A few months ago, my wife and I were having a discussion with a friend of ours. Over the course of the conversation, it was obvious to Yvonne and I that we saw things differently than our friend saw them. Yvonne and I were calling our friend to a life of desperation. Our friend was content with life as it was. Throughout the course of the conversation, I remember saying, "You aren't desperate. You aren't desperate. You have this danger in front of you, but you don't really care. Instead you want your pleasures. You need to be desperate."
Well, that night, Yvonne and I were in the process of going to bed. She said to me, "You kept telling our friend, 'You aren't desperate.' Well, I don't think that you are too desperate either. Look at your weight. Look at what you eat. You want your pleasures. You aren't desperate."
She was right. Who was I to point the finger, when there are many things in my own life, where I'm not being desperate myself? These conversations have caused me to think a bit about the whole idea of being desperate.
Before we dig into the Psalms of Ascent next Sunday morning, I want to spend this morning thinking about a desperate and dependent life. My message this morning is entitled, "Desperation and Dependence." These two words really encompass all of the Christian life. When you come to God, you must come with desperation. When you walk with God, you must walk with dependence.
My burden for all of us is that we live lives of desperation before the Lord. My burden for all of us is that we live lives of dependence upon the Lord.
Unlike the vast majority of my messages, I don't have any specific text that we will look at. Instead, we will look at a bunch of them.
Here's my first question for
1. Are You Desperate?
Let's begin in the book of Luke. Let's look at chapter 18. Here we find Jesus telling a parable to those who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous (Luke 18:9). In terms of my message this morning, we might say that they displayed no desperation in their coming to God. Rather, they came with an arrogance of self-dependence.
Jesus seeks to put things in perspective. He says in verse 10, ...
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
I trust that you see the difference between these two men. The first came, trusting in his own righteousness. He believed that God was pleased with him because he was so good and so devoted to Him. But, the second came, knowing that he could do nothing. That's why he was beating his breast. He was in anguish over his sin. He knew that he needed God's mercy. And so, in desperation, he cried out, "God be merciful to me, the sinner!" (verse 13).
Let's look down at verse 18. Here we see the story of the rich young ruler. Like the Pharisee in the parable that Jesus told, he comes to Jesus, thinking that he has what it takes to earn eternal life.
A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
Right there from the start, you see this man's error. He thinks that he can do something to eternal life. He simply didn't know what he needed to do. And this is why he came to Jesus.
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth."
Again, you see his arrogance. You see his self-sufficiency. You see how he believed he was worthy in God's sight. He was a commandment-keeper. But, Jesus stretches him to the end of himself.
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
This man never came to a point of desperation. Instead of forsaking everything in this life to gain eternal life, he held on tightly to his possessions. Jesus knew how hard it was for him.
And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Such is the call of the kingdom. It is hard for those who are rich to enter. Riches in this world are like an anchor that holds us down to this world. God requires that we let go of them.
I'm picturing in my mind a scene from a movie. I've not seen this movie; you've not seen the movie -- because I'm making it up. A man was in his boat, but it got caught in a big storm. And it sprung a leak. Fortunately, the coast-guard got wind of the stranded ship in the ocean, and they sent a helicopter to rescue the man on board.
Now, the helicopter is overhead. The man is on the hull of the boat with a suitcase in his hand. The suitcase is full of gold! The rescue line is dropped. The man grabs hold of the line, but the suitcase is too heavy for him to hold on.
And so, the man has a choice to make. He can drop the gold into the ocean and grab the line and be rescued. Or, he can hang onto the gold and drown in the ocean.
The man needs to be desperate to save his life at this moment. He needs to give up his gold.
But, the rich man who encountered Jesus Christ was not willing to give up his gold. Rather, he chose to perish with his gold.
It is hard "for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" (verse 24). In order to do so, they need to be desperate. They need to forsake their riches and follow hard after the Lord.
Isn't this what Jesus spoke about in the kingdom parables?
