In Control, Not Controlling

If you’ve ever been in the position of having someone looking over your shoulder, watching everything you do and correcting or critiquing every move you make, you know what it’s like to be micromanaged. This might be fine if you’re learning a job or task, but when the training is finished, most of us like to be left to use our training and figure out problems on our own. But some bosses and non-bosses can’t give up control and continue to micromanage. 

Many have the notion that God is like this. They think since he’s in control he’s also controlling. He is the Sovereign Lord of everything, but he definitely doesn’t micromanage us. Some verses in the Bible, such as Romans 8:9 (NLT), tell us we are controlled by the Spirit if we have the Spirit living in us. Most translations don’t use this word, but rather talk about the Spirit dwelling in us, leading, guiding or directing. 

The Phillips translation is interesting: “But you are not carnal but spiritual if the Spirit of God finds a home within you. You cannot, indeed, be a Christian at all unless you have something of his Spirit in you. Now if Christ does live within you his presence means that your sinful nature is dead, but your spirit becomes alive because of the righteousness he brings with him. I said that our nature is ‘dead’ in the presence of Christ, and so it is, because of its sin. Nevertheless once the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives within you he will, by that same Spirit, bring to your whole being new strength and vitality.”

I know for a fact God’s Spirit doesn’t control me – if he did, I would be perfect! I also know the Spirit of God has found a home in me and as a result, my spirit is alive because of Christ’s righteousness. As I live in him and he lives in me, my whole being is full of new strength and the incredible vitality of our triune God.

Submit and Surrender

Some of us can be controlling at times (you, I mean we, know who we are). We think we know best and want things to turn out our way. We are also sometimes afraid that if we don’t guide or manage circumstances, we will experience pain or suffering, even if it’s only the pain of having to admit someone else is right. 

It’s extremely difficult to give up control and/or being controlling, which is why we rarely see anyone do it these days. Watch the news, go on social media, go to the office – everyone wants to be in control and they fight to gain and maintain it. There’s a better way but even followers of Jesus have trouble with it, and that is surrendering the need to control to him. We do try and sometimes we succeed, but we are often afraid of what will happen if we completely surrender. Either we think he’s taking too long, or we have a better idea or we just plain don’t trust him enough. 

It comes down to getting the results we want, even though we don’t always know what’s best for ourselves or for others. To give up our need for control, we have to abandon the results to God and let him decide – the who, what, when, where and even the why. Submitting to his love and wisdom and then surrendering to his long-term vision and plans is always in our best interest and will always give the best result – now and into eternity.

Who Am I?

Figuring out who we are is something everyone has to go through. Some are fortunate to have parents or mentors to help them with the process, but many have to do it on their own. We used to hear about people going away for a while to “find themselves.” I’m not sure anyone does that anymore and I’m not sure how they went about it, but I suppose everyone eventually does figure out who they are. 

I read a great novel called Chasing Fireflies, by Charles Martin, about a young man who discovers he’s not who he thought he was. I won’t give away the story, but at one point on his journey, he realized a better question than who am I? is whose am I? He said, “Identity does not grow out of action until it has taken root in belonging.” 

In this world where we all want to belong, many haven’t answered the second question and as a result, latch on to various groups or affiliations in an effort to be part of something, to feel a sense of belonging and of being included – to establish their identity. This is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Until we know who we belong to, we won’t know who we really are. 

If you’re a Christian, the answer is easy – we belong to Christ. We can have no stronger or better sense of belonging and inclusion than we have in him. And when we know whose we are, we find out who we are – loved, saved, redeemed and ready for action.

For Us or For Us

Language can be tricky, and sometimes when we hear or read something, the words and the wording can seem ambiguous. Then add in our perspectives and frame of mind and our understanding can be different from what was actually meant. 

I experienced this as I was meditating on Romans 8:26. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). I’ve always understood the verse to mean the Holy Spirit prays to the Father for us, as in defending or pleading our case as a lawyer would. Maybe you’ve thought of it this way too. I’ve heard it explained like that. But when I looked at other translations, I found wording that caused me to say “miners, not minors.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, this is a line from Galaxy Quest, one of my top ten movies of all time. When the crew are out searching for a beryllium sphere, they come across some child-sized alien creatures, who extract the beryllium from the ground. Gwen says, oh how cute, they must be minors. Dr. Lazarus says, miners, not minors! 

The Contemporary English Version puts it this way: “In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.” The Holy Spirit doesn’t pray for us, he prays for us. He takes our garbled, jumbled thoughts that we aim at God and call prayers, and translates them into wordless or inarticulate groanings. 

Even though we often don’t know how to pray, what to pray for or just can’t find any words, we don’t have to worry about it. The Holy Spirit is always helping us by merging our own wordless groans with his. Knowing that he prays for us makes me thankful for the freedom he gives us through his grace, even when it comes to praying.

God Really Sees Us

A lot of people go through life feeling invisible. Sometimes it seems we are just a number and our lives don’t really matter much. This is especially true when dealing with government agencies, but we can also get this impression from doctors (not all of course), sales people and corporations. As Christians, we are sometimes told we are too sinful for God to look at, unless it is through the lens of Jesus’ righteousness. This can give the wrong impression of who God is.

It seems discouraging and even disturbing that God would think of us this way. He created us out of love and even though humanity as a whole turned its back on him, we know that love is still there. God as Father, Son and Spirit, decided before we were ever created to send Jesus as our Savior, knowing ahead of time of our rebellion. He saw us through the eyes of love and died for all, while we were his enemies, steeped in sin and as good as dead. He saw us then, he sees us now and he sees those who don’t yet know him.

In Genesis 16, after Hagar was turned out by Sarai, she had an enlightening encounter with God. Alone in the wilderness, she felt at the end of her rope and was probably preparing to die. But God came to her, told her to return to her mistress and that she was going to have a son. She must have felt amazed and even astonished because from then on, she called him The God Who Sees Me.

He is still the God who sees us, no matter who we are, what we believe or what we think of him. We are not and never have been invisible to God. He sees us as the unique individuals he created. We are known, valued and appreciated by him and he loves us so much he clothes us – his children – in the beautiful robes of Jesus’ righteousness.