I worked at a daycare for several years during college, and each class has a cute name based on developmental skills common to that age group. While I’ve forgotten most of them over the years, I can still remember the two-year old group: “Do It Myself!” How true is that! Parents, I’m sure you remember that age, right? When your little ones started to learn how to do those basic life skills, like putting on pants or climbing into their seats? They got so excited that they could finally navigate this small section of life on their own that they just wanted to show you over and over and over. And if you tried to step in and assist, you got the beat down. “No, Daddy, I can do it myself!” At times it was hard to remember that this independent streak was a good thing and would go on to help make them strong, functioning adults who could contribute to society.
Do remember finally learning how to do something yourself? Do you remember the pride that came with finding victory in that task? Did you beam from ear to ear when you finally figured out how to button your shirt? Did you drive your parents crazy turning the light switches on and off when you were finally tall enough to reach them? In truth, this doesn’t stop with childhood. Think about it--how many people did you brag to when you figured out all of the iPhone hacks, huh? Pick one skill you remember mastering and share how it felt with your family. What do they remember about that “achievement” in your life?
Read Galatians 3:1-4 together. Depending on your translation, the wording in this passage can be a little tough to dig through. Here’s how The Message reads:
You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.
2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!
The Galatians were getting a bit of a talking to by Paul, weren’t they? You see, the believers at this church had started their journey with Jesus like everyone does. They had figured out that there was no way they could be reconnected with God by following the Law. Doing it by themselves, “working their heads off to please God” wasn’t working; it was just too hard to obey all of those rules all of the time. Like the rest of us, they needed Jesus’ forgiveness through His grace that He showed by dying for us on the cross.
Now one of the coolest things about life with Jesus is that it doesn’t stop after that forgiveness is given. He sends us the Holy Spirit to help us grow even closer to God through holiness. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us get over our selfish tendencies and become more giving, which is great, because we can have a lot more joy in our lives when we stop worrying about where our stuff is and if we have the biggest and the best around. The Holy Spirit also teaches us to be content and satisfied no matter what’s going on. Another great thing, because life’s a whole lot better when we’re not all frustrated and pouty every time life isn’t what we planned.
These are just two examples, but already I’m sure you can tell that we need heavenly help to grow like this! Unfortunately, the Galatians forgot. They went back to that independent nature and tried to learn these holy characteristics through the Law and their own will power. And, no surprise, it was blowing up in their faces! People just can’t do these things without the help of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. (If we could, the world would be a much better place, don’t you think?) Paul was writing to this church to help get them back on track. He reminded them that just like they couldn’t have started their journey without Jesus, they sure couldn’t finish it without Him either.
While our independent nature can be very valuable when we're growing up, it can mess us up in our relationship with God. We get so proud when we accomplish something on our own—tying shoes, mastering math facts, or changing a tire. We want that same feeling when it comes to learning to be like Jesus. We try to learn how to be unselfish. We try to practice contentment. We leave the house in the morning determined that today we will love everybody. And we fail. Every. Time. Because it’s just too hard to do on our own!
Paul and Jesus both want us to stop being so independent and learn how to be completely dependent on the Holy Spirit. We need to lean on him and ask him to help us do the things we learn about at church and when we read the Bible. When lunch rolls around and there's only one piece of pizza left, we need to ask the Holy Spirit help us not be selfish. When the one thing we really, really, really wanted isn't under the Christmas tree, we need to pray for that contentment. When the first person we see after leaving the house is the person who hates us most, we will absolutely need Holy Spirit help if we're going to even come close to being loving. As much as we may want to be like Jesus, we just CAN’T do it ourselves. We need help!
What are you trying to do for God in your own strength…and likely failing? In what area(s) are you turning to your heavenly Father and saying, “I can do it myself!” This is a great time to share with your family, because their prayers and encouragement, along with their accountability, can really help you ditch your independence and learn to look to the Holy Spirit for your success. End your time together by praying for each area of dependence.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your many gifts to us. You gave us Jesus so that we could know you, and you gave us your Holy Spirit so that we could grow to be like Jesus. Help us learn to depend, not on ourselves and our own gifts, but on you and your gifts. In Your Name we pray, Amen.
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