I am speaking to a men's group this weekend. Since retiring, I don't get all that many opportunities. The question I have been thinking about lately is this: "WHO'S IN CHARGE?" Do I really have control over every part of my life? Or am I living in a state of mistaken autonomy? That is the substance of my talk.
Men like to be in control; to fix things. Men think they can do just about anything including finding their way without a map (or GPS) and figure out how to put a piece of IKEA furniture together without directions.I am like that completely. Just ask Judy. I like to think I am in control and can do anything.
But it doesn't always add up or work out that way. We - as human beings - are confronted with a paradox that troubles us. We believe in a God who is all powerful, all knowing, and providential. Yet we live in the tension of being "responsible" for daily choices and actions. Some call this "free will."
How do those two things dovetail? Is God really all-powerful and sovereign? Are humans truly "free" to do their own thing? How much of life does a person really have in their control; their own free will.
The famous "Serenity Prayer" addresses this:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
When I was preaching every week, I learned that God never let me preach a sermon that I had not first lived. For example (and this actually happened lots) whenever I would plan on preaching "The Parable of the Good Samaritan" I would have some visible, very real opportunity to test my own willingness to love and care for my "neighbor." One night - as an Associate Pastor in Renton - I was scheduled to preach that message on a Sunday morning. Saturday night at about 11:30 pm, we were awakened by a phone call. A man was stranded over on Pacific Highway South - a broken down car, no money, no one to call. He called me. Coincidence? I don't think so.A tough decision to make? Yes, Absolutely. In spite of my sense of misgiving and potential risk, I went and helped this "stranger" whom God had allowed (or placed) into my life.
So I am challenging men to ask themselves, "Who is in control of your life? You or God?" As I was preparing a powerpoint outline of my talk, God came through once again and brought or allowed a challenge to come into my experience that confronted me with the same question.
You see, I was hoping that this talk to men would be the first "book speaking" engagement. I based what I want to say on some of the themes that our in our book "THROUGH STORMY WATERS." In addition to speaking, I was planning on having the first box of books available for purchase and signing if men wanted a copy. I believed the books would arrive in plenty of time.
Thursday - No books yet. Panic. Where are they? I thought I had this all under control! Apparently not!
After some frantic phone calls and investigation, we (my publisher and I) discovered a problem with the order. They had not been shipped via two-day delivery. They wouldn't arrive until after the speaking engagement.
Another test of my faith! Who is in control? "Do I believe - really believe - what I intend to tell these men this weekend?"
Martin Luther King, speaking to a group of Civil Rights activists said, "You don't have to see the entire staircase. You just have to take one step at a time." Much easier said than done for sure. But it makes me confront the reality that I am in much less control than I would like to think and that in order to live authentically as a believer, I need to walk by faith. I want to do what I can, while at the same time trusting in a God who is not only sovereign but providentially in control over my life. God has a better perspective and a bigger plan over my life than I do.
So, the long story, hopefully made a little shorter is this: A smaller order of books was shipped overnight delivery and should be here today - just in time for the men's breakfast. We'll see. But if they are not here,
"oh well, another lesson for me to make this truth a reality.