By David Faust
You can carry an umbrella, but you can’t control the weather. You can invest your money, but you can’t predict the stock market. You can manage your calendar, but you can’t keep yourself from aging.
You can decide what food and medicine will go into your body, but health isn’t always within your control. What about the physically fit fellow who dies of a sudden heart attack? Or the healthy young woman who works out and eats right, but dies prematurely of cancer? You can drive defensively, but careful drivers die every day because someone else is careless or intoxicated.
You can only control so much.
The Bible says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). That verse makes us uncomfortable because it sounds like giving up control. When it’s rightly applied, though, submission is freeing. It allows us to quit trying to control people and situations over which we have no jurisdiction. It makes us recognize the futility of the “my way or the highway” approach. We can stop engaging in battles of the will and discover the subtle joys of surrender. Ironically, submission helps us regain a sense of control.
A wife can influence her husband, but she cannot absolutely control his behavior. Instead of trying to control him, she can be content to conduct herself honorably in the context of her marriage. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” (v. 22).
Likewise, a husband’s role is not to dictate and dominate but devote himself sacrificially to his wife’s welfare. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25).
In a culture struggling to maintain healthy homes, boys and girls suffer from neglect and abuse at one extreme and excessive permissiveness and overindulgence at the other extreme. God’s Word lays down the ideal: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother” (6:1, 2).
Parents can point our children in the right direction, but when they grow up we can’t control them. Sons and daughters are “arrows in the hands of a warrior” (Psalm 127:4). Like arrows, children must be aimed at a target and then released. (Although as Dr. Tony Evans observes, after releasing our arrows we can still “pray for a favorable wind.”) Before we as parents try to control our children’s behavior, we first need to control our own. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Workers cannot control our bosses’ decisions, but we can work diligently at our jobs “with sincerity of heart” as if we were “serving the Lord, not people” (6:5-7). Bosses cannot exercise total control over their workers but can lead their employees with reverence for God and remember “he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him” (6:9).
We cannot control every spiritual force of evil that comes against the people of God, but we can “put on the full armor of God” and stand strong against the devil’s schemes (6:10-17).
We live by faith, and that includes surrendering the impulse to be control freaks. Instead, we recognize our own limitations and humbly yield jurisdiction to the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
1. Which part of your life is the least under your control?
2. How could you surrender more of your life to the Lord’s control?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for June 15, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Kings 13, 14
1 Kings 15, 16
1 Kings 17, 18
1 Kings 19, 20
1 Kings 21, 22
2 Kings 1—3