As a college pastor in Gainesville, Florida, I once had the privilege of hosting a missionary, known as Uncle Charlie. This man was remarkable—he had comforted dying street children in his arms and washed the feet of real, modern-day lepers. Under communism in Vietnam, he had embraced the dangerous call to smuggle Bibles into the country for the underground church. In his latter days, he had built up a ministry to the street children of Ho Chi Min City—where he personally prepared and delivered peanut butter sandwiches to all his “kids”.
I’ll never forget how Uncle Charlie, now in his late 70’s and suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, pushed himself around slowly in his walker, and laid hands, and blessed us young people. I’ll also never forget when, in private, Charlie lamented to me about the arrogant attitude he sometimes noticed in ministers in the United States.
He leaned in: “AJ, always remember: God doesn’t need you. You need God.”
As the old preacher saying goes, amen or oh-my… I’ve meditated much on this statement over the years. Although it may sound harsh at first, I believe it’s actually extremely loving and has the power to set us free.
Let’s break down what he said… God does not need us. In other words, we’re not that big of a deal. We don’t impress God. God is not (and never will be) awestruck by our spiritual gifts, talents, skill-sets, religious effort, and/or achievements.
And to act like God needs us belies a considerable amount of self-importance.
This is not the attitude God wants us to have. Our loving Father knows this attitude is not good for us; He knows when we travel along the path of self-importance, we always end up in one of two places:
- ARROGANCE: I am awesome! God must be so impressed!
- DESPAIR: I stink. God must hate me!
You see, pride is a roller coaster. Really high. Or really low. We’re tossed to and fro… from “I’m amazing”, to “I suck”.
Back and forth we go. In the vicious cycle of self-reliance, there’s:
1.I’m amazing; it’s time to judge everybody else!
2. Oh no, I’m terrible; I’m the worst person ever.
1. Yay, God is impressed with me! Everyone else really needs to get it together!
2. Oops, I screwed up. God must think I’m an idiot!
Ever felt trapped in this cycle?
Here’s good news: God doesn’t NEED you, but He does WANT you!
So many people today feel like they have to impress God. They are striving to win His approval through their performance and pretense—stuck on the roller coaster of religion. But God is not some secret admirer from afar; He’s not looking for you to impress Him. God invites you into a relationship with Himself, face to face. God wants intimate relationship—nothing more, nothing less. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you.
He doesn’t simply need you. He’s not looking for an employee. He doesn’t want you out there performing for Him— He wants you close to Him.
Don’t you see? The merry-go-round of religion has too much relational distance for God’s taste. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you. He’s that father who will not stop with a pat on the back— He’s coming in for a hug.
God’s not content with feeding your ego. He desires for you to put down the mask, and let Him feed your soul with affirmation and love.
Why would we seek to impress God when we can be loved by God?
Don’t short-change yourself!
God gave up His very own Son, so that you and I could be loved! Jesus died, so we could be counted as sons and daughters. So we could know God as Father.
Don’t settle for the lonely and empty path of self-reliance and religion. Embrace the call to be a son or daughter. Be loved like a son or daughter.