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
To sell everything that you have is a desperate measure! It's only possible with God. Look again at Luke 18, ...
They who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But He said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."
God is the one who makes us desperate people. God is the one who causes us to see that the treasure is worth it all. God is the one who causes us to see that the pearl is worth it all. When you come to God, you must come with desperation.
Look at another example in Verse 35, ...
As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
You have to picture the scene. Jesus is with a big crowd of people. They were approaching the city. And there was this blind man, who everybody knew. He always sat at the entrance of the city. He finds out that Jesus is passing by, and so, he cries out loud enough to be heard over the crowd, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And then, when everyone is telling him to be quiet -- "Shhhhhhhh" -- he continued, "all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'"
Now, I say to you, what would cause someone like this to cry out so loudly, even when all around you are telling you to be quiet? Desperation. I know that when people are sick, they do some desperate things at times. People will go on some exotic diets to heal their cancer. People will travel to foreign lands to have experimental surgery that hasn't yet be approved by the FDA in our country. I have known of people who have turned to the occult to be cured of their disease.
We have a family friend who was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), which is the same disease that Walter Payton died of. She was sick for years, until she finally received a liver transplant a few years ago. Anyway, during those years of sickness, here key food was some sort of a green like substance, which smelled like seaweed. She would take it and mix it with water and drink it.
I remember one time having an opportunity to taste it. I would barely have a teaspoon full of the stuff without gagging. And yet, for her, it was a matter of life and death. And so, she drank it regularly. She was desperate. And so she drank. To her, it was the taste of life!
This blind man was desperate, and so, he cried, out, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And this is the sort of cry that God loves to hear.
And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.
This is how you come to Jesus. You come in faith, knowing that you have no other hope. When you come to God, you must come with desperation.
This is how people came to Jesus. They came totally desperate. Turn to Mark, chapter 1.
Here we find Jesus near the beginning of His ministry. He has called a few of His disciples. He has begun to preach and teach the people. We pick up the story in verse 40, ...
And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean."
Notice this man's desperation. First of all, he comes to Jesus. Lepers in those days were banned to the outer portions of the city. They were not permitted to mingle with people, lest they spread their ugly disease. You only transgress social customs when you are desperate.
Second, he comes up to Jesus, "beseeching Him." The ESV says, "imploring Him." The NIV says, "he begged Him." You only beg when you are desperate.
Third, he comes to Jesus upon his knees. This is the posture of a desperate man. In verse 41, we see that Jesus cleansed him.
Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and *said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
We see some more desperate people at the beginning of chapter 2.
When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they *came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.
What drives anybody to do this? To carry a grown man up to the roof? To start digging a hole in the roof? To figure out a way to let him down, so that he would be right in front of Jesus? It's desperation. It's desperation, driven by faith.
And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
These men felt that they had to see Jesus. And when they saw that the house was packed, they found a way to get in. They dug through the roof -- anything to get to Jesus!
These events are great pictures for us of what it means to come to Christ. We need to come boldly. We need to come with urgency. We cannot rest until we see Jesus.
Another example of this same thing occurs in Matthew, in the 9th chapter. Turn there; we will pick it up in verse 18, ...
While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live."
That's desperation. You can feel for the father; you really can. It's difficult to lose a child. In Mark's account, we read that the child was twelve years old (Mark 5:42). To come to Jesus and ask Him to raise her from the dead is truly a desperate act. And yet, that's what Jesus loves to see.
Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.
When you come to God, you must come with desperation. Along the way, we see a desperate woman.
And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well."
For 12 years, this woman had a bleeding problem. Luke tells us that nobody was able to heal her. And yet, desperate that, she turned to one last hope: Jesus. She believed that Jesus could heal her. And so, she made her way through the crowd and touched just the fringe of his garment. And Jesus commends her faith:
But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well.
Jesus also raised the girl from the dead.
When Jesus came into the official's house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, He said, "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. This news spread throughout all that land.
