Self Sufficient

05 May 2024

Self Sufficient

Passage Acts 17:16-34

Speaker Ben Tanner

Series None Like Him


Passage: Acts 17:16-34

Hey, I'm really sorry not to be with you today.  We had a last minute change of preacher.  So I'm here with you on video.  If you've been with us over the last few weeks, you'll know that  we're thinking about these ways in which God is different to how we are and  why that's a really, really good thing.  So a couple of weeks ago, we heard that we can throw out our tape measures  because God can't be measured.  You can't measure him.  And then the week after that, we thought about how God  is incomprehensible In other words, we can never fully understand God.  We can't.  No matter how long we think about who God is, there's still  more of his goodness to know.  Then last week, we thought about how God created everything But  God wasn't created. He's always been.  And today we're going to see that God doesn't need anything to keep him going.  God doesn't need anything or anyone to keep him going.  And in our Bible passage, we saw that Paul, one of Jesus's friends,  was going to a place called Athens.  And when he got there, verse 16 said, he was greatly distressed to see  the city was full of of Idols.  Let's take a look at what it would have been like.

Hello there.  Don't mind me just making a little house.  A little house here for my God.  Why?  ...Why?  Well, you see, Brian here.  Brian's making us a brand new god.  Hello.  Just making a god here.  I just got to choose which one would be a more appropriate piece of word for a god.  This one's got a different face on it.  Might put that one on the fire.  But this one, oh, I say, yes, It's got a chin and a nose and  it just needs a couple of eyes and a wig.  I think we're there, aren't we?  Very good.  The thing about Brian's gods is they're not always very well made.  You see, if they get wet, they begin to crack sometimes.  So I thought I'd make a nice little house.  It won't get too wet.  It'll be nice and warm, and that way I'll have a very nice happy god.  Excuse me while I get on with it.

There we have it, a city that's full of idols, little things that  people were making.  You might have thought that was just a little bit silly.  In some ways, that is a little bit silly.  A city that's full of little gods that people are making and little houses  for their little gods and little stands so their little gods don't fall over,  and lots and lots of gods at that.  And what Paul does is Paul says, Let me speak to you about this.  And he got some people together and he said, People of Athens,  I see that you're very religious.  You're doing lots of big stuff for the gods that you've created.  And then he says, Let me tell you about the God that you don't understand.  Verse 24, he says, The God that made the world and everything in it (remember last  week) is the Lord of heaven and earth and doesn't live in temples  built by human hands.  He's not served by human hands as if he needed anything.  Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  He says, Look, God doesn't need anything else.  He doesn't need that little house that's being made.  That's a really important thing because needing something  puts us at a disadvantage.

Picture the scene.  You're in the middle of nowhere on one of those long walks that grownups like  to go on, and your water bottle is empty.  Ran out quite a long time ago.  You're thirsty and you're hungry.  But then, amazingly, you spot a cafe.  A bacon and sausage sandwich, just what the doctor ordered.  Here I am at the cafe.  But here's the thing, I had to pay £5 for this.  I could buy a bacon and sausage at Aldi for much less.  But here's the thing, I needed this, and so I pay more than I might do elsewhere.  You see, when we need things, we can be controlled by those needs.

A God who needs stuff from us is a God that we can take advantage of.  In fact, we can control him.  That's actually what our guy was doing.  Let's check back in with him and let's ask him, why are you really  making that house?

Oh, it's you again there.  Okay, Okay, I'll tell you, the real reason that I'm making a house  for my God is if I make him a house, he owes me something, right?  And what he don't know yet is I'm going to ask him to make me  the best builder in all the world.  And that way, he's got to answer because I've made him a house, right?  Yeah, not just a hat stand this one.  Oh, no. 

It might be that sitting and you're listening in, and maybe you're  a grown up and you think, this is the problem with all age services.  The vicar just gets a little bit silly, and it is silly, isn't it?  It's so silly to think of being able to control a God,  and yet that's exactly what they did.  They thought, here's the thing, that God needs me so I can  earn some favour with him.  I want to have a better relationship, so I'm going to go and sacrifice  to a certain God, a God of relationship, relationships, and actually that is going  to sort me out, and they'll have to give me a nice relationship.  Or I'm going to war and say, Maybe actually, instead of Aphrodite,  I need to go to Zeus , the God of war.  If I give him some stuff, then he's going to give me lots of big muscles, and  I'm going to be able to win at the war.  And of course, it's not just them, is it?  We do it all the time.  I want to be the the best footballer.  And so I'm going to spend all my money and my free time on football.  And if I do that enough, then I will be the best possible footballer.  You see what I'm doing?  I'm making football into an idol, a god, and I'm worshipping at it.  I want to be a successful businessman.  So I'm going to put everything into that, and I expect my returns.  Thank you very much.  What is it for you? I want to be a particularly healthy or beautiful person,  and so I'll support that magazine, and in return, I expect to be beautiful.  See, what we do is often we turn this around.  We make God that we can control, and we don't like it  when we realise that we are needy.  Just like I was on that long walk where I needed something  and had to pay above the odds for it.  We don't like that.  What we do is we pretend that we're the ones who are self-sufficient,  who don't need things to keep us going.  We don't need anything.  Maybe you've heard this phrase, I'm a self-made man.  I'm a self-made woman.  I got here through my own hard work.  We like that because it brings glory and praise to us.  People say, Oh, wow, aren't they strong? Aren't they clever?  Haven't they worked hard?  And so what we do is we try and hide the places that we have needs.  We try and hide those places that we've maybe made mistakes and need forgiveness.  Or we try and hide those places where we need somebody to come alongside us.  We pretend that we're okay and we say, I don't need a church family around me.  Actually, I'm all right because I don't like people seeing that I'm not.  That's what we want to project to the world around us, as if we are the ones  who are self-sufficient.  We're the ones who don't need anything to keep us going.  But read that passage again.  Who is it that is self-sufficient?  The God, verse 24, who made the world, and everything in it  is the Lord of heaven and earth.  He doesn't live in temples built by human hands.  He's not served by human hands as if he needed anything.  Rather, he himself gives life and breath and everything else.  From one man, he made the nations that they should inhabit the whole earth.  He marked out their appointed times and history and the boundaries of the lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him  and find him, though he's not far away from any one of us.  Do you know God made us people who need,  need food, need sleep, need friendship, need love.  And he made us that way because he knew  that that would be something where we would have to call out to him.  Of course, our biggest thing that we need is forgiveness, isn't it?  You and me, we walk around,  maybe with all sorts of guilt, things that we do or say or think,  regrets that we look back on, and we can't change it, and we want to.  We say, Where's the forgiveness for that?  How can I make this right?  The amazing thing is we've got a God who doesn't need anything from us.  He doesn't need propping up or a house building.  He sometimes chooses to let us  serve him in that way, but that's for our good and not for his.  Note, we have a God  who gives us all we need, who himself offers us not just life  and breath, but forgiveness through his work on the cross.  Let's pray.  Father God, help us to stop trying to pretend  that we're self-sufficient, that we can do it all on our own.  Help us to recognise where we need you.  Sorry for those times when we think that you owe us a favour.  We've worked really hard for you, so you should jolly well give us a nice  life or help us to be healthy or have friends or things to go well.  Father, we're sorry.  You don't owe us anything.  It's not that you're lonely without us.  It's not that you're powerless without us.  It's not that you somehow need our praise to keep going.  Father, that's all silly.  You're the God who made everything.  And so, Father, help us to stop pretending.  Stop pretending that you need us.  Stop making little do need us in your stead.  Help us to trust you and love you. Amen.