Control. It’s something we all grapple with in life. Many of us like to try and stay in control of our lives, while for others life can seem like it is perpetually out of control. It’s a constant and life-defining challenge. What we do with this thing called “control” shapes our thinking, attitudes, actions, relationships and potential.
I’ve been reflecting on this over recent weeks in my own life with the help of two passages in the Gospel of Luke where we see two very different people flesh out the control challenge.
In the first story in Luke 7 we meet a man of influence – a high ranking Roman officer, a man who operates with power and position. The man has an urgent need; a highly valued slave is near death and the man of power is suddenly struck by the reality that despite his human influence there is nothing he can do in his own power to heal the dying slave.
The Roman official has heard about Jesus. He doesn’t fully appreciate who he is, but he does see him as the answer to his need. And so what does he do? In a beautiful and inspiring act of faith he humbles himself – he lets go of being “in control” – and he reaches out to Jesus. He invites Jesus to take control. He surrenders his needs and preferred outcome to Christ.
We read the officer’s humble words in Luke 7:7 – “I am not even worthy to come and meet you, just say the word from where you are and my servant will be healed.”
And Jesus’ response. He honours the man’s authentic faith and he acts and the slave is miraculously healed.
I always find this encounter challenging and refreshing. In a world where I am bombarded with the call to be “in control” I am challenged about the need to keep yielding control of my life and future to Jesus. I can easily be seduced by a world where I am told to put myself first, to make decisions that benefit me, to write my own script, to live tight-fisted, to pursue power and position. But the Roman officer – a representative of “in-control” living – suddenly reminds me of the need to remain humble, grounded, trusting and faithful.
Today are you living with the “in-control” default setting in life?
Are you feeling weighed down and stressed because you are seeking to do life in your own strength and according to your own script? Today, like the Roman officer, do you need to let go of control and hand it back to your loving and faithful God?
Yes some of us are held back in life because we always seek to be “in-control”, while for others life seems to always be “out of control”.
That was the situation in Luke 8. Starting at Luke 8:43, we read about a woman who had suffered from constant bleeding for more than a decade.
Luke paints a picture of desperation. Here is a woman with a physical health condition that in the culture of the day would have forced her to the margins. Beyond her physical condition she would have been emotionally stretched. She would have known the pain of isolation. She could find no cure, no answers. She lived on an emotional rollercoaster and she represents a life “out of control.”
You may feel that way today. You may feel like you can’t cope with much more at all. You may be stretched – physically, emotionally, relationally or financially. You may feel that things just seem to go from bad to worse. You may be feeling vulnerable and lonely, as I am sure the woman in Luke 8 did.
But here again is a great lesson and challenge for all of us. What does the woman do, having encountered the reality of Jesus in her midst? She reaches out to him. She – from a very different position to the Roman officer – dares surrender to him in the hope of change and healing. She positions herself in the crowd and despite her fears she touches Jesus’ robe in an act of beautiful faith and immediately her life is changed.
Just like in our earlier story, Jesus’ response is to honour and celebrate faith.
There it is. Faith. Ultimately, faith is yielding control. Ultimately, faith is letting go of living with an attitude of “in control” or “out of control”.
Faith in action says: “Jesus I need you to be in control”. I need your Holy Spirit to lead me in my good days and dark days. I need you to help me make wise choices, to trust in the Lord in challenging circumstances, to persevere when stretched, to have God-given confidence to seize new opportunities, to move beyond my comfort zone, to humbly listen to the voice of God, to seek first Kingdom priorities, to live with and model a generosity of spirit and grace.
One of my colleagues at Crossway shared this reflection recently: “As hard as it can be at times, I am learning that as I let go of trying to be in control, God can extend my influence. I have to keep asking myself do I want personal control or godly influence?”
That’s so good!
Today what are we pursuing in life? Do we always want to be in charge? Do we always want control? Or do we feel like we have no idea of what tomorrow will bring and life seems out of control?
In Luke 7 and 8 we meet two very different people, but we see the same life-transforming outcome as they humbly yield control to Jesus. Yes, it’s a cliché – but they both “let go and let God.” I need to do that more and more in my life. Maybe that’s also your challenge and prayer today!