Summary: We can choose to control every aspect of our lives, or we can choose to surrender that control to the Lord. The choice we make will determine our eternal future.
We began last week by saying that we are the sum total of the choices we’ve made in life until today, and that what we will be in the future will depend on the choices we make today and subsequently. Last week, we looked at choosing purpose over popularity. This week, we’re going to look at the choices of surrender or control.
By a show of hands, how many of you here would say that in some area of your life, you like to be in complete control? Okay, if you’re sitting next to someone who isn’t raising their hand and you’re wanting to reach over and raise it for them, that qualifies you as a control freak. Honestly, though, we all struggle with the issue of control in some area of our lives.
Some of us like to be in control at work. You know—“Do it my way, and if you don’t do it my way, I’ll do it myself.” Some of you work for that person. Some of you are that person. Others of us are control freaks at home. Everything has a place and everything in its place. I won’t mention any names, but I know someone like that. It could be that your controlling nature comes through in dealing with your children. They have to be perfect and you’re going to do everything you can to insure that they are perfect. For some people, there’s really only one thing that needs controlling, and that one thing is everything. Control can be a real issue…for all of us.
I’ll confess my area of struggle. It’s the remote control. You know? The television. Hey? I figure, it’s my TV, it’s my house, I pay the cable bill. I control the control. That’s the law of the jungle, right? And, really…it doesn’t matter what’s on. The only thing that matters when it comes to the TV control is what ELSE is on! That’s my confession for the day!
Control is a big issue, even though we make fun of it. For controlling people…in whatever area of life…the larger spiritual issue is that we often usurp the place of God. Uncontrollable control is taking God off the throne of our lives and placing ourselves firmly in that place. I believe that’s what the wisdom writer of Proverbs was saying when he wrote:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)
If we’ve been around the church any at all, we’ve probably heard that verse 100 times. If we haven’t been around the church, the likelihood is you’ve seen it hanging on someone’s wall, or sitting in a nice little calendar on someone’s desk, or maybe printed on their coffee cup. Some of us here may even have it posted somewhere in our homes or workplaces right now. We’ve heard it. We know it. But, honestly, it’s one of the hardest things to live in the world. It is so because, in order to live it, we have to surrender our will to God’s will, and for us control freaks, the idea of surrender is tough.
The writer says to trust in the Lord with ALL our heart. Then, he says don’t depend on your own understanding. But, I know what I know, and sometimes I know best, right? The translation we read this morning says, “Seek his will in all you do.” When we were growing up we probably heard that as “In all your ways acknowledge him…” That word acknowledge in the Hebrew is the same word that is used in Genesis for Adam knowing Eve. It is an intimate knowledge. The wisdom writer says when we know God intimately, He will make our paths straight. He gives the direction. He gives the guidance. We spend so much of our lives trying to figure our own way through life, but the reality is as long as we depend upon our own knowing, we’re eventually going to steer ourselves in the wrong direction. There’s a big reason for that. It’s called sin. The brokenness of our human condition will prevent us from always seeing things clearly. Generally, we’ll make decisions that are supremely self-centered. We’ll never knowingly vote against self-interest. It’s not in our unredeemed nature. There are even times when we know the promise of God, and we still try to take control.
One Old Testament example is Abraham and Sarah. We’ve talked about them before, but here’s the short version of their story. Abraham and Sarah are the patriarch and matriarch of the Hebrew people, and both had control issues. There was more than one occasion when Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife…called her his sister because he was afraid he would be killed and Sarah taken into another guy’s harem. He was trying to control the situation and neither time did it turn out well. Sarah, too. She and Abraham had been promised children, even though she remained childless into her 70’s. Surely, she thought, God would want me to take this situation into my control, so she took her handmaid, Hagar, and gave her to Abraham to bear his children. What was a noble gesture turned in to disaster for everyone involved. See, Abraham now has two branches of his family tree. On the one branch is Ishmael, the son born of Hagar the handmaid. His descendants include this person named Mohammed. On the other branch of Abraham’s family tree is a guy named Isaac, from whom the entire nation of Israel in descended, including the person of Jesus. Those two branches on the one family are still fighting in the near east today. That’s what happens when we depend upon our own understanding rather than trusting the Lord…rather than surrendering to His guidance and His wisdom.