Acorns From Oakes

Seeing With Our Father's Eyes

The Illusion of Control

Let’s see now…how can I get ahead in life. This is, of course, my interest. This was pre-figured at my birth. I was a twin. When my brother was born first, from inside the womb I reached forth my hand to grasp his heel. It was as though I would have pulled him back inside so that I could be first. The favoritism that my mom and dad revealed (dad favoring my brother…mom favoring me), set up the contest. Who would be first? I was determined it would be me. I schemed. I jockeyed for position. I kept my finger on the pulse of things. I was always ready to spring into action in order to gain my purpose. I deceived my brother, who actually made an easy target. I deceived my nearly blind father. As I fled from my vengeful brother, I actually even schemed with God. I played “Let’s make a deal” with God. If You will take care of me…feed me, clothe me, protect me…and bring me back to this place safely one day, why then You will be my God. And I’ll even pay You a tenth of all I own. Sound like a good deal? That’s what Jacob thought. He ran to Mesopotamia where he met his match in scheming. And for the next several years he and his father-in-law tried to out-do one another in scheming. All of this while a tremendous contest was going on inside his own home as his competing wives vied for his affection and attention.

The interesting thing is that Jacob seemed very effective in reaching his goals. His possessions had increased significantly. His family, flocks and servants had grown very large. But, as we follow the story, we learn that it wasn’t really Jacob’s cleverness nor his talents, nor even his hard work that caused him to get ahead in life. And Jacob himself will come to realize this.

Listen to Psalm 44:3-4…It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them. You are my King and my God, Who decrees victories for Jacob.

What was true of the nation of Israel had also been true of their forefather, Jacob. Jacob was enriched because God wanted it so. And Jacob’s breakthrough moment came at the ford of the Jabbok River where God engaged him in the contest of his life. God, in the form of a representative surprised Jacob with a wresting match. When Jacob is confronted in the night, he no doubt thinks that his brother has finally found him and is trying to kill him. So Jacob wrestles for his life. He really is wrestling for his life, but not his physical life. Now, does anyone think they could do well in a wrestling match against God? Of course not! But God keeps Jacob struggling, until, finally, He wrenches Jacob’s hip. Now the trickster has been tricked. Now Jacob can no longer wrestle. He can only cling. And this he does until daybreak nears. That night, face to face with God, as it were, he finally admits the truth about himself. God wants to know his name. Again, God isn’t in the dark about this…but Jacob must come clean. My name is “Cheater,” he admits. I have cheated my whole way through life. I have schemed and lied. I have taken advantage of others. I did nearly anything in order to maintain control and get my own way. Now God has shown him the truth. Now God has changed his heart. Now Jacob has a new character evidenced by a new name and a brand new relationship with God. Now his name is Israel. Now the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, was his God too. Now he is not only content, but ecstatic to surrender “control” to the God Who really had always been in control and Who had always had Jacob’s best interests at heart.

Now…what are we going to do about our need to always be in control?

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8 thoughts on “The Illusion of Control

  1. I know trying to be in control of things can seem like we can Win some in this life.
    I know there is a difference between being in control and being a pushover where people just run over you. But people will take advantage and run over you if you don’t have some backbone and try to assert yourself. I know that we can go overboard with being too assertive. Jacob planned so many things to come out on top. It is alright to plan and feel like you have some power to make things work for you. But in our Spiritual life with God I know we cannot be in control. God is the one who will work for our best interests if we let him. But I do want to get in there sometimes and tell God how I would want it instead of saying “Your will be Done”. I know that I need to think and handle some of those things differently. I know it but………it’s hard to just stand back and let God Work. In this world they tell you to take control of being “Proactive” in your own health matters. We sometimes want to do that in all parts of our lives. There are a lot of people who are only for themselves. They are not really interested in others. So you want to take charge the best you can, but it does not always work. There have been too many people who try to be in control and it destroys relationships with friends and relatives. It just doesn’t work. But with God in Control…well that is a different matter totally. He is truly for us. I know he cares about His People. He is trying to bring us to better things if we let him be in Control. I know this but sometimes forget it. Gail

    • oakesclan on said:

      If being assertive means refusal to yield to other drivers trying to merge onto the highway…if it means insisting on our rights at all times…if it means always speaking my peace…then, it is a bad thing. Someone noted that perhaps the greatest right we have is the right to forego our rights out of interest for others. No, I don’t think we are intended to be doormats all the time…but sometimes doormats provide a useful service, don’t they? Surely we must look to God for wisdom as we live our lives trying to give place to His control of our lives. His control is not an ironclad, forced thing, at all. He places these wonderful little hints inside our hearts…maybe, I should let the other person be first…maybe I should listen instead of speaking right now…maybe I should accept this person, even though I have difficulty relating to them…and on and on. One thing I know, if we surrender to God and His influence on/control of our lives, we are NOT losers. But, like you, sis, there are too many things I know on one level, but fail to practice in my life. Good thing He is patient!

