“My Need for Control”

  • “My Need for Control”
  • Genesis 16:1-4; James 4:13-14
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • September 17, 2017
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9-17-17 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

How many of you, in some area of your life, really like to be in control?  Raise your hands up right now; raise them up high.  If you find yourself trying to raise the hand of the person sitting next to you, you need to take really good notes because this message is specifically for you.


It’s really interesting to me how almost everybody I know tries to control some area of their lives.  There are some pockets that they’re really control freaks in, but then there are other areas where they really aren’t at all.


For example, some of you may be really controlling at work.  Everything’s got to be just the way you want it.  But at home, you’re rather laid back.  Then, you may be sitting next to someone and they are the exact opposite.


It could be that some of you are very controlling about your finances.  You need to know where every single penny goes, but when it comes to your children, you just let them run off and don’t even try to really influence them much at all.  You’re controlling in some areas and not in others.


In our family, when it comes to the remote control, there is only one person in our house ordained by God to handle this very important piece of spiritual machinery, and that is yours truly. Because every man knows it’s not so much about what’s on as what else might be on.  We can sincerely watch twelve to fourteen shows at one time; it is a God-given gift to those who are chosen.


If we’ll look at our lives, we’ll find we typically try to control two broad categories of things.  Most of us try to control people or we try to control circumstances.


We try to control people.  There may be someone in your life where there’s something about them that you just don’t like.  There’s the saying that, “God loves people and has a wonderful plan for their lives.”  In this area, you’re think, “God, I’ll help you out.” You want to help them see what you see, and get them to do what you want them to do.  You will manipulate, you will bribe, you will offer rewards or you will withhold rewards, you’ll use passive aggressive behavior, you might even threaten.


Without even knowing it, so often, we will try to manipulate the behavior of others, because we believe we know what’s best, and we want to control those around us. It may be your coworkers, it may be those who work for you, it may be your children, it may be your spouse.  But we want to be in control.


We also will try to control the circumstances.  We want to look just right.  We want our houses to be just perfect.  We want our kids, when they go out in the public, to be the perfect representation of us in every single way. We want to control our schedules and the future, and the schedules of the people that we love.  We want to control what other people think of us.


We want to control people and we want to control circumstances.  Why do we want to be in control?  Because our ego is out of control.  Because we really believe that we know what’s best, that in our life we’re godlike.  In our circumstances, we’re godlike.  Because we so know the right thing to do that it is our right to enforce what we know should happen.


Author Ken Blanchard says that ego — E-G-O — spells “Edging God out.”  I know what is right that I’m going to force it and not trust God.  I’m going to edge God out.


In fact, for those of you that are control freaks, you have a theme verse.  It’s Proverbs 3:5-6.  I’ve given it to you from the C.F.V. translation, and this is how your theme verse goes, “Trust in the Lord,” with what?  Help me out.  “Trust in the Lord with some of your heart and lean on your own understanding. In some of your ways, acknowledge God.”  What’s going to happen?  “And you will make your paths straight.”  The C.F.V, the “Control Freak Version.”


Now, some of you may not have been around the church or the Bible, and you hear that and you say, “Well, sounds reasonable.  Sounds like a good plan for me.”  But I want to tell you, honestly, that’s not what the real translation says.  The real translation says, “5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”


What’s really interesting is the more that we try to control something, the more we fear losing control.  The more we fear losing control, the more we try to keep control.


Suddenly, we spiral into a cycle of fear.  Many of you right now are thinking, “Oh, I hope ‘so-and-so’ is listening because they really need to hear this.”  The challenge of control is very difficult to see in the mirror. It’s very hard for us to see our own need for control in the mirror because we legitimately think that we know what is best.  We’re edging God out, and we don’t even know it.


So, what I want to do today is give you an example of control gone bad.  Then we’re going to ask three questions that honestly can be application questions that you take with you to apply to this area for the rest of your lives.


Let me show you a story from the Old Testament about a couple originally named Abram and Sarai — their names were changed to Abraham & Sarah — who had a tremendous problem, like most of us, with wanting to control the outcome of certain situations.


God said to them, “I’m going to bless you and you’re going to be the parents of many nations. You’re going to have so many descendants, it’s going to be more than the sand on the seashore, more than the stars in the sky.”  God promised this childless couple — who for years were unable to conceive –“You’re going to give birth.  There’s going to be many nations born from you.”  Incredible promise. We studied this part of their story just a few weeks ago as part of our “This Is Your Life Series” as we looked at how sometimes God’s word to us is get going.


But here’s the deal, when God didn’t immediately do what He promised to do, over time, Abram and Sarai did what so many of us do, they tried to take control of their own destiny and they stepped over God’s promise.


We see this in Genesis 16:1-4, the Bible says, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 2So Sarai said to Abram, ‘The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.’ And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal.”


In other words, “I know God promised but He’s not doing it in my timing.  Therefore, I am going to take control because I know what’s best.  I’m going to edge God out and I’m going to take control.”


3So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)

4So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt.”

When they edged God out, it’s impossible to describe all the chaos, what taking control did, not just in their lives, but for centuries and centuries to come.  In fact, if you read on in the story, Hagar gave birth to a son named Ishmael.  Sometime later, God did bless Abram and Sarai with a son named Isaac.  There was more tension than you can imagine between Hagar and Sarai and Ishmael and Isaac.


Here we are, centuries later, and the descendants of Ishmael, the Palestinians, are still often at war with the descendants of Isaac, the Jews.  There’s entire wars and Muhammad is from the lineage of Ishmael.  Then you have Isaac, and the Christians.  Here you see all this world chaos and it all traces back to when a couple decided to take control and to edge God out.


