I am Strong, I need Nothing!
By Pastor Pat Badstibner
Stood there boldly
Sweatin’ in the sun
Felt like a million
Felt like number one
The height of summer
I’d never felt that strong
Like a rock
I was eighteen
Didn’t have a care
Working for peanuts
Not a dime to spare
But I was lean and
Like a rock
My hands were steady
My eyes were clear and bright
My walk had purpose
My steps were quick and light
And I held firmly
To what I felt was right
Like a rock
Like a rock, I was strong as I could be
Like a rock, nothin’ ever got to me
Like a rock, I was something to see
Like a rock
At one time this was my motto, fiercely independent, strong as an ox and thick headed as one too. Because I had never had anyone I could depend on, it forced me to be so. Even now this is a problem as most would describe me as a “Get Er Done” kinda of guy.
Yet, there is a problem with this type of mentality. It is the problem that the Rich Young Kid Who Couldn’t Do It suffered from. It is also why Christ said that it is easier for a camel to get into heaven than a rich man. All of us suffer from it and all of us must constantly deal with the attitude of self-sufficiency.
Our self-sufficiency always has a negative aspect to it as it keeps us from experiencing the power of God in our lives. It keeps us from living in the grace that God offers new each day. As we insist that there is indeed something we can do, must do, should do to balance, maintain, keep, keep from abusing or misusing grace. Thus depending on us and not God.
This is the story we find in Revelation 3 when we encounter the church of Laodicea in verses 14-19. Often verse 16 is taught as though God would either have you be hot(Maxed out for Christ) or cold(carnal or unsaved), but because you’re not and you’re lukewarm you taste like throw up in my mouth says God. Yet, in presenting it this way we often miss out on understanding some deeper truths.
To get a better understanding of the message there are some important facts that we need to understand.
1) Laodicea was situated southeast of Philadelphia in the Lycus River valley. The city was not far from Colosse.
2) It was destroyed by an earthquake, A.D. 62, and rebuilt by its wealthy citizens without the help of the state [TACITUS, Annals, 14.27].
3) It is part of a cluster of churches that compassed Colosse and Hierapolis as mentioned by Paul in Colossians 4:13-16.
4) They exchanged communication with both Paul and John. As Paul asks for the letter
With this knowledge we know the following things now.
1) Where Laodicea is located, which is key as we will look at in a minute.
2) That it is comprised of wealthy church members
3) That it is a church of believers, the same letter written to the church of Colosse was to be given to the church of Laodicea. Paul had already written a letter to this church and they had written at least one back.
4) While there is a problem with the church of Laodicea unbelief may not be the only issue that this church is dealing with.
5) This is not a message on how we lose our salvation. For such message is biblically incorrect.
Finegan said this about verse 16 “a play on words, contrasting what may have been the tepid water of the aqueduct at Laodicea with the possibly fresher and colder water at Colossae and with the very hot water of the cascades at Hierapolis” (Finegan 1981:182). Remember that cold and hot springs both serve purposes just as hot and cold water or drinks do, but lukewarm (YIKES!). Makes most of us want to spit it out, guess we are not alone as God echoes this sentiment.
One thing we can be assured of, God is not encouraging a live as you please lifestyle, nor is this a message on enthusiasm or zeal as having some, even lukewarm is better than having none. No there is a different message here and it is found in the words of the angel as he echoes the heart of the church. “ I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.”
WOW! Has there ever been a more damaging indictment or clarifying statement of self-dependence, self-sufficiency or independence. It was this independence, their self-sufficiency that was making them lukewarm, of no value,
This is echoed in the passage when inspite of how strong they think they are, how successful they think they are, no matter what they think they are doing, no matter how they think they are living, no matter how well they are performing, no matter how much they seem to have it together they are indeed lacking. They are not just lacking, they are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
Imagine they think they are doing great and God goes nope you’re to be pitied. You think you’re rich but you’re poor. You cannot see that you’re missing it, someone should have told you. Where are your clothes, you’re naked. Because they cannot see these things they are wretched.
Ever rub next to someone who is so stubborn, so self-sufficient, so independent, that you actually pity them. They cannot see that in their fierce self-sufficiency, attitude of needing no one that they have become weak.
It is blinding them and it has become uncomfortable to be around them. They are as a result usually of very little use to anyone else. Here we have a whole church full of them.
So what’s the cure? Is the cure to tell them to be more grateful, to tell them to trust God not their riches, to remind them to be more obedient. NOT HERE! They are pointed back to the gospel of grace. This is what is meant when it says “so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”
No they are told they need the white garments of Christ’s righteousness, So that God sees not their sin and nakedness but the righteousness of Christ purchased through the fire of the sacrificed lambs perfect obedience, which is real gold. To do so they must be willing to stop trusting in their wealth, their life, their independence, their abilities and be willing to become nobodies, dependent and willing to let go of their self-sufficiency in order to become sufficient and rich in the grace God offered.
This is indeed a hefty purchase valued deeply by the high price of Gold. It was for them and it is for us to let go of our self-sufficiency, our dependence on what we can do, not what God does and wants to do. Remember every local body of believers is made up of individuals. So while this is written to the church as a whole, it is those making up the church who are struggling with this issue.
So the issue to curing the church as a whole is for each individual to examine themselves first. So it with us as we must examine ourselves moment by moment as our inclination to become self-reliant, sufficient and independent is often greater than the need we feel to become dependent completely on what God has done, when we could not.
The more we understand and consistently remind ourselves of the wealth of the gospel of grace the more it makes us aware of our depravity, how undeserving we were and are of God’s love, the precious price paid for that depravity and the hope we have been given now. The more this truth becomes evident in our lives, the less independence we cling to and the greater our thirst and hunger becomes for that grace, those white garments to hide our nakedness and sin.
A gospel that does not make one yearn to become dependent, letting go of all self-sufficiency, that does not remind oneself that grace is indeed indiscriminate unfaltering acceptance of the one who once was condemned, but now is free to live in total freedom. A freedom that while allowing for failure, rejection, loss, suffering, no expectations, compels one out of a grateful heart to freely offer back that freedom to the one who gave all as one comes to believe;
“I don’t have to do it because Christ said “It Is Finished””
is not good new news but further old news.
Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)