We are proud to be known for “the American Spirit of Independence.” That independent spirit is what made those original settlers leave everything behind and cross the ocean for a new start. It’s what made them rebel against England and start their own country. It’s what made them push westward across the whole continent. It helped capitalism defeat communism and made our armed forces invincible. It’s how we got to the moon before the Soviets. It’s the reason John Wayne is still an icon in American cinema—he played that independent American at least one hundred times and made us love it.
That spirit is also the reason we have a difficult time turning our lives over to God. It’s the reason our faith suffers when we can’t fix things ourselves. It’s the reason we despair when times are difficult, instead of exulting in the grace of God. But He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that power of Christ may rest upon me, 2 Cor 12:9. Weakness? We want nothing to do with it!
We must overcome the American spirit of independence if we ever hope to endure the trials of life. Everything we have, everything we boast about, can be lost in an instant. When that is all we have to live for and all we count on to make us feel worthwhile in this life, we really aren’t worth very much at all. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal, Matt 6:19-20. People who count on only themselves are the ones who jumped off bridges during the Great Depression. They relied on their own strength, ingenuity, and accomplishments, but something came along and showed them how frail those things really were.
We must overcome the American spirit of independence if we ever hope to achieve eternal life. We cannot save ourselves. There is nothing we can do that will ever make us worthy of salvation. We must give it all, and still we are not worthy. We must recognize our own helplessness and surrender it all to the only one who can possibly save us. We surrender our will to his law. We surrender our lives to his plan. We surrender our “American spirit of independence” and, instead, trust and rely only on Him. Relinquishing that control is more than some people can bear.
Perhaps the trick is to turn that spirit of independence into another source of strength. Am I strong enough to hand over the reins and trust someone else with my life and my soul? Am I strong enough to risk it all for the greatest pay-off there could be? Or am I weakling who can do nothing unless I can see the end right in front of my eyes?
If I cannot do that, I am really not very strong at all. And I have lost one of the greatest sources of strength there is: hope. For in hope were we saved; but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for that which he sees? But if we hope for that which we see not, then we with patience wait for it, Rom 8:24,25.
God expects His children to depend on Him and only Him. He expects their absolute trust in his good will toward them, and their willingness to accept His decisions, even when they don’t understand them. Our “spirit of independence” may have made us a strong country, but if we do not learn to overcome that cultural mindset and control it, we will never be anything but the weakest of Christians.
I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols [the things you rely on] deliver you! The wind will carry them off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain, Isa 57:12,13.