I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, 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, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1, 4–5, 8). In our walk with the Lord and our service to Him, we must continue in the reality of this timeless truth every day—that “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine,” neither can we unless we abide in Him. My prayer is that you would grow in your dependence upon the Lord alone and experience the joy of a life lived in full reliance upon Him. Remember David and Goliath, that familiar Bible story we were taught in Sunday school? We smile as we remember the flannel board display of this childhood story. Maybe you can even recite how the story unfolds: The young David, with sling and stone in hand, walks up to Goliath, trusting God, and lets loose the shot thatcaused the huge giant to fall. But the story of David and Goliath is so much more than flannel board and familiarity. It truly happened. It was a real war, with real men defending their own country. David was just a boy, never skilled or trained in war, and Goliath really was a fearful giant. Step out of the familiarity and put yourself in David’s shoes for a moment. Can you imagine how he must have felt when he spoke to his king about victory, only to have the king laugh in his face at his “youthful courage”? Picture yourself in a battle for the first time, your countrymen watching you as you’re armed with a childhood toy. Hear the opposing troops chuckle as you pull out your slingshot and grab a stone from your pocket. Watch as some of your countrymen bow their heads in embarrassment as they see you ready your sling. The moment of truth is at hand. How sweaty your palms must be as they steady the shot. There’s no turning back now—this is all or nothing. The story of David and Goliath is truly amazing! It’s a remarkable display not only of God’s faithfulness, but also of David’s incredible dependence upon the Lord. David had absolutely nothing to rely on—not a weapon, not experience, nothing. The only thing he depended on was the ability, faithfulness and power of God. And that was enough! He killed the giant that day—not because of his strength or his plan, but because he was depending upon God to give him the victory.God desires to do the same in our lives as well, if we would only trust, lean and rely fully upon Him. Like David, we do not need to have a long list of credentials to qualify us to be used by God—simple dependence upon Him will do. Second Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” The treasure spoken of in this verse is God within us. All the treasures of heaven are ours as a gift, to partake of and share with others but held in simple “earthen vessels”—you and I. The NIV translation calls us “jars of clay.” God wants us and the world to know that the treasure, the power and everything good that flows out of our lives come from Him, not from us. The jar of clay cannot produce water in and of itself; it can only be used to pour out what it has been filled with. God’s treasures flow out of us as we depend upon Him, the source of all good things. Even though we live in a world today in which people are professionals and specialists, with doctors trained to do only certain types of surgery and Ph.D.s with a lot of knowledge in one specific area, God still looks past credentials, searching above all else for a heart that will depend upon what He can do. In fact, all throughout Scripture it seems God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. That’s exactly what 1 Corinthians 1:27 (KJV) says, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” Numerous times, God finds an ordinary man or woman whose heart is fully dependent upon Him and works through that person in extraordinary ways, showing His power and might and bringing Him alone the glory and honor. For example, a couple of years ago at our Bible school in Bangladesh, one man who served as a cook at the school desired to enroll in classes so that he could become a missionary. His heart for the Lord was great, but unfortunately, he did not meet the minimum education needed to beadmitted into our Bible school. When the head principal heard about the cook’s desire to serve the Lord but that he was unable to attend the school, he told the cook that if he wanted, he may sit in on the Bible classes after he finished his cooking duties. The cook was thrilled with this idea. So every morning and afternoon, as soon as he finished all his esponsibilities in the kitchen, he attended bits and pieces of as many classes as he could to learn as much as possible. Soon the school year was coming to a close, with 18 smart, strong, young men ready to graduate from the Bible school and start their mission work. But the first new church in the area was not planted by one of the graduates. The first church was planted by the cook! And after he planted his first church, he turned it over to one of the graduates and went off to start another! A classic biblical example of God using an ordinary person is found in the life of Noah. Never having built a boat before, Noah had absolutely zero qualifications to do so. But in Genesis 7:5, we find out why Noah was successful in the ark’s construction: “And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.” Because Noah completely depended upon the Lord to show him what to do, the ark withstood 40 days of the greatest storm the world has ever known. The boat held up against all the beatings of the storm and finally came to rest, with all its animals safe and sound.The Titanic was built by men who knew what they were doing. It was specially designed by experts to be unsinkable. Men bragged about the wonderful ship they had built. Yet on its first voyage ever, it ran into an iceberg and went down in the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of men, women and children drowned in the ice-cold