About once every 2-3 months I’m reminded that I need to loosen the grip of control. Or, really, I should say that I get a spiritual conviction about this about once every 2-3 months. In my life otherwise I’m reminded of this approximately 4-5 times a week… whenever I encounter traffic jams, hidden onions, rainy weekends, and past-my-bedtime necessities. The reality is that I want everything to be under my control at all times, and despite my best intentions, I struggle to give this control up to God in things both little and large.
It’s all so dumb, isn’t it? The reality is that we rarely have any control over anything, let alone everything. Me wanting to control the weather for my beach vacation doesn’t mean that I actually have any control at all. Instead, this desire for control has the power to leave me frustrated and upset when things don’t go my way. Didn’t someone know that my plan was for it to be sunny and warm??
So, I’m well aware that desiring control is a fruitless, if not downright sinful endeavor. Controlling the things that are in your control is great. Everything else… wasted effort. I was reminded of this recently.
You see, it is very easy for me to get wrapped up spiritually in thinking that I’m responsible for others’ choices, behaviors, or even salvation. I’m not sure if this comes from my position of leadership in the church or my own nature of desiring to control things (probably both), but it’s something that I’m aware of is a temptation for me. I start off well-intentioned and thinking that I’m just doing (or attempting to do) God’s work here on earth. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Aren’t we His hands and His feet here? Next thing you know I’m up at night beating myself up about all the people around me whose lives aren’t changing. I think "well, if I were doing a better job of witnessing or evangelizing or making God ‘attractive’ wouldn’t people want to know Jesus? Wouldn’t I see more life change?" It’s bad. It’s a total lack of faith and a total belief in only that which I can see.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Passion City Church here in Atlanta and listened to Louie Giglio preach a sermon on the Gospel of John. He talked about how the Bible says that those who believe in Jesus are made alive in Him - "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24). Meaning, before our salvation, we were dead. He went on to say that no one raised themselves from the dead. They don’t choose to become un-dead, they don’t raise their hands and ask to be made alive again… they are straight-up dead. He made the point that we cannot boast or think that we have saved ourselves. No, God finds us, calls us, pursues us, and raises us to life... meanwhile, we're still just dead.
So I've been thinking recently about how this relates to my desire for control. The reality is that the people around me who are non-believers are yet "dead in their transgressions" (Ephesians 2:4); they have not yet crossed from death to life. This means that no matter how much spiritual "shaking" I do, they aren't waking up from my effort. Sometimes I feel like if I just try a little harder or turn up the volume a little more, they'll finally "wake up." The truth is that no one wakes the dead other than God himself.
This is comforting to me, but it's also convicting. I feel relief but also the temptation for apathy. I certainly don't think that this truth lets us (who are alive) off of the hook. The reality is that God can and does use us as His hands and feet, and that we very well may play integral roles in others' process of "waking up" to Christ. However, the reality also is that that first breath of eternal life must always come from God... and that is going to come on His terms and in His time.
So, I'm once again reminded that I need to release my grip of control to Him and His plan. Feeling like a failure for not doing more to raise others to life puts me and my works at the center of this universe. It creates an expectation that I am responsible for stirring that heart... and yet, I am not anyone's Savior. I am not meant to be. God will not yield to my agenda and time-frame. Moreover, can't I trust Him with others' salvation? He clearly did a fine job waking me to life.
I'm thinking, then, that I need to (once again) trust God to do what He says He will do. I need to believe in my heart that God desires for each and every one of his people to wake up to Him and follow Him... and that He is more than capable of accomplishing this. The wise words of John the Baptist remind me that, in order for me to truly aid in accomplishing God's purposes, "He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30)