I have this terrible tendency of discussing a thing and exploring why it is true without always explaining why it is important. I may be guilty of doing that recently in our discussion with God’s sovereignty.
For those just tuning in, we have been discussing the idea that God is in control of every detail of our lives: The good, the bad and everything in between. But it may not be obvious why this even matters. I mean: If we embrace this, do we get an award for perfect theology? Let us hope that is not the reason. Considering the at-times heaviness of the topic, that would hardly be the pay-off. Besides, as important as theology is, the world actually does not need one more person with perfect theology. I mean, that cannot be the goal. Theology, which is just fancy name for truth, has to have an end.
So let’s discuss the benefits of control — that is, God being in control. The first benefit is that if God is in control, we do not have to be.
I want to propose that life demands someone be in control. And if that isn’t God, then it must be us. I was listening to a podcast by pastor Bill Johnson of Redding, California discussing the account of Jesus and His disciples in the midst of the storm. When the storm fell upon them, the disciples did all they could to save themselves. They were experienced fishermen. They we in control. Jesus, on the other hand, was a carpenter. He rested peacefully. He was not in control. When awakened, He calmed the storm.
Being out of control is something we usually are terrified of. But we are only terrified of being out of control when we, who are used to being in control, suddenly find ourselves unable. I am thinking back over my life, this past year especially, of all the times I have found myself unable to maintain the control over life I normally exercise. Yes, it is terrifying. But this is because, deep down, I am believing that if I am not in control, no one is.
And this has everything to do with faith. We tend to think of faith as something I wield, or maintain, or achieve in order to. In other words, our idea of faith presupposes I am in control. But I would suggest at the heart of faith — true, biblical faith — is the belief I am not in control. That someone else is in control, and that Someone cares for me more deeply than I could ever imagine.
A lot of us are doing our best to believe God cares for us more deeply we could ever imagine while still maintaining control (me in the mirror: guilty). That, my friend, is an uphill battle. The picture I get is a scene from one of those movies where someone has just been through the most traumatic event in their lives and finds themselves holding the gun, and the other person is saying, “It is okay. The war is over. You are okay.” But in that moment, they still have the gun, and they are pretty shook up. Because a moment ago, things were not okay. And they need the gun to make sure they are safe. A lot of us find ourselves there. We find ourselves with God saying to us, “It is okay. You are okay.” But we are still holding the gun.
But in order for God to say to us, “You are okay,” we actually have to be okay. He really has to be in control of the situation. He cannot simply be a God who set up the world with a handful of spiritual principles and then delegated the whole mess to us. Because that means He delegated our safety to us. Being in a world where God is in charge but not in control disqualifies God from ever saying to us, “It’s okay, You are safe. You are okay.” No, a world where God is not in control only qualifies God to say, “Better be careful.”
Of course we should be careful. That is: If we are still holding the gun. It is actually our rejection of God who has everything under control that gets us into trouble. It is actually our belief, now the war us over, that the war is still going on. And that war is a war for survival, for personal safety. We are trying to keep ourselves safe and we are trying to keep our heart safe. We are doing everything in our power to make sure we are safe and all our needs are met, when all along with God we are safe, and He knows how to take care of our needs: Every one. Not knowing this is the real trouble.
Moses thought God was not in control. But God let him know that He was. As Pharaoh refused to let the children of Israel go, God let Moses know He was in charge of the whole situation, that Pharaoh was merely His instrument to bring Himself glory. To Moses, Pharaoh may have been the most powerful man on earth. But God was more powerful still. It was not Pharaoh’s plan that was being achieved, but God’s.
So I promise in the future to discuss not only why a thing is true but also why it is important. That will be my new mantra. And as I stand before the mirror and remind myself how good the God of Heaven and Earth is, who has rescued me, I won’t forget to tell myself, “It’s okay. The war is over.”
2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Control”
You bring up an important distinction here, Patrick. While I personally don’t believe in Augustinian-Calvinist determinism is a biblical concept (it’s Stoic and Gnostic in origin), I do agree with how you are defining control here. God truly does have our back and will carry us. He just doesn’t micromanage our every move, which would mean we cannot violate His will, which would not be biblical. But that also doesn’t mean that He’s out of control. Quite the opposite. As C.S. Lewis said, a higher form of sovereignty than micromanaging every detail is being able to allow one’s subjects to freely exercise their will, good, bad, or ugly, while still accomplishing your purposes. Of course, He does this because He is love, and love can only exist where there’s free will to choose (or reject).
Thank you Mel. Well said.