1. Sometimes we grasp for control in our lives because God has allowed something painful or difficult to happen that we may not understand. Can you identify any examples of this in your life? What can you do to work through that and choose to trust Jesus again?
2. Sarai’s decision to encourage Abram to have a child with Hagar had severe implications and still does today. Are you suffering any consequences for decisions you made while trying to control a situation?
3. Good habits – like praying and seeking God first instead of as a last resort – can be difficult to implement regularly. What other good habits have you started in your life? Why were those successful and how can you apply the same principles to make prayer a consistent habit?
4. Have you ever experienced the peace of God in a circumstance where the world would expect you to panic? How did that situation turn out?
Good morning everyone! Welcome to Hope City Church… My name is Pastor Peter, and we’re so glad you’re here. What an exciting time to be at Hope City. We’ve got so many wonderful things happening here. Last weekend we launched Youth Nights for teens from 6th-12th grade. Connect Groups have started and are underway. I’ve loved getting together with my two groups. I lead a men’s group on Tuesday mornings, over at Bob Evans, and then I co-lead a group on Tuesday nights, where we are focusing on Physical and Spiritual Fitness… I like to think of it as the new Total Gym. We’re strengthening our Soul and our Body.
My wife Tiffany, she’s leading a women’s group on Wednesday mornings, and co-leading a mom’s group on Thursday mornings. There are so many great things happening! Our band has been gathering together for writing sessions, I don’t know if you know this, but we wrote and released a worship song, and they are back at it again. Creating relevant songs for our church to sing together.
I love it. But if we’re not careful, our schedules can look and feel like this: Your schedule ever feel like this? It gets crazy between school work, music lessons, sports schedules, social lives, studying, and all of a sudden, your life is swallowed up! It can feel like life is going 2 million miles an hour. And when there are so many things trying to get our brains attention, it all just starts to blur together and turn into white noise. Your brain goes into a bit of AN INTERPRETRIVE PARALYSIS.
Everyday we are faced with decisions. We have to figure out what gets our time, attention, and energy. These decisions, frequently drive the decibel level, or just how loud and noisy our life gets. You’ll remember last week we introduced our theme verse for this series, Proverbs 14:15
15A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.
The naïve person believes everything and anything. They don’t think about their decisions…. They let their decisions happen to them. But a wise person decides, gives thought, and considers her steps. Why?
Because we make decisions, and then our decisions make us.
In this series we are going to be discussing 4 different decisions that we make and how they affect what we are able to hear. How many of you like to be in control? Raise your hand up high. Now, if you find yourself wanting to raise the hand of someone next to you, that’s probably an issue! You’re a control freak. J But there is good news… Jesus can set you free!
I love being in control… There is something about it that makes me feel comfortable. In fact, last week I told you one of my Mantra’s, was do hard things… Right? We’re going to get uncomfortable in order to change the world and see lives changed. Well, this Friday night a group of us have been training for a GoRuck challenge. We went up to Tampa and spent 12 hours marching 20 miles all while carrying 40 pounds on our backs and doing physical training along the way. It was something else…. I’ll tell you that much.
But here’s the deal… Do you know what I was most nervous about? Not being in control. Not being able to know what is coming next, not know what I’d have to do, or where we were going to be told to go, or how many overhead bag raises we were going to have to do.
I wasn’t nervous for the event… I was anxious because I was out of control.
Have you ever felt that way? There are areas of your life that you love to control. At WORK it feels good to know that you’re in control, right? The job gets done your way, on your time. And if you don’t do it that way, than I’ll just do it myself. You know what I mean? That’s a bit controlling.
Or what about at HOME? Everything has a place… Every thing goes away in that place right? This is for all you out there who are vacuuming the floor, and it’s not good enough until there is lines in the carpet. And those lines need to be just PERFECT. THAT’S PSYCHO! Right?
But, when it comes to mowing? Those lines matter. When it comes to vacuuming? Those lines are psycho, but mowing? Yeah, those lines better be just right. We’ve all got our areas of control!
