We have already, in our JG studies, considered the characteristic of cooperation or interdependence. This is the quality of being a team player so that others can count on you and of having confidence in other faithful brethren so that you can count on them. There are so many ways that we need each other. We need brethren to help us when we are overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6:1). We need help with our overburdens (Galatians 6:2). We need elders to watch for our souls (Hebrews 13:17) We need to provoke one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We need to be examples to one another (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Yet, at the same time that we keep a cooperative spirit, we must be ready to stand alone, to act for God even if no one else will. That is what the characteristic of independence is about. We will not stand before God in judgment as a family or congregation. We will stand as individuals. In this life, we must independently follow God.
By independence, I also do not mean independent from God. Anytime we work without God properly in the picture, we are lost. The psalmist said, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). God wants us to depend upon him (Hebrews 4:16; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Independence, rather than acting apart from God, is the choice to work for God by obeying Him and living for Him even when others neglect to be obedient (Hebrews 2:3).
Many times we are moved by peer pressure to compromise our beliefs. Sometimes extra pressure is brought to bear to intentionally ignore some principle we know is true. And, it is especially true that in many congregations there are no comprehensive plans that will involve every member of the congregation in the work. We, must learn to be active for the Lord and strong for the Lord regardless of whether we are part of a congregational program or not.
Consider some people who were independent in their actions for an example to us. Consider the
independent action of Joseph recorded in Genesis 38-39. Hated by his brothers and enslaved, he still rejected the seduction of Potiphar’s wife. He still dealt honestly with his master. After being imprisoned, he did not sour on God and think that he was not taking care of Him. Rather, his continued integrity kept him in both God’s favor and that of the prison keeper.
I love the story of Micaiah in 1 Kings 22. When Ahab sent for him after hearing all his prophets tell him he would be successful in taking Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab desperately wanted Jehoshaphat to go with him to war, so the messenger sent to fetch Micaiah told Micaiah to agree with the other prophets. Micaiah’s answer will always be classic, “As the Lord liveth, what the Lord sayeth unto me, that will I speak” (1 Kings 22:14).
I also believe that Jonathan was a man of independent action for God. Read 1 Samuel 14:1-14. Israel was at battle with the Philistines. Jonathan, while the army was at rest decided to take the battle to the Philistines. His words to the armor bearer in verse 6 are the words of one who depends on God and acts even when others are not.
And I especially love two passages in the book of Acts that speak of independent action on the part of many of the first century Christians. In Acts 8:1-4, after the death of Stephen, the disciples went everywhere preaching the word, but the apostles were not in the number. In Ephesus, Paul was daily, for about two years, disputing in the school of Tyrannus, but all Asia heard the word. In both of these cases, there was no program led by elders, no full time preacher going to every place, just disciples, men and women, acting independently to take the Lord to the world.
Brothers and sisters, God has given us all we can do if we will. No program is needed. No leadership is essential to my salvation.
- I can follow God.
- I can make a point of doing good for people so their heart will be opened.
- I can pray in depth for those I know.
- I can continuously ask others for studies.
- I can learn the Bible well with diligence.
- I can try to save erring brothers and sisters.
- I can be hospitable.
- I can qualify myself to teach or serve some other way.
There is never a time when every member could not fully employ his time in the Lord’s work where he or she is.We must do our own work and stand before God alone.