26 Sep When I Am No Longer In Control…
People have a natural tendency to want the power to control. When we have the power to control, we will have a sense of security and feel assured of the future. Parents always hope to control the thoughts and emotions of their children so that teaching them will be much easier. When we are managing things, we also hope to plan to perfection so that we would not have any worries later. Many people also have planned ahead financially to prepare well for the future. Actually, when we observe our tendency and life carefully, we are always planning for tomorrow or the next moment so that we will not be caught unprepared. This is especially when we are living in a fast-paced society where time is tight, we all know that we should not waste time but to live productively. To achieve such an outcome, we need to have complete grasp of the details in our lives. Moreover, our education system and society always teach us to prepare for rainy days and plan for tomorrow. One of its objectives is actually to control our future so that we have a sense of security. Think about it, why does our country set aside so much reserves? This is because we do not have natural resources and only by having built up reserves that we can have a sense of control and security. To humans, planning, control, protection and productivity are very practical. We continuously prepare and plan so that we have a sense of control. In our growing up process, we would have repeatedly confirmed that if we manage our time well, we would be able to complete many tasks. When our examinations are approaching, if we manage well our time, the subjects and topics that we are required to revise, we would be more confident during the examinations. Some people do not plan, and do not manage their time well. Hence, they do not do well in almost everything. But let us think carefully, when we face some situations or issues that we are not able to control, what should we do? In particular, as our children gradually grow up, they will develop their own thinking more and more, or in many areas, our children do not listen or cannot be persuaded so easily. Or there will be situations that catch us off guard, or where we are willing to help but are unable to do so. Actually, tomorrow is not in our hands, even the next minute does not belong to us. Ask yourself, how then can we control all things? Even the best doctor cannot completely control the outcome of a surgery. Even the best financial expert cannot control economic trends or capital flows. Even we ourselves will make mistakes. At most, we can forecast and rely on the most optimistic probability to achieve the best result. Therefore, we must be honest before the Lord and ask ourselves, when we forecast, prepare and plan, is having the sense of control the end in mind? Sometimes, we put in a lot of efforts to gain control, but what we want is to have temporary assurance and stability. Actually, God wants us to learn to walk in faith throughout our lives. No doubt God has blessed us with intelligence and wisdom to prepare and plan, but He does not want us to pursue a sense of control. This is because our God, and not our limited intelligence or wisdom, controls everything. In training our godliness, one of the most important things is to carry out the will of the Lord, and cast our tomorrow or our worries for tomorrow upon Him <Mt 6:34>. Therefore, the lives of the apostles were always being refined. The challenges they faced and their refining were when they encountered situations which they were unable to control. Whether it was to evangelise, to shepherd, to be a pioneer, or when facing persecutions or even when faced with life’s danger, they exemplified how they relied on the Lord who controlled everything. This is the spiritual lesson we must learn today.
Actually, God only gave man the authority to subdue and rule, but not the authority to control
We humans are always mistaken that we can control many things
Actually, because we have fallen into sinful nature, whoever we love more, we would also want to control more, just like some people always order their spouse and children about, wanting them to become the ideals they wish them to be. Furthermore, we very easily desire to control those under our authority, for example: the government wants to control the thinking and freedom of its people, some pastors also want to control their members, forbidding them from receiving messages from other churches, and demanding too much for them to submit to authority. In addition, what man wants to control is materials and things concerning his living, such as wealth, health, etc. If we do not ponder deeply, we still think that we can truly control these things. Some people even think that they can control their hearts not to think inappropriately or covet other people’s possessions, thus they can live in contentment and joy. It seems as if we are in control, but is that really so? Actually not! Man thinks that he is in control because he has yet to be restrained by setbacks and problems. If we are nice to people, but they still dislike us or refuse to obey us; or when we work hard but fail to attain the ideal outcomes; or when we fall into a poor and desperate state worse than the ordinary person, then we will realize how powerless we are, and that we ourselves are not so great after all. When we are not provoked by certain practical problems, we always think that many things are under our control.
Actually, man has the power to think, subdue, rule and influence, but does not have the power to control
We cannot control space. No matter how well we have done, the things that happen in our environment are not under our control.
We cannot control time. Man can only make good use of time, but certainly cannot control time. Time waits for no man, once time slips away, man cannot turn it back.