Or then there are your RELATIONSHIPS. Have you ever been in a controlling relationship? You want your kids to do just what you want, if you don’t I’m gonna ground you till your 29… Or maybe your spouse says, If you don’t do something for me, I’m going to withdrawal something special from you…
Or, maybe you are afraid of what people would do or say if they knew the real you, so you just clam up and hunker down. This is week 2 of our connect group semester, and I bet that you’re figuring this out… You may be nervous to show the real you… Right? This is the most accurate depiction of what it feels like. HAHAHA… You’re like an onion… You’ve got layers. And you keep putting on more layers to ensure that no one else gets to know the real you.
Why do we CONTROL each one of these circumstances? Why do we love being in control so much? Control, isn’t always a bad thing, we need men and women to be in control of the planes in the sky, and we need men and women to be in control of heavy machinery on job sites. It isn’t about being passive and letting everything just happen to you…
Control actually is a big issue… It’s kind of fun to make fun of, but the reality is that whenever we’re trying to control something that is not ours to control is a reflection of a really big spiritual problem. Because in this one area of our life we are trying to be like God. I want to control, because I know what’s best…
Control becomes an issue when you start to force your will on something that is not intended for you. But here is a choice for you… it’s a big choice, and it’s the choice between SURRENDER and CONTROL.
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we see a story of Control Gone Wild. In fact, I want to invite you to turn to Genesis chapter 16:1-4. That’s page 10 in the Bibles around you. While you’re turning there, let me give you a brief background on what’s going on here in this story. If there was ever a story about people who struggled with control it would be Abram and Sarai. Later their names were changed to Abraham and Sarah. One time, Abram was traveling with his wife and since she was so pretty, he lied and said that she was my sister, so that nothing bad would happen to him. He tried to control the situation. The biggest example though was when they were childless. They wanted more than anything else a child… And God had told them this incredible promise. God said that He would be the Father of many nations. WOW! And they were pumped about this… and then what happened? NOTHING! You promised that we’d have a child!
Now, months have gone by, and nothing happens. More months, and still nothing… And so Sarai did what many of us do, when God’s timing wasn’t her own, she decided to take control and try and bring about the desired outcome her own way.
Genesis 16:1 says this
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. Genesis 16:1-4
Look at this… God made a promise. And when God’s timing wasn’t in line with their timing, they took control, and made one decision…
This one decision…. The simple decision that says, I CAN BUILD A FAMILY THROUGH HER. They decided to step outside of the promise of God to get God’s promised results.
It’s mind blowing to see how this one decision impact3ed people for centureies to come. Hagar became pregnant and gave birth to a son named Isahmael. Later on, Sarai conceived and gave birth to a son named Isaac. If you look at the lineage of Ishmael and Isaac, it’s stunning. Out of Ishmael, you actually have the Palestinians, and you have Muhammad who founded Islam. Out of Isaac you have the Jewish nation, and you have Christ. Here we are centuries later, and you still have the tension between the Palestinians and the Jews. You have the tension between Christianity and Islam. Why, CONTROL WENT BAD! I want to take control, it’s not happening in my timing, and in my way.
There is a massive spiritual lesson out of this… WRITE THIS DOWN… NEVER EVER SLEEP WITH A WOMAN NAMED HAGAR… 😉 Just kidding, but seriously, when people start to control others it is a recipe for disaster. It’s a good thing we don’t have control issues anymore, right?
There are some of you here who are a single Christian Girl, and you’re looking for a single Christian Guy, and since you can’t find a single Christian guy, you’ll settle for a GUY. Right, I know I’m not supposed to be unequally yoked, and he is so cute, and I can change him over time… And you find yourself saying, I CAN CHANGE HIM.
Or maybe it’s a financial issue, you’ve been around the church for a while, and you know that you’re supposed to take a portion of your finances and return it to the lord, to take a Tithe and bring it back to the Lord as an act of worship. It’s freeing, and God blesses you, but that doesn’t make sense to you. And you say, No, I know a better way, I know what I should be doing… I can take control of my finances, and it will work better if I follow my plan.
