'Winning' by Depending on God

April 28th, 2011

For several months actor Charlie Sheen has been in the media spotlight. It all began when he was rushed to the hospital for abdominal pains and an apparent stomach hernia after an alleged night of partying. The next day he checked into a rehab facility, but quickly left to do his own rehab at home. Within a month CBS cancelled production of Sheen’s hit show, Two and a Half Men, after the star made several public rants. Among his many outrageous remarks, Sheen lashed out against recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and the people who participate in them. Sheen has said that he doesn’t need help, insisting that he is clean (after admitting to past drug and alcohol abuse) and just wants to work again.

While Sheen touts his own toughness, saying that he needs to rely only on himself, addiction experts offer a different perspective. Though recovery groups may not work for everyone, Michael Fingerhood, director of the Center for Chemical Dependence at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, in an interview for Discovery News reported that only about 5 to 10 percent of people are successful at breaking addictions on their own. Whether or not Charlie Sheen is or will be part of that percentage remains to be seen.

Losing Is Winning

Psychotherapy and many recovery programs depend on people’s recognition of their individual limitations. Admitting one’s need for help is often the first step toward successful life changes, regardless of the recovery program or therapist. But many Americans place high value on self-reliance and want to be able to say they can do everything on their own. Certainly self-reliance and working hard are good qualities, but relying solely on ourselves has never been part of the Christian path.

Recognizing God’s authority and depending on God is a precept dating back to the garden of Eden. Stories like the golden calf and the tower of Babel are testament to our human struggle to depend fully on God. But when people do rely on God, unbelievable things happen. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, Mary gave birth to our Savior, and the early apostles healed people and cast out demons. While none of those people were perfect, they all developed a close relationship with God that involved obedience, trust, and dependence.

Choosing Life

Youth are at a stage in life where they are becoming more and more independent. After years of relying on their parents for everything, teens aren’t usually interested in being dependent on anyone. But as youth face the inevitable challenges of adolescence, they may find comfort in having someone whom they can depend on—someone who will never let them down.

So what does it mean to depend on God? We depend on God through daily habits of prayer, devotional reading, listening patiently for God, and acts of service to God’s people. These spiritual practices keep us focused on God and God’s will. As we grow in our relationship with God, we will grow more aware of how God is always present with us through the Holy Spirit, offering us guidance, comfort, and support.

At the end of his life, Moses urged Israel to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19b) by loving God, following God’s commands, and staying close to God. Choosing life requires us to say, “I can’t do this all by myself” and “God, I depend on you.” Living the life God desires for us is not something we can do alone.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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