Do we trust God enough to allow him to take the steering wheel of life, or do we constantly try to grab it ourselves?
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
“Stop telling me what to do! You are not in charge…”
This is a statement that adults often use when small children start calling the shots! Once they reach a certain age, young children start to believe that they are the ones who should be in control, despite their limited perspective on life! In general, they become little micro managers either because they are very confident and actually believe that they know best, as mini kings and queens of their domestic domain, or because, as their world grows larger, it becomes more overwhelming for them, so they grasp control over whatever they can to ease their anxiety.
We adults are like this too. Sometimes we think we know best, and sometimes we get anxious and try to control life (or the people in our lives), to avoid further anxiety. Occasionally, we try to control God too, by bargaining with him or trying to make a deal of some kind. When I was a young Christian, I remember trying to manipulate God into giving me what I thought I needed using scripture, on the basis that if the Bible said it, I could use it and God would understand and do as I asked, because it was “Biblical”! What I didn’t see was how very limited my own viewpoint was, and how wrong and terribly detrimental it would have been if he had given me what I thought I needed! It was only with hindsight that I saw how he saved me from much unhappiness and despair by not yielding to my wishes! I am so thankful that he is in charge instead of me! Thankfully, despite our thoughts and plans as to what is best, God’s purposes stand, as our opening scripture reveals:
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
But we don’t always find it easy to relinquish control. Do we trust God enough to allow him to take the steering wheel of life, or do we constantly try to grab it ourselves? Trusting in some areas of life is easier than in others, and there are times when we think we have relinquished control, only to grab it back in fear. It is important to remember that we are all on our own individual journey with God, and that none of us are going to be perfect or get it absolutely right this side of heaven! The journey is ongoing, but here are a few thoughts to consider if we really want to allow God to be in charge and to stop telling him what to do!
Trust as we mentioned above is a big factor! We cannot allow God to be in charge of our lives if we don’t know him, just as we wouldn’t trust a random stranger to cut our hair or pull a tooth if we didn’t know that they were certified to do so and had done it before! It is easier to trust if someone has a good track record, and God certainly does! Thousands of years of faithfulness, redemption and re-creation are recorded in the Bible and in the books, songs, poems and journals or ordinary men and women like you and I. But the greatest incentive to trusting God lies in the fact that he died for us.
The holiness of God requires the penalty of death for wrongdoing, but God himself paid that penalty on our behalf. You may have heard the story of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger at Auschwitz in 1941. Kolbe had no family and willingly took the place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. Imagine if you will, that someone were to do that for you. Would you not trust them with every fragment of your being, and every part of your life for the rest of your days? You would trust them literally with your life! The wonderful news is that Someone has done that for you, on a Roman cross, two thousand years ago. His death proved his love for you and his trustworthiness. He would have died even if you were the only person on the planet! Believe it!
Humbly being willing to hand God the reins is another step we must take if we are going to allow God to reign in our lives. This follows trust and requires humility on our part. Humility not only recognizes who God is, but who we are, and acknowledges that we do not in fact, know it all, and that we do not always know best. As we get older, (and depending on the role we have within our family or at work), we can start to think that we know it all. We supervise others, we tell them what to do, we may have a degree, we may have travelled the world and we might be forgiven for thinking that we’ve made it!
But who are we, compared to God? He who laid the foundation of the earth? Consider the following passage from Job 38: 2-12 where God answers Job’s complaints.
“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place…”
This beautiful, poetic passage goes on for almost another 30 verses and is worth the read, as is the whole book of Job for those seeking humility!
Humility requires that we stay teachable and recognize that the gifts, achievements and opportunities we have been given are in fact gifts from God, to be used for his purposes before ours. The Bible has much to say about the value of humility and having a teachable spirit, as these verses from the Amplified Bible explain.
“When pride comes [boiling up with an arrogant attitude of self-importance], then come dishonor and shame, But with the humble [the teachable who have been chiseled by trial and who have learned to walk humbly with God] there is wisdom and soundness of mind.” (Proverbs 11:2)
“ For whoever has [a teachable heart], to him more [understanding] will be given; and whoever does not have [a yearning for truth], even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Mark 4:25)
Recognizing that our thinking can be faulty is a further step towards humility and surrender. I remember the first time I realized that I was wrong when I was a child! It was such a shock and continues to cause discomfort today as an adult when I can see that I got it wrong. Why is this so uncomfortable for us? Because sin has wrapped us in arrogance and buttoned us up with pride, whispering that it looks good on us. Sin whispers that we are right. Sin puts us first. Sin feeds self. It has been said that the biggest part of sin is the “I” in the middle of the word.