  2. I made such a huge mess of things when I tried to do things my way! What a disaster! You think that would stop me from ever wanting to try to control things ever again. But I find myself thinking “if God would just listen to me and do what I am asking it would all work out fine”. Really Sherry?? Seriously??

    I need to learn a lesson from Mary…and her Son. “Not my will, but Yours be done” God has taken care of me through the roller coaster days of my life. He will continue I am sure. Because this I know…God is for me.

    • oakesclan on said:

      I’m not sure how I got this way, Sherry, but I find that I am embarrassingly forgetful. You alluded to it. How is it possible for me to be on the receiving end of God’s efforts on my behalf…to be saved from disasters…to be lifted and loved and encouraged beyond measure…to be fed, clothed, protected, educated, employed and, above all this, to be forgiven and accepted…how can such wondrous things come to me…and then…as though none of this was part of my history, I can act as though I am on my own…the master of my own fate…and must take matters into my own hands? How can this be?
      But our Father knows we are dust…we are forgetful…we are unappreciative…we are fearful…and yet loves us still. He keeps working with us…working on us…working in us. I’m so glad for your confidence that God is for you. I think that’s right on. Somewhere down inside me that notion is growing for me as well. It is a good feeling. Thanks for sharing, Sherry. Keep kicking. And congratulations on your achievements! My love and greetings to all the folks at the Open church.

  3. I read a little meditation once that talked about how “we cannot forever stand against God’s will for us”. The first time I read that I had this thought, “God is always going to win.” I don’t know why I try to fight. His will is going to be done whether I cooperate or not. Right? If I’m wrong please let me know. I’ve always believed I can make it painful or peaceful … the choice is mine. Too many times when the words, “Not my will but thine be done” come out of my mouth it is out of consolation … I’m exhausted from trying to hold it all together. I want to learn to let those words be my prayer … before the mess … not when I’m knee deep in it.

    • oakesclan on said:

      Paige,
      You raise some very interesting thoughts. I do think the meditation you read made a good point. And there’s a whole lot about God’s will that I don’t have figured out. But, I think it’s entirely possible for us to take a rigid stand against God’s will for us. We can end our lives as rebels, of course. But within the will of God, there seem to be matters which He has determined in His wisdom are certain to occur regardless of human response. Illustrations would be…when we plant immorality we will reap judgment…it is appointed to us once to die…we can’t serve two masters…etc. But it appears there is another dimension of God’s will that is not determined or set in stone, as it were. Shall you serve Him as a school teacher or a doctor? Will you have a house, or an apartment? Will you serve in foreign missions or serve Him at home in the USA? Multiply these. It’s a big umbrella…under which God seems to allow us to agonize over decisions like this which are conditioned by our desire to serve Him. We pray (and why do this if it were all pre-determined anyway?), we study, we ask the advice of others we respect…then, at some point, we try to make the best decision we can. And God works with us in all this. Yet sometimes, with all of that, we still have to back up and go another direction, don’t we? So…yes…certain, determined aspects of God’s will are going to occur whether I cooperate or not. But there are some mighty important aspects of His will for us that are predicated upon our cooperation? And sometimes the painful route, is the correct one. Wasn’t Ananias told that God was about to show Saul of Tarsus how many things he must suffer for His Name’s sake? And Saul (who became Paul) was willing to do it. He discounted the terrible sufferings and trials which came to Him, because they weren’t worthy to be compared with the glories of serving Christ.
      I appreciate your honest admission that your prayer, “Not my will but Yours,” often seems to come only as a last resort. I feel that way about me too. And you are right on…we need to come to the point where this is not our final, point of exhaustion response, but our first, faithful response.
      I don’t know if I have shared anything helpful here…I probably just proved true what I said about not having a bunch of things figured out about God’s will. Anyway…always good to be challenged by your thoughts. Thanks, sis. God bless you.

  4. Brilliant synopsis of the story, dad. I had never thought about Jacob only being able to cling to God as he wrestled after his hip was wrenched. I love that picture!

    • oakesclan on said:

      Thanks for the input, son. Jacob’s story is powerful and is filled with all kinds of application for us. Your sermon on it inspired me to re-visit it. I thought you did a fabulous job with it.
      Hey…it’s been too long since I’ve spoken with you by phone. Gotta fix that.
      I love you, son.

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