The concept of being “out of control” isn’t a particularly comforting thought. It translates to something about our health or finances or a relationship that has gone wrong and we are stuck in an unpleasant circumstance. It happens to all of us. I also want to suggest that we are in a season of trials; it appears to be a bit contagious right now and, if you are feeling out of control, it may be of some consolation to know that many of your brothers and sisters are feeling the same way. What can we do about it?
Is it God? – When something goes wrong, a common response is to say that “God is in control” and surrender to the “Zen” of the whole process as though it was therapy. I want to suggest that God may really be sharing His own emotion with you. Imagine that you gave free will to 6 billion people, most of whom don’t seem to be listening much. Would you feel in control? It is more theologically correct to say that God can control any person or circumstance that He chooses to, but that He has generally given us the responsibility and the power to subdue the earth and establish His Kingdom on earth. Giving up is not an option. Trusting and asking God to intervene has great effect.
The better picture of life is that we are in the midst of a growing Kingdom under substantial warfare and resistance from a very real enemy. It is certain that we win in the end, but in the mean time it is not certain that we will win the next battle or even survive to fight it. People who adopt the passive stance and say that God is in control are exactly the ones who often don’t survive… because their theology doesn’t reflect a Biblical or practical reality of how to fight this battle.
Personal resolve – There is also a mindset of people who are capable, independent and strong, who are anything but passive and will not give up. I used to be one, so I’m well versed in this particular mindset. These folks don’t stand much chance either because the battle isn’t fought on the level of flesh and blood. It’s nice being smarter, more talented or harder working that everyone else, but those qualities can actually be the prideful source of a spectacular fall. Personal responsibility is a great spiritual attribute but trusting in our own strength can be a smelly formula for disaster. Spiritual warfare is not waged on the level of human wisdom or initiative.
Going to school – I would count Paul in the well-educated, self-sufficient, I-can-take-care-of-myself camp… until he fell off his horse! He brought the same confidence and work ethic into his Christian life, and was a strong and prophetic leader; nothing wrong with any of that. My only point is that it’s not enough. Paul finally came to the point that when he was weak in his own strength (out of control), he became stronger because he had to rely on His real source of power – Jesus.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:7-10 NIV
We should make an important observation from this verse. God did not give Paul a thorn in his flesh. We simply live in a world where thorns grow, so we all experience “thorns” and we’ve all been given a way to survive them. When I am weak and out of control, Christ’s power can rest on me and I actually become stronger!
They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Acts 14:21-23 NIV
More than conquerors – We’re not describing a life of defeat or oppression. The Christian life is a privilege with great joy and much fruit. We just want to point out that the path to these victories goes through “temporary” seasons when our money, initiative, ideas, and friends will all be gone and we are faced with an out-of-control situation. Jesus will be our only strength.
Think about the impossibly out-of-control challenges our forefathers faced: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Daniel, Jesus. It wasn’t just Paul! We don’t have any examples of believers who sailed through life without facing an out-of-control situation. Yet, we’re still called to subdue the earth and fill it with His glory. God has given us everything we need to be overcomers. David describes this whole process from a personal perspective in Psalm 18 and 2 Sam 22.
Can you see it? – Those impossible odds are exactly the things that cause us to draw on Jesus’ infinite power. He dwells in our hearts, and our strength is great – because of Him. One thing is certain: we will all face a situation where the only hope of victory or survival is “Christ in us, the hope of Glory.” It is exactly those trials that perfect our faith, deepen our character (our trust in God’s character), and make us strong in Him.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops… James 1:2-3 NIV
Can you do it? – Having your faith tested is scary. We run completely out of options. And yet, all the resources of heaven are still at our disposal. We’re tempted to give up, surrender, whine, beg… nothing works but praise, confidence in Him, catching His vision, receiving His deliverance and walking out the solution. It may be sudden and miraculous or it may involve hard work and lots of time. His presence is our daily bread and His Kingdom is the delight of our hearts. Nothing else matters. That’s the whole point of being out of control. It’s worship! There is an answer!
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. Phil 4:11-14 NASU
PS: There are times when we feel overwhelmed and want to complain to God and anyone who will listen. Focusing on our metron (the things we are responsible for) is a great way to stay within our anointing. Carrying burdens that don’t belong to us is a sure way to get discouraged. Finding your role in the Kingdom in a tangible way through your heart plan is a very real way to keep the wind in your sails and see great victories. That’s why we’re high on coaching.