With children, our tiny messengers of Gods truth, we try to teach them to see from our adult perspective. Seeing with adult eyes comes only with maturity. How we long for the child to see and agree with us sometimes that his behaviour is not acceptable! So it is with God! We might not be throwing toys or rubbing spaghetti sauce in our neighbour’s hair, but we don’t always see our sin for what it is either! Our very holy God needs us to agree with Him about our sin, needs us to see it for what it is and longs for us to see with his eyes and respond with his heart and mind. It is his standards we fall short of. It is he whom we hurt. It is his place that we try to usurp when we steal control! All he asks is that we agree with him and recognize his place and ours and let him reign. We are not dictators to God!
The Bible teaches that we are fallen beings whose motives and hearts are not to be trusted!
“ The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
The Good News Translation puts this verse even more bluntly when it says, “What you think is the right road may lead to death.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to purposefully take a road that leads to death!
This is not to say that we should not have confidence in any of our thoughts and decisions, but simply to be aware that our thoughts and hearts may deceive us sometimes, and to bring our motives before God for his wisdom, and in doing so, welcoming his sovereignty.
Finally, recognizing the source of our desire to maintain control is essential if we truly want to experience God’s reign in our lives. Are we trying to avoid anxiety like small children, by insisting things be done our way and controlling others for fear that we may not be enough, or fear that our needs may not be met? Earlier this year, I read a powerful devotional by Max Lucado, who made the point that when fear dominates our life, safety becomes our god. Here are his words:
“When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. We worship the risk-free life. The fear-filled cannot love deeply because love is risky. They cannot give to the poor because benevolence has no guarantee of return. The fear-filled cannot dream wildly. What if their dreams fail?” (www.Maxlucado.com Daily Devotion 01/03/2019 edition, “Fear Can Cause Us to Worship Safety”)
Are you also worshipping a risk free life? Are you pursuing safety and comfort instead of trusting and being bold and confident in Gods ability to handle your life? If so, I am right there with you my friend, working on it with my Lord! Life is unpredictable and frightening at times, but God has promised never to leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) and he has promised to protect us. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91 : 14-16)
We may not be able to control life, but we can control our response to life’s events and actively make a choice to trust God, even though our feelings might not agree at first. Choose trust and the feelings will follow. Changing your mind (which is repentance) and actively changing your thinking to trust and believe God, means the feelings will come! The Bible taught this (that transformation comes from renewing our mind, as seen in Romans 12:2), long before man discovered cognitive therapy, which teaches that thinking and beliefs always precede feelings (which are often the last thing to change.)
The wonderful thing about God is that he loves us too much to leave us struggling, or to leave us thinking that we are in charge and trying to take control. He wants the best for us. You can be confident that he who created you and began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6) His work is good and his motives are pure. He is safe, trustworthy and true.
Throughout this series, we have seen that there are many truths that God wants to remind us of on our journey through life as his children, all with a similar theme. We have seen how it is important to slow down and walk as we wait for him to lead; to take time to be quiet and listen for his voice; to recognize his evaluation of us and become who he meant us to be, rather than looking for the approval of others; to remember that he is faithful and unchanging, and that he is the same yesterday, today and forever with a history of trust and faithfulness. We have seen how it is important to wait for his timing because he knows best and his purposes are higher than ours, and to remember that he is in charge, not us! Just as we love, teach and encourage our own children to grow in maturity and understanding, so he lovingly teaches, corrects and draws us to become more like him and to grow up into the men and women he designed us to be.
In the words of Paul, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3: 20-21)
PRAYER: Father God, thank you that I am your child and that you are my Father in heaven, whom I can rely on. Thank you that you have my best interests at heart and that you have begun a good work in me that you will complete. Help me to relinquish control of my life to you, and to choose to trust you. Please give me a teachable spirit and help me to remain humble, so that I can recognize where my thinking may be faulty and accept your will. Where there is fear, I pray that you will show me the source and help me to trust you, rather than making safety my god. I want to love deeply and be the person you designed me to be, so that you may be glorified in and through my life. In Jesus Name, Amen.
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Thanks again Anne for sharing your thoughts.