Over and over and over throughout the gospels, you see the same pattern. People have some great need in their lives. They are desperate to obtain any kind of help that they can. They come to Jesus, and He exceeds their expectations. He heals them of their diseases. He makes them whole.
And the same is true for anyone who comes to Christ. At some point, we need to come to the end of ourselves. We need to feel the weight of our sin upon our shoulder. We need to come to the point where we realize that we simply can't do it on our own. In desperation, we need to cry out to Jesus. Seek His forgiveness. Call upon His grace. Plead His mercy.
And you know what? Jesus loves to answer such cries. All of the healing miracles in the New Testament demonstrate this. We could go to the Old Testament as well.
Turn back to 2 Chronicles 33. Here we encounter the story of Manasseh, the most wicked of any king of Israel. For 55 years, he led the nation of Israel into all sorts of evil. He built the high places for pagan worship that his father, Hezekiah, had broken down (2 Ch 33:3). He built altars for the Baals and for the Asherim -- pagan deities -- and encouraged the people to worship the idols (2 Ch. 33:3). He sacrificed His sons as a religious offering to the gods (2 Ch. 33:6). He was engaged in witchcraft and used divination (2 Ch. 33:6).
Let's pick up the story in verse 10.
2 Chronicles 33:10-13
The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
Manasseh was a man filled with wickedness, worse than any king of Judah. He was paying for His wickedness. The Lord brought the Assyrian army to take him away with hooks in his mouth. But, there in Babylon, in the depths of his sin, Manasseh was repentant. He humbled himself. He cried out to the Lord. And God restored the kingdom to Him.
You simply need to read the rest of the chapter and you will see that he brought forth fruits of his repentance. He was a changed man. But, it took a prison in Babylon to bring about the change. It took him to the brink of despair.
What about you? Are You Desperate? Have you reached this point of desperation yourself?
I love the story that William Farley tells of his daughter in his book, "Gospel Powered Parenting".
There I was, lying in bed, wide awake, my eyes searching the dark bedroom ceiling for any sign of hope.
"Are you awake?" I asked my wife Judy.
"I can't sleep."
"Is something on your mind?" I didn't need to ask. I knew the answer. Our daughter was on a date with a friend we did not approve of. It was after midnight. In addition, since this relationship began she had been distant, obstinate, and uncooperative. Things were not well.
"I'm worried sick," my wife whispered. "I can't sleep."
I reflected on the battles of recent weeks. My once-compliant daughter had become difficult. Most distressingly, she showed little interest in Christ or spiritual things. The influence of her new friend was not good. I reflected on the title of James Dobson's book Parenting Isn't for Cowards. I was a coward. I needed courage. I needed hope. I had little.
"Where is she?" my wife asked. "What are they doing? She has been so different lately. I'm worried sick." Anxiety, stress, and fear dripped from her words.
I had not helped the situation. Exasperated by my daughter's sullen rebellion, I had even flirted with the idea of spanking her. My wife's commonsense appeal brought me back to reality. It was a dark time. We were discouraged and at the end of our resources. Maybe you have felt the same way.
God used this dark period in our parenting experience to deeply humble us, and we are grateful. For twenty years our parenting had been easy. We had what most would consider a model family. Sadly, we had begun to take pride in our parenting. We had begun to look down on friends with troubled teens. God's word is clear: "Pride goes before destruction" (Proverbs 16:18); "God opposes the proud" (James 4:6, quoting Prov. 3:34). We were proud. The time for humbling had come. God opposed us through our daughter's problems and brought us to our knees. We spent much time in prayer and confession. Looking back, we realize that it was a wonderful turning point.
Thankfully, our daughter also reached a turning point through this process. In a filthy Calcutta hotel (yes, India), sick with the flu and desperately homesick, this beautiful young woman finally called out to Christ. A year later God brought her a wonderful, godly husband. At this writing, they have three attractive children, and actively serve our local church. She has become a glorious gift to the church, to her husband, to her children, and to our wider family. 