Now, chances are, all of you are sitting there going, “Okay, I understand that.  But I’m never going to sleep with my maid servant called Hagar.  I don’t even have a maid servant.”


But what you are going to do is, you may be a single woman and the clock is ticking and you love Jesus and want a Christian man.  But since there is no Christian man around, you settle for a man.  You say, “Hey, he’s good enough for now.  I’ll try to make this work.”  You force something, you compromise, and you settle for something that’s less than God’s best because you’re going to take control, and you’re going to edge God out.


Or it may be financially, you’re a strong follower of Jesus, and you know that the tithe belongs to God but you rationalize, you compromise, you take control.  You say, “Well, we’ll do that later once we’re out of debt.” Or, “We’re not going to do that at all.”  You take control of something that really belongs to God, and you edge God out.


Or maybe you want something and you want it bad but you can’t afford it.  So, what do you do?  You edge God out. You manipulate it, you find some way to borrow, and you make a very bad long-term decision for a short-term benefit because you’re going to edge God out, and you’re going to make it happen one way or the other.


Here’s the big application question I want to ask you, and I want all of you to participate, it’s very important.  I want you to ask yourself, and be very, very honest. Here’s the question:  “What are you trying to control?”


Is it people?  Your children?  Maybe it’s your grown children.  Maybe it’s the way your grown children raise your grandchildren because they’re not doing it right. Maybe it’s your coworkers. Maybe it’s your image. Maybe it’s what people think about you.  I want you to go ahead and take a moment and write down, “What am I trying to control?”


What are you trying to control?  When you identify this in your life, I want to give you three questions that you can ask over and over and over again that I really believe can help you learn to lay down what you’re trying to control and trust God.


The first question we’re going to ask is this:  “Is it worth my concern?”


In fact, one time, when Jesus was visiting the house of Mary and Martha, Martha was trying to control something that didn’t matter that much.  She wanted everything perfect and she’s freaking out, saying, “Jesus, get Mary to help me out.  She’s lazy; she’s not doing anything, and oh, I want the house to be perfect because you’re here, Jesus.”


Jesus looks on and says to Martha, in Luke 10:41-42, “41 …’My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’” This isn’t worth getting upset about.  “Is it worth my concern?”


So many of us, because of our inflated egos, we’re trying to control things that don’t matter that much, that a month from now, it’s not going to matter a lick.  So, I would ask you, does it really, really matter if someone doesn’t fold the towels just right?  No.  I just set someone’s future free; I can feel it.  I can feel it in the Spirit right now.


Does it really matter if your grade school son goes off to school and his hair is not combed perfectly?  Will that alter his chance to get into Harvard one day?  Will it send  him to hell or to jail or both?  No.  Does it really, really matter?


Does it really matter, guys, if your wife comes back and leaves trash in your perfect car?  Some of you say, “Well, Pastor, that does matter.”  No, no, no, no. Does it really, really matter?  You have your panties in a wad when really it’s not that big of a deal. “Is it worth my concern?”  Everybody ask that question.  Come on, one, two, three.  “Is it worth my concern?”


The second question we’re going to ask is, “Is it mine to control?” The answer is sometimes, “Yes, it’s yours to control.”  There’s something for you to do about it.


There are other times the answer is “No.”  Because surrendering control is not the same thing as relinquishing responsibility; those are different things.  You should still be responsible when you can.


For example, if you are messed up financially, you should still cut back on your spending.  Can you do something  about it?  Absolutely, you can.  You can learn to budget, you can get a mentor, you can cut up your credit cards, you can do something about it.


If your marriage is messed up, can you do something about it?  Absolutely.  You can pray together, you can join a life group and have others speak into your marriage.  You can initiate counseling. You can have date nights together.  You can do something about it.


But there are some things that you just cannot control, and you ask yourself, “Is it mine to control?”  Is it mine?  There are some things you’re going to have to say, “No, not at all.  These things are not for me to control.”


In fact, James 4:13-14 shows very clearly there are some things in which we have no control over whatsoever.  James says to us control freaks, “13Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ 14How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”


He says, “You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.  You don’t even control tomorrow.  How do you think you can control even a year from now?”


So, you ask yourself, “Is it worth my concern? Is it mine to control? Is it worth my concern?”  Or, if you’re taking notes, “Is it for God alone?” Ask those questions over and over and over again.


In fact, Paul told the Philippians something very powerful in 4:6-7.  He said, “6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”


So many of us, because of our ego, we’re trying to control it and we’re stressed and worried and anxious and consumed with fear because we’re trying to control something that’s really for God alone.


So, here’s some application questions I want to ask you, and you say aloud “Yes” or “No.”  “Can you change your spouse?”  Okay, some of you, this is not a trick question. No.  “Well, I think I can.”  No, you can’t.  No, you can’t. You can love your spouse, you can pray for your spouse, you  can encourage your spouse.  But you can’t change your spouse.


So, what do you do if your spouse needs changing?  You love them, pray for them, and you trust them to God.  You stop trying to control and you trust them to God.


Can you heal your loved one that is sick?  Can you do that?  No.  Can God do that?  Yes.  So, what can you do? You can pray for them, you can encourage them, you can help them get good medical advice.  Then ultimately, what do you do?  You trust them to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Can you control your future or the future of your children or the future of anyone that you love?  Can you control the future?  No.  What can you do?  You can pray, you can plan, you can give wise counsel, you can make wise decisions.  Does God control the future of those you love? The answer is yes.  So, what do you do?  You give it to God.


I came to tell somebody today, “You’re trying to control something that’s not yours to control.”  When you try to control what’s not yours to control, you will be filled with anxiety.


My encouragement to all of us today is to quit edging God out and to lay our egos, our need for control down at his altar.