I Am Not In Control

In case you don’t know, I’m 23 years old.  The reason this is important is that for the past 22 years, my life has been pretty secure.  For the first 18 years, I did what a majority of kids did.  I went to school.  I did homework.  I saw my family.  Same old, same old.

I knew I was going to Montevallo six months before I graduated.  I never had to worry about a stressful decision.  Montevallo gave me more money than Alabama, I wanted a small school, so I went to UM.  Not much stress there.

For the last four and a half years, I was back and forth between Montevallo and Vestavia, with summer trips to Virginia and the Philippines in between.  I knew where and who I was–a Mass Comm student, member of the BCM, friend, family member, etc.  I had class, I had BCM events, I knew what I was doing the next semester five months before it got there, and everything seemed to just coast along.

It was easier to follow God in this structured life.  It was easy to find ways to glorify Him in my work, relationships, ministry opportunities, etc.  I had a plan.  I was going to be at UM for 4.5 years, get a degree, get a job, and serve a church.  I was going to stay in town, work at a local paper, go to seminary, and not much would change, other than location and job.

And now, about four months after graduation, I can confidently say that nothing has gone according to plan.  I thought I’d start seminary and finish in four years.  Now, I don’t know if I’ll finish it in seven.  It may take me ten.  I thought for sure I’d find a job somewhere in the state.  Nope.  I thought for sure that this great, logical, rational plan I had made up for myself was going to work.

The old joke is that if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him what your plans are.  While I don’t hear God laughing, I do hear Him speaking those dreaded words that I never like to hear: “You are NOT in control.  No matter how much you think you are, you are not God, and you never will be.”

If you asked me if I thought I was God, if I thought I was in control, I’d probably laugh in your face.  Because, on the surface, that sounds preposterous.  But deep down, and in the everyday, when I start to see how real that lack of control really is….I know I’ve made it an idol.  I’m scared, not because I fear moving away or taking longer in seminary than I thought I would.  I’m scared because I’m not in control.  I am a control freak.

And I am a sinner.  I try to control my own salvation.  I want to be the one who makes God happy.  I want to be the one who changes my own life.  I want to do it, I want to prove myself, I, I, I, I, and I.

But the gospel gets rid of me and inserts Jesus in my place.  I do not earn my forgiveness, Jesus does.  I don’t make God happy, Jesus does.  I don’t prove myself before God and earn His approval, Jesus does.  I am not righteous, Jesus is.  I can’t even change my own heart.  Jesus does.

I am nothing.  I have nothing.  I’m convinced the reason I struggle to rest in Christ and trust that I’m saved is because I am a control freak.  It’s seemingly impossible for me to trust someone else to do something I need done.  And so I freak out, until I feel like I have control over the situation.  But I never have control.  It’s a facade.  My salvation is found in Christ’s finished work, not my prayers.  If I’m trusting my own ability to control my salvation, I’m not trusting Jesus.  This isn’t just stupid, it’s deadly.

For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to understand just how small I am, and that I literally have no control.  I can’t control God, I can’t control others, and I can’t control my own life.  I have no idea what God is about to do.  For goodness’ sake, I just got two emails apologizing that jobs in Minnesota and North Dakota have already been filled.  NORTH DAKOTA! (No disrespect to ND).  I’d be less than an hour away from Canada (Yes, I did check)!  If you had told me a year ago that I’d even be applying for jobs in that part of the country, I’d call you crazy.  I don’t know where I’m going to be living in the next month.  I don’t know what church I’ll be attending (another thing that hasn’t changed in 20 years).  I don’t know what I’ll be doing.  And every year after this one seems less and less secure.

Obviously, part of this is just life, and the process of growing up.  I understand that.  It happens to everyone, Christian and non-Christian.  But, as a Christian, it forces me to ask myself if I really trust God.  Do I really trust Him to finish what He started?  Do I really trust Him to keep me following Christ, even if that’s across the country?  Do I really trust that His will is better than my will?  Do I really trust Jesus to be all that He’s promised to be?

I need to, that’s for sure.  And so I pray, earnestly, that God would give me faith.  Not just an intellectual, theologically rich faith.  But a real faith from my heart that leads to resting in Jesus, to joy in Jesus, and, ultimately, to a life that glorifies the King.  I don’t have that right now.  But 1 Peter says that Christians are being guarded by God’s power, through faith.  It is God who gives faith.  All that’s left is for me to ask Him, to trust Him to do it, and to keep following Him as He fulfills His promises.

