John 15:5 | Isaiah 43:7,22 | Psalm 24:1

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…that’s pretty much the soundtrack of my life.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America lays out the reasons for the country’s historic breakup with England. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776

Its first argument states that all people are given “by their Creator”–notice the capital ‘C’, meaning God–the rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. In their beautiful prose, the Founding Fathers were declaring your God-given rights to live free and try to be happy.

While it’s true that God gives you the right to freedom, he does not want you to declare your independence from him. On the contrary, he wants you to rely on him for everything.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 NLT

Jesus says that we can do nothing apart from him. If you have ever tried to serve him under your own power, you know how true this is.

We need to understand our relationship with God. He created us, and he made us to praise him and bring him glory.

“Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”

Isaiah 43:7 NLT

We also need to understand whose stuff we’re working with.  

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.

Psalm 24:1 NLT

Too often we are like the Prodigal Son, who ran off to do his own thing…with his dad’s money. (Read the whole parable in Luke 15:11-32.) We want to take what God gives us and do whatever we want with it. But that’s kind of a sorry way to treat God, isn’t it?

Maybe we are more like the toddler who wants to do everything for herself. Her mom tries to help tie her shoe, only to get her hand slapped. The toddler screams, “No, I do it!” So Mom sits back and watches the girl make a knotted mess of her laces until she finally breaks down in tears of frustration.

“But, dear family of Jacob, you refuse to ask for my help. You have grown tired of me, O Israel!”

Isaiah 43:22 NLT

We spend our entire lives learning to be independent of our parents, but God is teaching us, his children, to be dependent on him. Do we have to get to the point of tears to learn the lesson?

Questions for Group Discussion

  • Why do we want to be so independent? Do we not want to bother God? Or do we not want to be bothered with his wants?
  • Does it make sense to you that God wants us dependent on him? Why, or why not?
  • Is it possible to be too dependent on God? Is that a thing?

Application: I Gave an Inch

If you are not a fan of creative writing…you should probably not read this. 

This is a creative writing assignment. (There, we’ve said it.) Your task is to write a short story about someone taking your stuff and running wild with it. If the idea of writing a short story is daunting, don’t worry–just follow the step-by-step instructions and you will be writing “The End” in no time.

  1. Read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 and answer the following questions. 
    • Whose money did the son squander in a far-off land? (Was it really his, or was it his father’s? It was an early inheritance…)
    • What did the Prodigal Son’s actions say about his feelings toward his father?
    • How are you like the Prodigal Son?
  2. Think of a favorite pastime for which you have a large stock of supplies (or accessories, magazines, etc.).
  3. Imagine the following scenario:
    • You help a friend get started in your favorite pastime, and let them use your supplies.
    • They get into the pastime, and take over your supplies.
    • Eventually, they claim the supplies as their own, refusing to give them back.
    • They won’t take your advice or use the supplies the right way.
    • Worst of all, they sometimes use your own supplies against you.
  4. Have fun writing your story!