We cannot control human heart. Most fundamentally, we cannot control how people think. Even if we can treat people kindly, or use all kinds of ways to restrain a person, but we cannot control what a person thinks and believes in. Especially after our children grow up and have independent thinking, this is what we can all see. In terms of the gospel, no one can control what people believe or think. We can only proclaim the redemption of God, but what a person eventually believes in his heart is where he ultimately belongs.
We cannot control man’s destiny (man’s life, death, curses, blessings). Religious wisdom only tells man: Karma or heavenly justice has long arms (man absolutely cannot escape from the justice of heaven). Religions give man the teachings on doing good, but do not give man the disposition to do good, and all the more do not give man the absolute way to salvation. Paul said, “good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature <Ro 7:18>. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God <Ro 3:23>, and that the wages of sin is death <Ro 6:23>.
When we are no longer in control…
Because time, space, human heart, man’s life, death, curses, blessings are all not under our control, so we do not need to pursue the power to control. On the contrary, the duty of us mankind is to obey the Lord. Thus, what prevents man from coming before God is his refusal to surrender to God’s sovereignty. His greatest idol is his heart’s desire to control since he was born. Previously, he keeps wanting to control what he thinks, does, plans and firmly believes, till he cannot control anymore… At this moment, his own sovereignty is then crushed. Indeed, man can only truly come before God when he reaches the dead end of his life. It seems as if people come before the Lord because of health problems, mental issues, marital problems, children issues, financial problems, etc, but it is truly because their power to control has been crushed. They are totally helpless in these problems, so they then surrender before the Lord’s redemption.
After believing the Lord, the heart’s desire to control will keep surfacing to challenge God’s sovereignty
The power to control is just like an idol, it cannot give us real benefit
Just like all idols, it will not benefit man, but will only burden man. When a person pursues wealth, he will be bound by money; when a person seeks honor, people’s opinions of him will affect him. When a person seeks the power to control, he will slowly be completely exhausted. Because he wants to take charge of everything and cannot entrust everything, and everything must meet his ideals. Very soon, problems will arise between him and the people beside him. Gradually, he will develop a nature to only live for tomorrow, but cannot enjoy the Lord’s guidance today. He will also become more and more troubled as he realizes that he cannot control everything. Thus, the Lord absolutely will not let the one whom He loves lives in the peace of being able to control everything. Instead, God will make him encounter many situations which he has no choice but to depend on the Lord, in this way then he will not be bound by the forces of idols.
Thus, the Lord does not give blessed people the power to control, but asks them to live by the Spirit
God makes us humble through the situations we cannot control – When we face situations which we cannot control, we will gradually hand the sovereignty to the Lord, and rely on Him in all things. We will also develop more heart to pray and depend on the Lord. Such people are then truly wise people, because they do not rely on their own wisdom, but in everything, they rely on the Lord who fulfils all things.
God uses people whom we cannot control to teach us how to love people – When we face people we cannot control (example: spouse’s weaknesses, children’s emotions, people’s unreasonableness, etc), we will discover that there are many different types of people. Human personalities and temperaments are all different, their reactions to things are also not the same. Then, we will put down what we think, and go into deeper contact with people, and get to know every different person.
God uses time which we cannot control to teach us to cherish time – When we realize that time slips away faster and faster, we will feel that the mission the Lord entrusted us is very pressing. Sometimes, we humans like to remain in our emotions, or we groan because things did not go well, or we have certain impractical ideals. But often, we will discover later that the only difference is time and days and years have passed, but our situations are still the same. Thus, the sense of time is a kind of general revelation God gave us. After man goes through time (sometimes with repeated failures), he will understand the importance of following God.
God uses our hearts which we cannot control to teach us to live our whole lifetime in the grace and mercy of God – Sometimes, even though we have believed in the Lord for very long and also know a lot of biblical teachings, we cannot even control our own hearts, we easily receive insinuations or fall into the flesh. When we reflect on this, we will cherish the Lord’s precious grace of salvation and the mercy this grace has brought us.
God uses this fallen world to compel us to evangelise – The Bible tells us that this sinful world continues to groan and decay <Ro 8:22>. Human wickedness cannot cease, the lawless things of humans also keep increasing. Thus, we must have a conclusion here, that is, to preach the gospel in season and out of season. Today, we may see some great philanthropists or poverty relief organisations wanting to bless mankind, and save people out of poverty and sufferings, but we who received the revelation of redemption will know that in this sinful world, nothing is more important and urgently needed than to evangelise and save human souls.
How can believers practically hand the power to control over to God?
