Who’s in Control?

I should probably begin this with a disclaimer, a warning: this is not politically correct, not religiously correct, and may be offensive to a lot of folks. It’s offensive to me. You probably don’t want to read this.
What? You’re still here? Well, you’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk.
A few months ago, I posted something on the topic of “Trust, Don’t Lean,” a lesson for this season from Proverbs 3. I can’t get away from that topic.
I believe that this is a season for us to trust Father God instead of leaning on our own understanding. I also believe that this is a much subtler issue than I have realized before.
I hear so many of my brothers & sisters praying the way that was so very common for me, until I realized the rebellion that it represented in me.
My favorite way to pray for guidance from God was along the lines of “God, show me what to do, and I’ll do it!” It sounds good, right?
But what was really in my heart had a slightly different interpretation. The way I walked this out was more along the lines of “If you’ll show me what you want, then I’ll make a decision about whether I want to do that.”
The difference is subtle, and it’s huge. It’s every bit as big as the difference between Him leading me and me leading Him, because that’s what it is.
If I insist on knowing his instructions before I obey, or if I want to understand before following, then I’ve changed the authority in my life. If I have reserved the final approval for myself, my own authority, then I am the “lord” of my life, and God has become my counselor.
In less subtle language, it would sound like this: “Look, you give me all the advice you want to; I’ll decide whether I’m ‘feeling led’ to obey it or not.”
That sounds harsh stated bluntly like that, but this is the way many Western believers follow God: “You advise me, but I’m making the decisions!”
A few years back, there was a popular bumper sticker: “God is my co-pilot.” Then another one came out to rebut it, and it captures something of what I’m trying to say: “If God is your co-pilot, change seats!”
If I am asking God to tell me what to do, then I choose to obey what he’s saying, of necessity, this means that I am the king of my own life, and God is reduced to my advisor or assistant.
In the same way, if I need to understand what is happening before I walk forward into it, then I am choosing to be master of my life. If this happens when I’m facing a room full of unfamiliar people, there is great wisdom in this approach. But if I’m waiting to understand what God is up to, then I’m back to making him my Heavenly Concierge again.
I wouldn’t bring this up, except that I see it in so many Western Christians: “When I understand what God is doing, then I’ll trust him with my life.” I see many believers sitting on their hands, “waiting on God” to understand what he’s doing in their lives before moving forward in obedience.
“Is this the season, Lord, where you fulfill all my grandest dreams?” If they feel an answer in the affirmative, they risk hoping in those dreams; otherwise, they don’t go anywhere.
I would argue that if God says, “Step forward!” then it’s time to step out. It’s not time to ask what will be the results of my stepping forward? “Will my sister ‘get saved’ if I step forward, and you know that it would be really good if she did!”
There’s room for this argument: “But how can I obey if I don’t know what I’m going to obey?”
It seems to me that asking the question reveals the disease: the folks who have God in the Number Two seat tend to be the ones who ask that question.
How do we obey without understanding what it is that we need to obey? I keep having to ask, why do I need to understand before obeying? Here are some of the questions that this leads me to:
  • What benefit does understanding provide to my ability to obey? I find that my understanding is limited by my capacity to understand, which is – as hard as this is to believe – noticeably less than God’s capacity to understand. He can see the relationship between my obedience and my sister’s salvation whether I can or not.
  • When I ask for understanding, have I already chosen to obey and even begun to obey, or is my decision to obey going to come after I understand, if I understand?
  • What do I do if God has a different plan for my life than I do? What if “success” in God’s mind is the thing that we call “failure”? Jonah will work as an example here. He wanted to live the comfortable and well-regarded life of a prophet in Israel. God had other plans: “Go to Nineveh!” Later, Jonah reveals his agenda. “You’re doing exactly what I didn’t want; that’s why I went the other way! Go ahead: kill me now!” (Paraphrased from Jonah 4:1-3.)

Here in the western church, we’re big on the concept of God as “Daddy” and our “best friend.” Those concepts are true, but we overlook the less comfortable concept of God as “King of Everything” (the technical term is “sovereign”) who has the inherent right to do any thing he darned well feels like with our lives. We are fortunate indeed that his plans for us are always (as in “100% of the time”) in our best interests, but his commands are no less commanding simply because they’re good for us.
I was whining about martyrs to God one evening long ago. He let me go on for a while, and then when I stopped my pity-party long enough to draw a breath, he interrupted: “Do I not have the right to spend the lives of my servants as I see fit?”
I realized that I had done what I’m writing about here: I had judged his plans by my tiny little brain, and because I couldn’t see the connection between “the blood of the martyrs” and any tangible benefits, I was judging his plans for ruling the world, for leading the Church as inferior to “the way I would do it.”
God the Father is indeed my Daddy and Jesus really is my Best Friend. But more than that, God really is omniscient: he really does know what will come of my obedience. He really is sovereign: he has the right to tell me “Go here” or “Do this” and he may give me an explanation or not as he sees fit. In fact, as my friend, he is very likely to explain things to me.
But for me to demand an explanation before I obey is not obedience. It’s rebellion of the highest order.
“Why Lord” is illegal until after we have declared “Yes Lord!” in both word and deed.

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