June 5 Devotional Copy Copy

Whose Control?

The year was 1986, and I loved to dance (still do) and, as a 20-something, was pretty fond of anything that celebrated feelings of independence and success as an aspiring adult. And Janet Jackson came out with this song simply named “Control,” which is all about her desire to take control of her own life. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

“This is a story about control.
My control. Control of what I say,
Control of what I do.
And this time I’m gonna do it my way
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do
Are we ready?
I am, ‘Cause it’s all about control,
And I’ve got lots of it.”

Today, more than 30 years later and a lot more experienced, I’ve come to understand a lot about the human desire to feel in control. Right now in our country and, indeed, around the world, many are suffering, fighting, arguing about many things. People are frustrated. We’ve endured months of uncertainty through COVID-19, feeling helpless to the effects on our economy, our health and in our homes. As if this wasn’t enough, we are now in the midst of the tragedy surrounding the senseless death of a defenseless man, George Floyd, and subsequent destruction of our cities and even worse — our belief in one another.

In all of this chaos, many are responding in ways that just exacerbate the hurt, the division. I’ve talked to many of you, and it seems the more out of control the world gets, the more we strive to find ways to put a stake in the ground — to take a stand and find our own version of control. But this can be a slippery slope.

The Bible is full of testimonies of God’s people seeking control, beginning with Eve (and Adam), who lost everything for a shot at being in control by attaining equality with God. I think we know how that turned out. Even Moses, who led God’s people out of Egypt and to the promised land, got a little overconfident in his own power and stepped outside the bounds of God’s direction. He saw the promised land, but never stepped foot into it. Then there was Jonah, who thought he could avoid God’s call on his life (You’re not the boss of me!) and ended up in the belly of a whale. Again, not a great ending.

Many of us have experienced similar negative outcomes when we attempt to set the course on our own terms. But I am also confident that many of you have experienced the emotional and spiritual benefits that come with the simple act of acknowledging that some things just cannot be controlled and all things can be improved by the simple act of acknowledging God’s Lordship over it and following Christ’s example in response.

So, there are most definitely things we can control. Google (and Janet) says we can control a lot. As Christians, we will want to prioritize those options based on our faith in and emulation of Christ.

First, we can control what comes out of our mouths.  In Matthew 15:11, Jesus said “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” I don’t know about you, but I have never felt regret over the negative things I didn’t say, but I have most definitely spent sleepless nights, felt deep shame and longed for forgiveness over the negative things I did say. For some of us (talking personally here now), it may take duct tape at first, but what have we got to lose trying it Jesus’ way?

We can control the actions we take. Faith without action will not grow. And without growth, our faith will diminish. James 2:14-17 says this: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” People are still in need of food and shelter and hope in the midst of COVID, and peaceful protesters really could respond to kind and meaningful dialogue. Again, what have we got to lose trying it Jesus’ way?

What can you do today that will change a life? What would happen if God’s ways become our ways?  If the control we exert is control given by God, not attempted by us alone. If enough of us do something, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could start new, positive change in our community and world.

Grace and Peace,
René Watson, Minister of Adminstration