If you happened to be sitting between rows 24 and 27 on the American Airlines flight from San Antonio to Dallas last Sunday, you might have heard the following rhyme playing repeatedly during the 38 minute flight: I’ve got a remote/ and I’m ready to roll/ making things happen/ ‘cause I’m in control! While I won’t say that the battery powered toy remote is my favorite gift my son has received, it has definitely gotten me thinking about the idea of control. So, thanks Fisher-Price.
When I first heard the remote’s little ditty, my response was akin to, “Someday he’ll learn that he’s not really in control.” Not a typical response to a child’s plaything (and not entirely true). It did lead me to think about how much control we really do have in our lives and where it comes from.
First of all, God is in control. Duh. He’s the maker, the owner, the author, the one of whom the psalms say, “He does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:3, 135:6). He has a kingdom over which he reigns and a plan that will be accomplished. He, of anyone in the entire universe (which he made), is most definitely in control. That said, he chose to give us, his creation, free will. Free will means that we have some degree of control, right? We can choose to obey him or disobey him. Well, unless you start talking about slavery to sin and how we are so inclined toward opposing God’s ways from birth that it’s only with divine intervention that we can exercise the choice to obey him… but we’ll leave that conversation for another day. God in is control, we are not (for the most part).
As Christ followers, we are expected to exhibit some degree of self-control, as evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in our lives (Gal. 5:23). While we cannot control many things that happen to us, there are some things we can control and we are always responsible for our reactions to life’s circumstances. For example, I can’t control the amount of traffic on the freeway or the behavior of other drivers, but I can control my reaction to it, choosing to take a deep breath and pray for the person who cut me off rather than giving him the finger. That is a purely hypothetical example, of course.
God is in control of everything, holding all things together in Jesus. In Christ, we have relinquished control of our lives to the one who alone really can produce in it the stuff it was made for—love, peace, patience, kindness, etc. As Romans 6:17-18 says, “…though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” God has enough real power in our lives to change the orientation of our hearts. Now that, my friend, is an amazing amount of control.
I don’t know about you, but I find control to be a topic that easily relates to our celebration of the New Year. It’s a natural time to reflect on the past year and make hopeful predictions for the year to come. We might make resolutions to do this or not do that, the success of which depends almost entirely on our own self-control. Whether or not we’re making New Year’s resolutions, may we enter 2014 with a fresh sense of God’s control, exercised both apart from us and within us.