For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:14–16)
As a dad of five young kids, there seldom is a twenty-minute stretch where I don’t hear my kids calling out to me, “Dad” . . . “I need” . . . “Can you” . . . “I’m hungry.” It is constant work, constant attention and affection, and constant needs to be met. Our children are completely dependent on us . . . and as they get older, their needs change, but they still depend on us.
Romans 8 is all about the contrast between a person living according to the Spirit, which leads to life (or spiritual life), verses living according to their flesh, which leads to death (or spiritual death). Then it goes on to clarify exactly what living according to the Spirit looks like, and Paul concludes that living in this way looks like a son or daughter depending on a parent. This is more than a mere metaphor, however; instead, Paul is saying, “The Spirit you received,” that would be the Holy Spirit you received at conversion, literally adopts you in to a new kind of relationship and teaches you to cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit teaches you to depend on our Father for all things.
In 2013, I got dehydrated then lost up on a mountain trail in Haiti, very far from help. I wrestled for a long time with what my strategy would be to get down and back to my group. Ultimately, I decided to do the most humiliating thing I could think of: I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Help!” I kept walking down the mountain under heavy tree cover and every couple of minutes or so I would yell again at the top of my lungs for help. After about fifteen minutes of doing this, I heard someone in the faint distance yelling also. For the next thirty minutes we called out to one another until I was reunited with great relief to my group.
I’m becoming convinced that we do not really come to live according to the Spirit until we are convinced we are not getting out of this mess on our own—whether by choice or by circumstance, we must become desperate enough to call out to God. We must learn to cry out to him and tune our attention to recognize his voice calling back into our souls. In a strange way, we must learn to be more like children calling out to an incredibly attentive parent, “Dad” . . . “I need” . . . “Can you” . . . “I’m hungry.” Go ahead, he is listening.
Father, we confess our deep need for you. Without you, we are lost. But surrendered and dependent on you, we are fully found. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Can you name a time in your life where you felt so desperate that praying to God was all you could think to do?
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