Centre our living on God’s word (especially the word God speaks through the pulpit messages)
We must pay special attention to how God instructed the Israelites to move toward the land of Canaan. <Jos 3:4> “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.” Here, those Israelites who tempted God had already fell in the wilderness, God instructed Joshua how to lead this new generation of Israelites to go toward the Jordan river (challenges, trials), then enter the beautiful land of Canaan (heavenly kingdom). This new generation of people were all people who had surrendered to God’s sovereignty, and God wanted them to keep a distance of two thousand cubits from the priests carrying the ark, as a show of their reverence, but their eyes cannot depart from the presence and direction of the ark. Inside the ark, there were the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, the manna eaten in the wilderness, and the staff of Moses, symbolising God’s holiness, provision and power. The priests carrying the ark symbolise church leaders who preach about God’s holiness, provision and power. Think about it, although holy people have surrendered sovereignty to Christ, how to hand God the power to control in daily living? Simply put, holy people must obey the word God speaks through His servants. If we belong to this church, then we should receive from the altar messages encouragement and direction for our daily living. Thus, it is so important that we centre our living on the Lord’s Day and church living, and we should carefully receive the word which God is teaching and encouraging us through the altar. Otherwise, we will very quickly fall again into the state of wanting to control our own living. Indeed, a generation which does not value church’s altar messages is certainly a humanistic generation. People only worship ritually, but after that they want to control their own lives.
We must always be careful in a few areas
Many believers do not realize that actually it is a thin line between subduing and ruling (act according to the roles and wisdom God gave us, obeying the Lord’s will) versus the power to control. Often, we will very quickly fall into the heart of wanting to both subdue and control. Our heart secretly seeks a kind of security that can be controlled and possessed. Especially, when the pace of our living hastens and demands increase, we naturally will need to make many decisions, and bear many responsibilities. Then, our heart which easily worries and fears will yearn to control everything; when our resources and knowledge increase. Example: When we are richer, we will start to use money to seek security (savings, insurance). When we live in an era where internet and technology are very advanced, we will choose to use Google to solve many of our problems, depending on online information and news to act; when we seldom encounter failures and setbacks in our lives, and we always get what we want when we act according to our own plans, we will very quickly form the inclination to want to “use the same method to control life”. Example: If all along, people listen to whatever we say, it is very easy for us to want to order people to obey us; if we always depend on and succeed in pulling relationships to make things work, we will gradually rely on human relationships and human will to act. Indeed, man has the heart’s desire to control on his own, and he also has his ways to control. But God’s grace does not allow us to do that, as there is only one who controls, and He is God. The Bible keeps emphasizing to us the truth of “planning lies with man, but outcome lies with God”. <Ps 127:1> Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. <1 Co 3:6> I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
Live by the Spirit; instead of pursuing the power to control, develop the power of self-control
The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit, only to help us control well in one area, which is our hearts. Thus, what we should pursue is not the power to control, but the power of self-control. Self-control is a fruit we will bear when we live by the Spirit. That is the last description of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in <Gal 5:22-23>. Many people neglect the importance of this fruit, but focus on pursuing what satisfy man more, such as love, joy, peace, etc. When we talk about letting go of the power to control, we must at the same time produce the power of self-control. A self-controlled person not only can refrain from doing certain things (especially temporary pleasures brought about by sinful nature), more importantly, he can restrain his own heart. Our hearts most easily receive insinuations (sometimes think this way, sometimes yearn for another thing), we are also most easily deceived by our hearts. Thus, if a person cannot restrain his heart, he cannot have real freedom and joy. Self-control is not merely to say “No!”, but saying “No!” with the heart of being satisfied with Christ. Self-control is not about enduring not doing certain things (such as: not overeat or over-drink, not grumbling, not easily angry, not gossiping, not excessively pleasure-seeking, not splurging, etc), but because there is an inner desire for the Lord’s joy and rewards, so one can restrain himself. The power to control which man wants comes from his selfish desires, in order to have security, but self-control comes from a heart of submission to the Lord, and it will be protected by the Lord. When a person can have self-control, then he can truly be satisfied and joyful. Does such a person still need to control anything? Actually, there is no more need! Because he can restrain his own heart, so he can enjoy all that God has given. Therefore, we need not keep asking if we are control freaks, but we have to ask if we have more and more self-control in all things. In <1 Co 9:25-27>, Paul said, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control…” Indeed, our victory does not lie in us controlling everything, but it lies in us being able to make our bodies submit to our inner belief to follow the Lord.