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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Control

5-8If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
(James 1:5-8)

3"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."
(Matthew 5:3)

James was the half-brother of Jesus.  He was among the "inner three" of the disciples, often found accompanying Jesus (along with John and Peter) into special circumstances.  He was there at the Transfiguration, when the daughter of the rich ruler was raised from the dead, etc.  He had "insider" knowledge of the intimate teachings of his "half-brother".  So, it is not unusual that the letter he writes to the first century believers was almost a parallel of the teachings we call the Sermon on the Mount.  

The idea presented in each of the passages above is that when there is less of us, there is more of God.  No one is more blessed than the one that has allowed the presence of God to become central in their lives.  The place of being at the "end of your rope" is the beginning place for God's presence to begin to affect us in ways it had not before.  It is there that we find deep, connecting love.

It is a matter of who is in control.  The one in "control" is the one that must be relied upon.  We have all probably been in a situation where we have seen the example of "trusting" your partner to catch you when you fall backward.  The use of this "technique" of trusting another to catch you is really designed to show us that in a team we are better than when we are alone.  Yet, it is the idea that control is being given to the other person that often frightens most of us and keeps us from "taking the plunge" in the first place.

We want to be "in control" of all avenues of our life.  To "let go" of control suggests that we may get what we don't want, might suffer some loss, or might be somehow "misdirected" into something that will do us harm.  So, we hold onto control.  We have to control because we cannot trust.  God's purpose in telling us that it as at the end of our rope that we enjoy the greatest freedom is because he knows that is the place where we give up control!

Praying for our needs to be met, then going out and meeting them on our own terms and by our own efforts is silliness.  James knew that prayer that really mattered was prayer that revealed trust in the one who answers prayer - God himself.  We often "think" we have prayed in a "trusting" manner - yet, the end-result of our prayer is that we are still doing it all ourselves!  God is not honored by those types of prayers - those prayers where we "keep all our options open".  

As Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, he clearly establishes one thing as preeminent - God must be trusted and in order to reveal our trust, we have to allow him to be in control.  So, to establish a starting point for our next several lessons, let's ask ourselves who is "really" in control in our lives.  Are we simply living life "keeping our options open" - trusting self more than God? If so, it is time for a "control shift"!