This post is one of a series looking at four Scriptural truths about God’s nature. You can read an introduction to the series here.
Over recent years I have come to realise that one of the hardest things about prayer is that it involves doing nothing. I don’t mean that prayer is itself passive, but when we pray, we take time that could be spent doing, fixing, thinking, writing, researching and we give it to God1of course, you can also pray while doing things – I’m talking here about dedicated times of prayer!. Essentially we say, “I trust that God can do more with this time than I can.” We take something out of our own control and give it to God.
What is our obsession with being in control? Deep down, we know that it’s far better for God to be in charge – but when it’s our goals, our hopes or our reputation on the line, we’d rather have the “certainty” of relying on ourselves!
One of the longest-standing enmities in the Bible stems from a man wresting control from God. Abraham, carrying a miraculous promise of a son but getting on in years, agrees with his wife Sarah to father a child by her servant Hagar. Surely this is a way to fulfil the promise within what was culturally acceptable practice? Isaac and Ishmael are still enemies to this day.
Of course, things left in God’s hands are so much safer anyway. God sees everything and – far from being overwhelmed – He both understands it all, and is able to deal with it all. As one of King Asa’s seers explains to him in another episode of a man seeking to control instead of trusting God:
Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.2 Chronicles 16:8b-9a
If we can learn to trust God in ordinary, everyday things, I’m convinced that we’ll fare much better when faced with situations we have no illusion of being able to control: a broken dream, a bereavement, or even a global pandemic.
How would it change our lives if we looked to God as the One who is really in control, and owned our own limited authority? It could have such a profound effect on us:
- If God is in control, I can rest – even when there are still things on my to-do list.
- If God is in control, I can pray for outcomes that go beyond my own abilities.
- If God is in control, I don’t have to be anxious about things I’ve prayed about.
- If God is in control, I don’t have to fear the unforeseen things that might happen tomorrow, because they didn’t catch Him unawares.
- If God is in control, I have enough hours in each day and each week to do the things that He wants me to do. (maybe not to do all the things I want!)
- If God is in control, prayer is never a waste of my time.
The truth we want to internalise is this:
One character issue that this speaks to in particular is time management and busyness. How many times have you said, or heard it said, “I’m snowed under!” or perhaps “There just aren’t enough hours in the day!” If we work this attitude back to its root, it comes down to one of three sentiments:
- “God got my workload wrong”
- “Someone other than God is calling the shots on my time”
- “The world needs me!”
All three of these point to a root belief that is at odds with “God is great”. If we were looking to throw off stress by challenging these mindsets from Scripture, where might we go?
- “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”2Psalm 139:16, or perhaps “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”3Ephesians 2:10
- Our work for others is a subset of our obedience to Christ: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do”4Ephesians 6:5-8
- “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”5Acts 17:24-25
What about you? Do you think, speak or act in ways that are not in line with “God is great”? Are there areas where you feel yourself grasping for control? What Scripture could you memorise and meditate on, to see that shift?
I leave you with a video that I stumbled on while doing some reading on this topic. It’s a song called Control by a group called Tenth Avenue North. The chorus reads:
God, You don’t need me,
but somehow You want me
How You love me,
somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
and give You control
I give you control
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2