Out of (our own) Control

An old high school friend visited my church Sunday. He’s traveled extensively in the Muslim world over the past 10 years, and shared some of his experiences with the people. After his stories of spending time in jail in the UAE and extended visits with Afghan refugees in Pakistan, one of our people observed to me, “He sure is brave.”

Here’s another way to put it: “He has faith.”

Throughout life we’re faced with situations that we don’t know how to handle and for which we lack the resources. My normal tendency in these situations is to back off. I like to be in control. I like to be able to make things happen – not to be at the mercy of events.

But as Christians, we don’t believe in fate – an impersonal force or set of events. We believe in a God who loved us enough to give his only son for us. So we’re not at the mercy of events, we’re at the mercy of God.

I’ve felt the closest to God and my faith has grown the most on the occasions when I’ve set aside my urge for control – my urge to make things happen by having my own skills and resources lined up – and trusted God.

Throughout scripture and Christian history it’s been fairly normal for God’s people to get into situations they couldn’t handle. Sometimes they trusted God to provide – to make a way. Sometimes they winged it on their own (I think of the kings of Israel who repeatedly went to Assyria or Egypt for help instead of calling on God).

I pray for myself and for the churches I pastor that we might be in a place where we need God – and recognize it for what it is. I heard a comment about a month ago. Supposedly a Korean church leader said, “It’s amazing how much the churches of America accomplish without God.”

Now we could take offense at that. How dare he say such a thing! We have God as much as the Koreans! We read the bible and pray just like they do! (Well, maybe not the fasting and long hours and days of prayer, but we at least say a little prayer before meals & at our committee meetings.) I’d rather not take offense, however. I see much truth in it. We’ve been rich and successful for so long that we thing we’ve done it ourselves. Our self-confidence is so great that when a challenge comes along we look at our resources and abilities. Can we do it? If we have all our ducks in a row, we go for it. But if we don’t – if we don’t have the money or people, we just assume that the opportunity is not “of God.” We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t’ need God, all we need is good organization.

I believe our church is now in a place where we need God. Our building acquisition is beyond our own ability. Our calling to reach our community and win people to Christ is beyond us. We need God.

Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. I think we’re right where God wants us.

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