Okay, let’s face it, there is absolutely no problem with relying upon God and there is absolutely no such thing as relying upon Him “too much.” The more we cast ourselves upon Him, as He enables, the better off we will be… period. Consider,
1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
Psalm 55:22 “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
Philippians 4:6 “Be careful [anxious, troubled with cares] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Proverbs 16:3 “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.“
Feigned Reliance as a Mask for Doctrinal Slothfulness
Yet, there is a danger in what one can call “false, exaggerated, or feigned reliance.” Having come across this error for the first time about a decade ago, I began to notice it more and more in certain circles, and refer to it as the “poor, unlearned preacher syndrome.” It occurs when a pastor/preacher/teacher boasts, literally boasts, in their lack of education, lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, lack of the use of means, etc. They call such things “relying solely on the Lord,” and they truly think that they are being more holy and more dependent upon the Spirit of God than others — when in reality, all they are doing is glorying in their own flesh and folly.
Such have no qualms openly denouncing the educated (though we all know that secular education alone does little, if anything, to advance the kingdom of God). Many of them denounce the use of means (e.g. concordances; lexicons; word studies; structured, logical arguments and comparisons; commentaries, etc.), as they call the use of such “operating under creature effort and creature strength.” They often feign being persecuted by the educated, or by those who only want to hear the preaching or teaching of the educated, and their sermons often have a “woe is me” aspect to them (as it relates to the reproach they supposedly receive for ‘relying on God so much,‘ and for being such ‘poor,’ and ‘needy,’ and ‘unlearned’ souls).
Their sermons and lessons are often indistinct, unclear, and repetitive; their doctrines are often vague and misleading; their supporting proof-texts are often nigh absent altogether; their arguments are often illogical, incomplete, contradictory, or otherwise wanting; and they simply cannot, or will not, answer the challenges put forth to them as it relates to errors in their doctrine (they will “hit and run,” i.e., they will accuse, counter, misrepresent, and then duck back into the woodwork when one tries to address their words and actions, often rarely if ever coming back out again). They will claim that their preaching ‘touches the heart‘ of their hearers while the “educated ones” only ‘touch the head.‘ They will often warn that “knowledge puffeth up” but will functionally ignore the declaration “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” They will say and do all such things, and yet their teaching/preaching/doctrine remains grossly lacking to those who have eyes to see, and to those who have tasted of better things, things pertaining to sound, holistic, and experimental instruction.
Such will often likewise play the victim; they will slander and falsely accuse; they will make heavy use of innuendo and insinuation; and yet they will fault those who call them out on it, and who try to correct their errors (unto the edification of the saints). Their tactics are dishonourable; their ‘blessed ignorance’ does not reflect true humility; they are not glorifying God in their methods and teaching; and they are not truly “relying on the Holy Spirit” but taking a minimalist approach to handling the word of God. They are simply being lazy, incompetent, harmful, and intellectually/morally/spiritually dishonest.
So let’s be clear…. Never put your trust in natural intellect; never put your trust in secular (or even religious) formal education; never put your trust in your reasoning capacity; and never put your trust in the heights you have attained in any field or endeavor. However, on the flip-side, never put your trust in your continued (especially unnecessary) ignorance; never put your trust in your lack of education (the Bible should educate you greatly, if the Spirit is in it); never put your trust in your inability to properly/thoroughly reason; and never put your trust in your failing to do what any God-led preacher/pastor/teacher/ would (or should) do — and that is to prepare properly beforehand, i.e. before daring to speak, making right use of the means that God has providentially given us, studying the matter thoroughly, discussing it with the brethren, meditating upon it, and praying to God concerning it (all so that our words are true, gracious, properly supported by Scripture, and spiritually edifying).
The Call to Deep Study, Reflection, and Biblical Meditation
Every preacher, teacher, ‘Good Berean,’ and/or ‘average Christian’ should make exhaustive efforts to go as deeply as possible into whatever it is they plan to share with others concerning Scripture. Anything short of this is slothfulness and harmful to the Body. We should be labouring hard to rightly interpret the relevant passages in their immediate context, their greater systematic context, and within the context of the actual meanings of the God-breathed words of our Lord. If you doubt this, please consider these proof-texts in support of the above (note the significant personal effort spoken of in several of these passages):
1 Timothy 5:17 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”
[Note: that word labour is kopiaō and it means “to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief); to labour with wearisome effort, to toil”]
2 Timothy 2:15-16 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun (turn yourself around to avoid) profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker…”
[Note: that word study is spoudazō and it means “to make haste, to give due diligence, to make haste in giving due diligence, exerting oneself, endeavoring.” Also, rightly dividing is orthotomeō and it means “to make a straight cut, i.e. (figuratively) to dissect (expound) correctly; to make straight and smooth, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly.” Shun is periïstēmi and it means “to avoid, or more literally, to turn oneself around so as to avoid.”]
1 Timothy 4:12-16 “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
[Note: that term give attendance is prosechō and it means “to turn the mind to; to pay attention to; to be cautious about; to apply oneself to; to adhere to; to be given to; to give/take heed unto; to have regard.”].
Psalm 1:1-3 “Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
Proverbs 1:1-9 “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; 2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. 5 A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. 7 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 9 For they [shall be] an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”
Psalm 119:97-104 “O how love I thy law! it [is] my meditation all the day. 98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they [are] ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies [are] my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. 101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. 102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me. 103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! [yea, sweeter] than honey to my mouth! 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.”
Acts 17:10-11 “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming [thither] went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.“
1 Timothy 4:6-7 “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise [vigorously] thyself [rather] unto godliness.”
It should be clear from the above that all Christians are called to objectively hear, search out, study, prove, rightly discern, and faithfully declare the truth of God’s word, as much as is in them. However, how much more so is this case (or should this be the case) for pastors, preachers, and teachers? Whoever is teaching you, correcting you, or otherwise refuting you must be sure that they are handling God’s word with great care and with great reverence. They must take a deep, systematic, holistic approach or else they are playing games with God, His people, and His word.
If they refuse to preach from large parts of Scripture; if they declare beforehand those biblical doctrines that “they will not preach about or teach about;” if they skirt reasonable inquiry or refuse to address orderly concerns and objections; if they hobby-horse certain doctrines, repeating the same meme-like statements over and over (hardly ever going into any real detail about matters in dispute/controversy); or if they otherwise take a sloppy, inconsistent, incoherent, or incomplete approach to scripture (and the doctrines contained therein), they are doing you a great disservice. They are not being more humble, nor are they being more holy, by failing to do what they should be doing; no, instead they are selling you short and setting you up for a fall.
Finally, we must prove all things; holding fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21); we must believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1); and we must [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). God is very clear how we are to treat those who play with His word; who twist Scripture; and who bring in grievously false doctrine. He declares in Romans 16:17-20 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all [men]. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen.”
To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen