Picture this: God tells you to build an ark, because He is going to use it to save you, your family, and thousands of animals from a devastating global flood. For the next hundred years or so, you and your sons build this massive vessel, working with your hands to create it from scratch. You are doing something to save your family. Once it’s finished, your family and the animals are loaded in, God shuts the door, and then you endure the most cataclysmic event the earth has ever seen, floating in what’s basically a huge wooden box while the world as you know it is destroyed. You can do nothing but wait, pray, and trust God. And once the storms pass, you spend another 300 or so days just floating, waiting for the waters to recede. You can do nothing but wait and pray, trusting that God will direct you to dry land…if any is left.
Last Tuesday at the Porch, we talked about Noah and the Flood. One of the main points was how Noah had zero control over his life once he was in the ark; he could only trust God to protect and direct it. How do you think Noah felt after spending close to a century working with his own hands and strength to build the ark, only to have zero control over the outcome once the Flood got started? I’m guessing it didn’t feel great. I wonder if he questioned why God didn’t have him install a rudder or sail on the ark so that he could steer.
Do you struggle with wanting to control your life? Do you feel like you’ve put in enough effort and obedience that you deserve for God to hand you the rudder and give you the outcome you want? Well, it doesn’t actually work that way, since God doesn’t make deals like that. But He does love you more than you can imagine, and He wants you to experience the peace and joy that come from trusting in His control instead of your own.
Let’s look at some areas of life that many of us want to control, or think that we actually are in control of, and see what the Bible says about them.
Who doesn’t want to be healthy? There are some things that it seems we can influence with a lifestyle of eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. After all, there is some value from being physically disciplined. It’s OK to even pray for good health. But can you really control it? No. There are too many stories of otherwise healthy people getting seriously sick, whether it’s cancer, MS, a heart attack, ALS, or so many other things.
God doesn’t promise that you’ll be healthy your whole life. He may allow you to get sick so that He’ll be glorified when He heals you. Or He may be allowing Satan to test you, to see if you only love God because he’s blessed you with health. Or He may be using sickness to remind you that you need to rely on Him for strength instead of yourself. Health isn’t promised, but you can trust that God is in control of your health, and He has a purpose in however healthy you are.
79 years is about the average American lifespan. Do you think you’ll make it that far? Many of you likely will. Some of you will probably blow by it, maybe even living well into your 90’s. And some of you may not make it past the next five years, or even less. It’s a sobering thought, since as young adults we like to think that we’re invincible and that we’re guaranteed a long life ahead of us. But reality tells us that people die “before their time,” all the time.
God is in control of how long you’re alive, holding in His hand the breath of all mankind, and ordaining each of the days of your life. Knowing this fact will help you have a heart of wisdom. And thankfully, no matter how long your life on earth is, if you’re a Christian you’re guaranteed eternal life! Trust God that He’s given you the right number of days, and make the most of each day as it comes.
While you’re young, this is the time to put in the work and do whatever it takes to build your career, because then you’ll have made your money and be set for life. Right? At least that’s how the thinking goes. But it’s wrong. Some of you are absolutely giving all of yourselves away to your jobs, because you think that you can control how successful and wealthy you are, and that being successful and wealthy will satisfy you. Neither are actually the case.
The Bible warns you not to boast of your plans for success and wealth in the future. Instead, you should submit your career plans fully to the Lord. You shouldn’t wear yourself out to get rich, because you can’t actually control whether your wealth sticks around. Wealth is uncertain, so instead of hoping in it, you should hope in God, who controls all the world’s resources and will let you steward them according to His will and purpose. Work hard at whatever you do, but do it because you’re serving the Lord, not because you’re trying to get rich or promoted. If you do obtain wealth, remember that it’s God who gave you the ability to earn it, and look for ways to be faithful with the resources He’s entrusted to you.
Maybe you aren’t trying to control your life so that you’re healthy, rich, and make it to a ripe old age, but you probably have plans and desires of some kind for the future. Whether you’re a super type-A planner or someone who just likes to go with the flow, the Bible reminds you that you’re not ultimately in control. You may plan your course, but it’s God who directs your steps. His purpose for your life will win out, no matter what your plans are. And that’s a good thing, because God’s plan for your life is to work everything for your good. It might look different from how you imagined it, but you can trust Him.
For some of you, the truth that you’re not in control freaks you out, since you trust yourself more than you trust anyone or anything else, including God. For others, you may be tempted to just put life on cruise control and not take any responsibility for whatever happens, because “hey, God is in control!” Here’s the right balance: you’re responsible for faithful obedience, and God is responsible for the outcome.
Proverbs 3:5-6 summarizes it well: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
What are you trying to control? What do you need to give over to God’s control?