Any Helicopter parents here today? No, I didn’t think so…they’re at all the other churches today… How many of you know that Helicopter parenting is on the rise? Oh man, poor little Craig… You’ve got a science project? Well let me build a pintrest worthy presentation board for you. Or you need to take the trash out to the curb? Go put you’re helmet on, stay safe! We’re protective parents, we’ve got to control, control, control–always there…
I read an article this week that talked about recent college grads going on interviews. Listen to what these prospective employers said… One told of a job candidate who piped his mother into an interview via Skype, while another said a mother asked if she could sit for an interview in place of her child, who had a scheduling conflict. A third mother interrupted in the middle of an interview to ask if she could observe.
We’re a bit of control freaks, right? We like to control the outcome…
It’s a strange cycle isn’t it? The more that we try to control, the more that we are afraid of loosing control, and the more that we are afraid of loosing control, the more we try to control. It’s a wicked cycle of fear! Essentially we are edging God out, saying I WANT TO CONTROL THIS!
Here’s what I want you to do… right now… I want you to name the thing that you are trying to control. I want you to name it. Write it down. What is it that you’re trying to control.
Is it your kids? Is it your job? Is it your spouse? Is it your grown kids kids? They’re not raising your grandbabies right. So I’m going to step in… Trying to control your image? What is it you’re trying to control.
Now, all of you here who are saying, I’m not gonna do this stupid exercise, you’re just proving my point. You just sit there and try and stay in control. 😉
So, what are we going to do? What we’re going to do, is we’re going to make a decision between Surrender and Control. I’ve got three questions to help you figure out how to make the decision to SURRENDER your CONTROL.
Here’s the first Question… 1. Is it Worth My Concern? Should I be concerned about this? Like in the grand scheme of things, should I care about this right now. Let me give you an example from my life. As a leader and the pastor here, I oversee everything that goes on here at Hope City, and I am responsible for the staff team, I’m responsible to ensure that we are financially responsible, and building towards future growth, I’m responsible to think about how we impact our city and yet also be sensitive enough to care about the needs of the individual. I’ve got 3 kids at home, a spouse who I love dearly, and I invest in those relationships regularly. The other day, one of my kids was slowly getting ready for school, too slow. We were getting ready to leave, and they had only gotten their socks on… no shoes. Well, I started getting frustrated and huffy, because they were walking to the car with no shoes on. I wanted to ensure that they were going to get their shoes on now. Why? Because I wanted to control this! Of all the things that matter in my day, all the things that should get my attention, when and how my kids put on their shoes is not one of them. Is it worth my concern? NO! There are certain things that I need to let go.
IN a relationship, you can have control, or you can have intimacy, but you can’t have both. Sometimes we get so frustrated by little things that are just not that big of a deal and we try to take control, and what does it do? It hinders our intimacy. This is why you must ask the question, is it worth my concern? Is it that big of a deal.
For example, is it worth my concern because someone didn’t put the toilet paper the right way? By the way, it is supposed to be hanging off the front. Is it really that big of a deal if for one day your kids hair isn’t perfect. I mean, do you really think that 5 years from now, that kid is going to be living on the streets because of the way that his hair or her hair wasn’t done? Some of you just need to chill out. You’re driving everyone crazy. Don’t elbow the person next to you… You just sit there. I’ll get up in your business. Let me do my job. ;).
Do you know what else we have in our house? We’ve these cheap plastic containers that stack in our mudroom. Every person has a shelf for their shoes. It can drive us crazy that when our kids walk in they take their shoes off, and where do you think they put them? That’s right… right on the floor. And I walk in at the end of the day, and practically trip on these shoes, and get frustrated that their not in their proper place. But do you know what, I only have 10 years left with kids in my house. And do you know what I’m going to miss in 10 years? Those shoes left on the floor. Too often the things that drive us crazy are the things that we will miss one day. Does it really matter? Is it worth my concern?
Some of you are getting upset over things that just don’t matter that much. You’re hurting relationships, you’re frustrating your kids. You’re crushing intimacy in your relationships…
A second question we have to ask, 2. Is It Mine To Control? Is it something that I should do something about… honestly, sometimes the answer is yes. God won’t do everything for you, God wants you to do somethings yourself. Some times we need to do something about it. There is a big difference between surrendering control, and relinquishing responsibility.
