dependencies and everything they looked at to sustain them, so that He could become all in all for them.
This wasn’t accomplished in one day, one year or even 10 years. Often, it took a lifetime. It was perhaps 50 years after Abraham first heard God’s call to follow Him that he stood on Mount Moriah ready to sacrifice his son. It took God all those many long years of continuously tearing away Abraham’s dependencies to bring him to the place where he was willing to lay down all his hopes and all his dreams—even the promises he had received regarding Isaac. He was now ready to kill his dear son with his own hands in order to choose God above all else. That day, Abraham passed the ultimate test of his entire life and God said to him: “Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12).
In Psalm 73:25, we see the prayer of a man who, like Abraham, had come to a point in his life where position, riches, accomplishments—even service for God—no longer held the place of supreme importance. Nothing else mattered other than God Himself. This man prayed, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.”
When God looks at each one of us, He desires to lead us to that exact same place. But it will not happen instantly. It will require perhaps years of continuous tearing away of our dependencies, just like Abraham experienced. Unfortunately, that’s where most of us fail and walk off, because we don’t have the patience for it. We want instant Christianity: today we come to Christ, and tomorrow we want to be holy, mature and able to teach others. Learning to walk with God; getting to know Him intimately; being tested, corrected, purified and refined and choosing obedience rather than our own will—these are all part of the journey to our Mount Moriah. Like Abraham, we will one day be asked to choose between our Isaac—whatever it is we love the most—and God Himself.
Even Jesus, the Son of God, “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). He did not come to earth as a grown man but rather was born as a baby. As He grew older, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). He had years of practicing obedience to the Father before He ultimately gave His life on the cross.
The very first thing God told Abraham in Genesis 12 was this: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). God was tearing him away from his environment and from his dependence on his family and relatives. He had to walk away from their protection, care, love, security, and material and emotional support, never to come back. It was a battle for Abraham to cut loose all these ties, but without this, he would have never come to Canaan.
Joseph was torn away from his family and had no one but God Himself to depend upon in the pagan nation of Egypt. God removed Moses from dependence upon his family as a small child and also later on in life when he had to leave the house of his adoptive mother, Pharaoh’s daughter. In Luke 14, Jesus tells us that unless we love Him more than our family, we cannot be His disciples. He wants us to depend on Him more than our family, relatives and friends.
Giving up Materialism
The second major tearing away in Abraham’s life had to do with his dependence on material things. Lot and Abraham were forced to choose separate portions of land due to the size of their herds. Lot chose all the good land, and Abraham let him get away with his greediness. He decided that rather than fight for his rights, he would trust the Lord to sustain him and his herds. Later, when Abraham could have increased his wealth after winning a major battle, he refused to go after material gain. He knew he could not serve the Living God and at the same time allow his heart to seek riches. God had blessed him, and that was enough.
Jesus said in Luke 14:33, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” The truth is, the more we give our heart to the things of the world, the faster we lose our interest and commitment to follow Jesus. We must continually declare war against the temptation to cling to material things.
Dying to Self
The third area God tore away from Abraham’s life was dependence on his own self. When God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, they both were still young enough that they perhaps had a chance to become parents. But years went by. When nothing happened, they came up with an emergency solution, which resulted in the birth of Ishmael. However, God didn’t agree with their strategy and refused to accept Ishmael as the one He would make His covenant with. God deliberately waited until Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 to fulfill His word. He wanted to make sure all hope in their own abilities was completely gone, and that they had no other choice than to depend on Him for a miracle.
Today God is seeking to deliver us from our self-sufficiency and possessiveness so that He can make our lives a blessing to many. As Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). As the Lord does His work in us, helping us to be more dependent on Him, may we recognize His purpose and welcome it with thankfulness, knowing that He’s working to form us into the image of His Son.
Comment below and share something the Lord has taken you through that has helped you become more dependent on Him.