God has a way of bringing us all to a point of desperation, wanting us to come to an end of ourselves. Sometimes this will mean a trip to an Assyrian prison. Sometimes this will mean a trip to India. Sometimes this will happen right in your own home.
Perhaps you have reached that point in your life when you have cried out to Him. We still need to live a life of dependence. When you come to God, you must come with desperation. When you walk with God, you must walk with dependence.
Here's my second question this
2. Are You Dependent?
This question is really the same as the first question, "Are You Desperate?" The difference is that desperation often comes out of some sort of crisis, but dependence is the regular sort of way that God calls us to live. He calls us to live lives of dependence upon Him. For everything.
When you think about it, we are dependent upon the Lord for everything. Paul said in Acts 17:28, "In Him we live and move and have our being." You are dependent upon the Lord for every beat of your heart. You are dependent upon the Lord for every breath you take.
Job 34:14-15 says, "If He should determine to do so, If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, All flesh would perish together, And man would return to dust." You are dependent upon the Lord for protection from accidents.
Psalm 91 reminds us, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone" (Ps 91:11-12). You are dependent upon the Lord to be protected from all sorts of harm. When acts of terror strike our country, it is only God's grace that keeps you out of harm's way. When acts of terror don't happen more often, it is only God's common grace that keeps it so.
You are dependent upon the Lord for protection from disease. God brought the plagues to Egypt. Jesus removed the diseased from Israel.
Spiritually, it is the same thing. You are dependent upon the Lord for every aspect of your salvation. Grace is given freely. He dispenses His mercy. He sends forth His love. God grants faith. God grants repentance.
He is the only one who extends forgiveness. He is the only one who can take away His wrath. And when it comes to our lives, God gives His Holy Spirit to help us and comfort us and guide us. So, let us live in complete dependence upon the Lord.
When you come to God, you must come with desperation. When you walk with God, you must walk with dependence.
Turn over to James, chapter 4. In this chapter, James teaches us of how our daily dependence upon the Lord ought to be.
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
"If the Lord wills" ought to be our mantra. We ought to put everything that we do under the banner of "If the Lord wills." And we ought not merely to say it, but we ought to believe it.
I will arise and worship this morning, if the Lord wills.
I will go to my afternoon activities, if the Lord wills.
I will go to work on Monday, if the Lord wills.
I will take my children to school on Tuesday, if the Lord wills.
I will attend my child's soccer game on Wednesday, if the Lord wills.
I will stay home and spend time with my children on Thursday, if the Lord wills.
I will attend my small group on Friday, if the Lord wills.
I will work in my lawn on Saturday, if the Lord wills.
God calls us to live every moment of every day in complete dependence upon Him. Is not this what Proverbs 3:5-6 calls us to do? There are some Proverbs that are only a verse long, and in the very next verse takes up a completely different thought. Not so in Proverbs 3. Here we see a sustained thought. The chapter flows from beginning to end with counsel to us.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
This is a call to trust in the Lord in all times for all things with all of our being. A call for us to be trusting in the Lord with all of our heart and trusting in the Lord with all of our thinking. A call for us to give honor completely to the Lord. If God's Word says it, we believe it. We rely upon it. We don't trust our own perceptions.
The promise comes in the last phrase, "And He will make your paths straight." That is, your ways will be steady, firm, and established.
When God has given us His revelation, He has given it with our best in mind. His counsel is always good for us!
We see His blessing coming in the next few verses.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.
In other words, submit your ways to the Lord, walking in His wisdom. And it will be well with you. Look at the next two verses, ...
Honor the Lord from your wealth
And from the first of all your produce;
So your barns will be filled with plenty
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
This is God's math. You give away from the first of your paycheck, and God will see to it that you will have an abundance of everything that you need. God can take away. God can bless. And His eye is upon the generous of heart to bless with His goodness.