For example, if you’re messed up financially, you don’t sit around saying, ALRIGHT GOD… time to drop that big check in my lap… God’s like, no bro. I gave you two hands, two feet, and a brain… Go work. Don’t spend so much. Spend less than you’re making. If you’re marriage is in trouble, you can adjust your heart, you can suggest getting in a connect group, we need spiritual connection with other believers… You take steps to make it better. If you’re kid is going off the rails, making bad decisions, you want to be available to your child, you build a bridge, you keep those lines of communication open. You do what you can do.
If you’re a single guy, and you want to get married, QUIT PLAYING FORTNITE! Move out of your momma’s house and brush your teeth, get a job, and do something about it!
If it’s your’s to control, do something about it. And if it’s not yours to control, than we ask ourselves a third question… 3. Is It For God Alone? Is this one of those areas that I am trying desperately to control but it’s not mine to control… Look at what the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4 when he was chained to a roman guard on house arrest. He writes these crazy, powerful words…
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
See, when you try to control what you can’t, it grows Anxiety and Fear. And in fear the temptation is to say, well, it looks like all we can do now is pray. NO WAY! God isn’t a last ditch effort. Prayer is never a last resort. Don’t ever say that. Prayer is a first line of offense.
So what do we do, we choose to surrender our situations in prayer! We go before God with thanksgiving, because God cares! And so we go to God with these things! And what happens, the PEACE of God supernaturally overwhelms us. So when something is outside of your control, or it’s not yours to control… we go to God and pray about it…. And God gives you a supernatural peace.
When someone asks you how are you doing? And you say, Man, based upon my circumstances I should be in bad shape, but I’m doing well. God’s in control. I’ve given it to God in prayer.
Is this for God alone. If you’re married and your spouse is making bad decisions, you come to this situation, you need to ask the question, can I change my spouse. Let me answer that for you. NO YOU CAN’T! That’s for God alone. Through the power of His Holy Spirit to convict and change your spouse. You can make your spouse miserable, you can drive them away. You can affect their behavior for a little bit and then they’ll be gone. Can you change them? No! But can God change your spouse? YES. So, it is for God alone. You’re responsibility is to bring them before God. Pray for your spouse, your kids, for those situations that are for God alone to handle.
Let me remind you… why do we so often choose CONTROL? Because we are afraid… We are afraid of the outcomes. Listen to me. Look up here, if you don’t get anything else, you need to hear this.
FEAR DRIVES CONTROL BUT FAITH SURRENDERS CONTROL. The cycle of fear causes you to dig you nails in to the wheel and keep frantically driving. But Faith causes you to surrender control, and brings you to your knees in prayer.
Proverbs 3:5-6 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.
So what are we going to do? In order to eliminate the distractions, in order to clean up some of the white noise in our lives, we’re going to choose surrender over control!
Maybe this morning, you would say, I think I’m a bit of a control freak… This morning let me invite you to make a decision to let go. To surrender your control and allow Christ to step in and fill that gap. Control places a tremendous amount of faith in yourself, and your own strength. I don’t know about you, but I have learned just how weak and insecure I actually am. But the good news is that we don’t have to be strong. We don’t have to be in control. There is another way. We can choose to have faith–faith that surrenders control of our life to a God who authored life, who set it into motion.
Maybe you’d say this morning that life feels a bit like Abram and Sarai… you tried to take control of your own world, and it hasn’t worked out so well. The Bible calls that Sin. When we try to live outside of God and His plan for our life. Sin always leaves us longing for more. It leaves us wishing for a different outcome.
And quite honestly, sin left God wishing for a different outcome too. Sin separates us from God. And that breaks God’s heart. God has always been interested in having a relationship with us. But humans have overcomplicated things and turned our interaction with God into a list of things we do and don’t do. We’ve turned what was a beautiful relationship into a rigid religion.
Fortunately, God had a plan for that too. On the cross, Jesus died to forgive us once for all, for our sins. There would no longer be anything that would separate us from God. God wanted to shift our faith from being in us, to being in Jesus! There is something that you’re trying to control, that you’ve recognized is not yours to control anymore.
Would you trust in the Lord today? With all your heart. This morning would you place your faith, place your trust in Jesus? It’s not about being in control, but being surrendered to the one who is.