Jesus never promises that I’ll be able to see what’s going to happen.  One day, Peter was fishing for fish.  In the course of that same day, he stopped doing what he was doing, and started following the King of the universe, fishing for men.  That’s how quickly Jesus changes things.

So I don’t know what will happen.  But God does.  And I’m going to let that be enough for me.

May we trust in Your wisdom and not our own, God. May we find everything we need, from salvation to breakfast, in You.  Amen.

God bless,

Neal E.

Kingdom Inheritance Continued

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

The kingdom.  I strive, so many times, to earn good grades, to enter into that “one” relationship, to be known, to make money…and my heavenly Father, out of His amazing love for me, has given me the kingdom!  How foolish I can be!

Don’t miss the first part of that…not only does God give us the kingdom, He delights, it pleases Him to give us the kingdom!

When we enter into relationship with God, which is made possible only through Jesus Christ, He makes us part of the family of God, and we have an inheritance in the kingdom of God.  We are co-heirs with Christ, our Savior.  Hebrews calls this an “eternal inheritance,” for it will never fade.  Our God is eternal, and when we are saved, we are promised that for the rest of time, for all eternity, we will live and share and enjoy the presence of God.  No more tears, no more sin, no more death, only God and His family.

Is that enough for us?  To live eternally, with no end, in the presence of God, who created this universe, who is sovereign over all things?  In the presence and enjoyment of the God who created us, who LOVES us, unconditionally, and who SAVED us from our sin and from death?  Is it enough to enjoy Christ, our Savior?  We have a foretaste here on Earth and what that eternal fellowship will be like through the local church, but it does not compare to the awesome and glory of heaven.

So again I ask, why do you worry? Or rather, what worries you?  Job, home, family?  Concerns about how you look to others?  Lay it down, brothers and sisters.  Jesus is Healer.  He is Savior.  Will life get easier?  No, and it might get harder.   But we have the promise that God is with us, and He will work in and through us for His glory, and that, I can say with full confidence, satisfies.  Being a part of the family of God brings true joy.

This kingdom inheritance should radically impact and change the way we live our lives. Look at verse 33 of Luke 12: “Sell your possessions and give to the needy….For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  We give to the needy because we are no longer needy because God has secured us eternally.

If we truly love the Lord, and have fellowship and intimacy with Him, we will give everything to follow Him, to know Him, and to make Him and His glory known all around this world.

Romans 8:15-17 says “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Suffering.  Not a fun word, we don’t like to think about it.  But we are promised that through our suffering, we are being made more like Christ (James 1:3-4) and that after it all, we will be glorified with Christ.  It will be worth it.  Christ is worth it.

He is worth it.  Our inheritance in the kingdom of God should overcome all of our worries, anxiety, and suffering.  We have peace with God because of Christ.

Don’t seek after the things of this world.  Center your life around Christ.  Seek God’s kingdom.  Do not worry, for God loves to love you, to give you the kingdom.

If you are a believer, there is no cause for concern because we have a heavenly Father that delights in providing for us, so much so, that He has given us the greatest gift in Himself, and has also given us an inheritance in His eternal kingdom.

One last thing I want you to see is the result of this glory, this inheritance, what this treasure will look like.  Turn to Revelation 19:6-9.  This is what awaits us in heaven…a feast, a fellowship, with God Almighty, and with our Lord and Savior, looking forward to an eternity with Him who loves us deeply.

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’–for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'”

The marriage supper of the Lamb to His bride, the church, the believers.  Revelation 21:3-5 says that God will wipe every tear from our eye, and there will be no more mourning or death.  He will “dwell with them,and they will be his people.”  There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, man or woman, American or Middle Eastern….only God’s family.  We look forward to this feast, to this fellowship, to enjoying our inheritance in God’s kingdom, and enjoying God Himself, for all eternity.  We can do this because of the incredible love Christ showed for us on the cross.  It is by Him alone that we can live, and have right relationship with God.

And it is for Him only that I write, and that I live for.  May God get the glory.

God bless,

Neal E

Comments, questions, concerns? Send to rembry@forum.montevallo.edu.  I will be more than happy to tell you more about God, and how you can be a part of this family.