So, let us trust in the Lord with all of our hearts. Let us live lives of complete dependence upon the Lord.
Do you have any idea of how dependent upon the Lord you are? Turn in your Bibles to John 15. In the first part of this chapter, Jesus puts forth the idea that He is the vine and that we are the branches. The branches get the nourishment from the vine. Without the vine, the branches will die.
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Let us hear those words afresh! "Apart from Me you can do nothing." "Apart from Me you can do nothing." This is a call to a dependent life. If we can do nothing apart from Jesus, what is the implication? We need Him to do anything and everything! We need Him to take our next breath. We need Him to take our next step. We need Him to speak with our neighbor. We need Him to raise our children. We need Him to stir our hearts with affection toward Him! We need Jesus to do anything!
Does this not call us to a dependent life? When you come to God, you must come with desperation. When you walk with God, you must walk with dependence.
You say, "What does this mean, practically?" How are we to do this? Paul gets at the heart of such a life in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5. I want to look at verses 16-18. They give us three short commands that help us to see how we are to live the dependent life.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Joy, prayer and thanks. All the time. In every circumstance. Always joyful. Always praying. Always thankful.
Joy, because our contentment is in the Lord and not in our circumstances. Prayer, because our trust is in the Lord and not in ourselves. Thankfulness, because God's ways are best, even when you can't see the good. Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.
I was so blessed this week by my neighbor, Jeff. Because of the rains and because of an unplugged sump pump, they had water in their basement. Water in your basement means an entire change of plans. It means a day of hard labor, working to get the water out. It means a week of drying out everything. It means a month of restoring the basement to normal. Water in your basement is a bummer.
And I know that Jeff was disappointed. And I know that Jeff didn't respond perfectly. And yet, at the end of the day, Jeff said this to me. "Steve, I'm thankful for the flooding of my basement. Now, right now, I don't know why I'm thankful (because there seems to be no reason to be thankful). But, I am thankful."
Thanking the Lord in circumstances like this helps us remember our dependence upon the Lord. It helped Jeff. It helped me. It helps us to remember that everything we have comes from God and not from ourselves. It helps us to remember that everything we are comes from God and not from ourselves. God has never entitled us to a life of comfort, abundance, and trouble-free living. Rather, God has called us to a life of dependence upon Him. After all, we are His servants.
Joy. Prayer. Thanks. How do you do this?
Last year in our small groups, we read through Paul Miller's book, "The Praying Life." In that book, he encouraged us to say, "Breath prayers" -- short prayers of praise and help to God. Miller writes, ...
I didn't learn continuous prayer; I discovered I was already doing it. I found myself in difficult situations I could not control. All I could do was cry out to my heavenly Father. It happened often enough that it became a habit, creating a rut between my soul and God.
I discovered myself praying simple two- and three-word prayers, such at Teach me or Help me, Jesus. The psalms are filled with this type of short bullet prayer. Praying simple one-word prayers or a verse of Scripture takes the pressure off because we don't have to sort out exactly what we need. Paul tells us, "We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). Often we are too weary to figure out what the problem is. We just know that life--including ours--doesn't work. So we pray, Father, Father, Father.
This is the exact opposite of Eastern mysticism, which is a psycho-spiritual technique that disengages from relationship and escapes pain by dulling self. Eastern mystics are trying to empty their minds and become one with the nonpersonal "all." But as Christians we realize we can't cure ourselves, so we cry out to our Father, our primary relationship. 
This is why Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). The poor in spirit know that they need constant help. The poor in spirit are those who are constantly seeking help from the Lord. The poor in spirit are living a dependent life. And the promise is this: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Are You Desperate? Are You Dependent? This is my heart for us at Rock Valley Bible Church. This is the path to the kingdom of heaven.
It is the desperate who cry out to the Lord who will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is the dependent who are poor in spirit who will enter the kingdom of heaven. May the Lord teach us these things.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
April 21, 2013 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.