sea. From David to Noah, we see that the only qualification to be used by God is absolute dependence on Him. These men were simple, yielded vessels looking to God alone, never relying upon mere human strength, experience or skill. Because of that, God was able to display His greatness through their lives. In 2 Chronicles, we find the story of King Asa, ruler of Judah. Having inherited the throne from his father, King Asa tore down all the idols of foreign gods early in his reign and commanded the people to seek the Lord (see 2 Chronicles 14:2–5). Soon thereafter, an army of 3 million men and 300 chariots attacked Judah. With only a mere 580,000 men comprising his army, King Asa quickly called everyone before the Lord and prayed, “LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 4:11, NIV). The Lord was faithful to deliver that great army into King Asa’s hands—because he looked to and depended upon Him. The Lord also granted his nation 20 years of peace after that battle.But oftentimes, the way we start out is not always the way we finish. And this is the reason why I seek to remind us that dependence upon the Lord is an absolute necessity if our lives are to bear any good fruit. We will never come to a place at which we will no longer need to look to God,depending fully on Him to provide strength, life and power. No matter what comes or goes, this spiritual truth remains central to the work of God in us and through us.Twenty years after experiencing God’s faithfulness, King Asa is faced with another battle. Baasha, the king of Israel, begins to attack Judah by walling in the city, letting no person or supplies in or out. King Asa panics and quickly sends word to the King of Aram, asking him to break treaty by attacking Israel, forcing King Baasha to abandon his attack on Judah to defend his own country. The king of Aram does so, King Baasha flees back home to fight off his new enemy and Judah is kept safe (see 2 Chronicles 16:1–6). We can just sense King Asa’s sigh of relief as his nation is saved from Israel’s attack. On the surface, his plan seemed to work; not only was he able to get rid of his enemy, but even gained a new ally in the process. But of this victory the Lord said, “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (2 Chronicles 16:7–9, NIV). From this Scripture portion, we see that God is not so much concerned with the end result as He is with how something is accomplished. If God were only concerned with the end result, He would have applauded King Asa for being so clever as to call on some distant king and devise such a cunning plan. But God clearly called King Asa’s plan foolishness because all of it depended on what man could do. In essence, for the end to honor God, the means must honor God. If we are seeking to establish a work that will remain for all eternity, if our lives and what we do are to last the test of time, then the motive and the means must be centered and dependent upon the Lord. What matters most is that God is the leading factor rather than our ownstrength and ability. This is because anything that is built on the ability, skill and expertise of men will never bear lasting fruit. We, like King Asa, can be deceived by quick results. True, everything may look wonderful in outward appearance—the elegance of buildings, the great number of people, the repertoire and esteem—but God looks past all these things into the heart. He knows whether or not a heart is fully committed to Him, leaning and depending upon Him above all else. He knows who has built the house and has said, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). Romans 14:23 (NIV) reminds us, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” When we depend upon ourselves, we cancel out any reason to have faith and depend on God. So then, whatever is done in our own strength, rather than in dependence upon God, is sin. And Scripture testifies that we can bear good fruit only when we, as the branch, remain dependent upon the life from the Vine. In John 15:4–5 (NIV), Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” When we stop depending upon the Lord, our lives stop producing good fruit. This is exactly what happened to King Uzziah. Becoming king when he was only 16 years old, King Uzziah ruled in humility and depended on God to guide him and give him wisdom to rule. Second Chronicles 26:4–5 (NIV) says, “[Uzziah] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. . . As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” King Uzziah was successful because he depended upon the Lord. But sadly, as he became a more “competent” king, growing older and having some experience to fall back on, he no longer trusted or obeyed God. Instead, he did things his own way. Scripture says of him, “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God. . .” (2 Chronicles 26:16, NIV). His life ended in terrible tragedy; he became a leper. The same downfall also happened to King Saul. He started out little in his own eyes, trusting the Lord in the beginning of his reign. But soon things changed. He became prideful, self-willed and strong in his own strength, seeing himself as important and competent. He stopped depending upon the Lord, and it cost him his throne and his life. In the end, we must remember that the most important thing is not what was accomplished, but how it was accomplished. Were things done relying upon you—your strength and your provision—or were things accomplished by relying upon God? Jeremiah 17:5–6 says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,in a salt land which is not inhabited.” The Lord sets the choice before us to depend upon ourselves or to depend upon Him. The rest of Jeremiah 17 tells us the outcome of the man who, indeed, does rely upon the Lord: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7–8). Let us be those people who choose the way of blessing by honoring the Lord with hearts dependent upon Him.