Tagged ‘Control‘

God Is Completely In Control

In July, I wrote we are freed from anxiety when we understand God owns everything, and we are merely the stewards of what he gives us to manage. As you know, the day after posting the article, my sailboat went aground in Lake Okeechobee. The rudder was severely damaged, and the vessel currently sits in long-term storage at a marina waiting for the repair. I am excited to see how God is at work in the situation. A few weeks ago I was asked to do a kitchen remodel for friends of mine. Another friend asked if I would help with their guest house remodel. Yet another friend asked if I would remodel their guest bathroom. Suddenly I had weeks of work lined up! God moved quickly to provide the work. This is the type of work I have done in the past to supplement my ministry income. Through the years, I’ve gutted two different personal properties and rebuilt them, so I have a lot of experience from which to draw. I am grateful God seems to be providing for the rudder by providing this work for me.

Understanding God’s ownership is the first step to overcoming anxiety. The next step is to understand God is fully in control. Not only does he own everything, he also controls everything. Nothing takes him by surprise. He is always in control of our circumstances. In theological terms, we call this the sovereignty of God. This one thought has saturated my mind in the past two months. God is sovereign. He is in control. I am not. And this is fine with me.

Let’s let God speak for himself in regards to this important truth. This is what he says through the prophet Isaiah:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:8-11, ESV)

Pause for a moment, and let those words saturate your soul. God declares of himself, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” He is above all and over all. There is no one like him. He is supreme above all.

When we understand his sovereignty, we get a better picture of ourselves. We are not God. Our ways are not like his. We are created in the image of God, but we are not at all like him. We do not think like God, but we like to think we can understand him and his ways. Herein is where we struggle. We want to understand why trials fall upon us. We want to understand God’s purposes. We want to understand God. But is this even possible? I think not.

It is better to love God than to try to understand him. Perhaps this is where we fall short. We spend our days trying to understand him instead of just crawling up on his lap and enjoying him, loving him, pressing into him. Far better to enjoy his presence than to weary ourselves trying to understand what cannot be understood. In the end, he is God and there is no other. His ways are higher than ours.

God also declares his ways and purposes cannot be thwarted. He will do what he has set out to do. Nothing and no one can change this. He proclaims, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11, ESV).

Ultimately, God’s purpose for my life is for me to love him with all my heart. This is his greatest desire for me. How God brings this about in my life may vary from one moment to the next. Sometimes there are seasons of favor when all is well. We celebrate these moments of the excess of God’s kindness in our lives. In the blessings, we are drawn closer to him. Other times he brings great trials, and in our brokenness we turn to him for comfort. God can use both seasons to draw us closer to himself. Whether he chooses to bless or to burden is not for us to know. It is only for us to know he waits with open arms to draw us to himself in either circumstance.

When God provided the sailboat for me, many remarked that it was the favor of God. What happened to God’s favor when the sailboat went aground? Was not this a moment of his favor as well? We recognize God’s favor when times are good, but when trials come, we are quick to forget he is always in control. What if God shows us the highest favor by allowing great trials into our lives, knowing they may draw us closer to himself?

Our trials bring great pause, because they contain the greatest choice we have to make. Will we choose to let the trial push us away from God and our relationship with him, or will we choose to crawl unto his lap instead?

I choose his lap. I am a child of the sovereign God. When I’ve skinned my knees, I just want to be held by him. And so I run to him. He pulls me up onto his lap, and holds me close to himself. This is enough for me. In that moment, I am loved, and I love him for it. I don’t even care if he tells me the greater purpose he is working out. I rest in the knowledge that he is sovereign. He is fully in control. I do not have to understand him and his ways in order to love him and feel loved by him.

My friend, are you in a season of favor, and all is well? Draw closer to God. Are you in a season of trial, and struggling to get through the day? Draw closer to God. Stop trying to understand what cannot be understood. Just love him. Let this be enough. God is sovereign, and he is also good. His purposes will not be thwarted, and neither will his love for you.

God is completely in control.

As I sit at my desk and write this, I am aware there is a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean grinding its way toward my home. It will be interesting to see where God directs it. After all, he is sovereign.

I enjoy reading your thoughts. Please write your comments below.

The Anxiety Cure – Part 2

Towed off the rocks by Boat US.

On July 4 I posted the blog “The Anxiety Cure.” At the time of posting, I was on a Catalina 30 sailboat in the Okeechobee Waterway, transporting the vessel from St. Augustine, Florida to my home in Southwest Florida. In the blog I wrote about the importance of understanding that God owns all things, and we are merely the managers of the things he gives us. When we live this way, it frees us from anxiety.

The trip was one of the most exciting adventures I have ever undertaken. I was on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway for three and a half days. I was currently on the Okeechobee Waterway working my way across the state. The end of the journey was near. In three short days I would reach home. The following morning I made my way through the Port Mayaka lock and into Lake Okeechobee. Taking the rim route along the south border of the lake, I carefully navigated with GPS using a digital chart, following the marked channel on the map. Without warning I felt the keel strike a rock and then another. With a sickening grind, the boat lurched to a stop. I was stuck. I had grounded the vessel. I was greatly confused. I had followed the chart. How could I be grounded? I tried unsuccessfully to free the vessel, but it would not move.

I later found out from a local captain that the digital chart I was following had mismarked the channel. I had done everything I could to navigate the water safely. He said many other sailboats had gone aground in the same area. Without the channel marked correctly, it was just a matter of time before I grounded.

I called a tow boat to pull me off. In the process of pulling the boat off the rocks, the rudder post bent. As soon as I was free of the rocks, I tried the steering wheel, but it bound when I tried to turn it. I decided to have the boat towed back to a marina on the eastern branch of the waterway, about twelve miles back in Indiantown. At the marina, we pulled the boat out of the water to inspect the damage. It was bad. The rudder was severely damaged. The trip home came to a grinding halt.

They moved the boat to the work yard to see what was needed for the repair. I called a friend to come pick me up and take me home. It was a welcome sight to see his face. As we drove home we talked about the peace God had given me in spite of the chaos.

Now remember, the day before I had posted the blog about God’s owning everything. The entire trip, I felt a clear awareness of the presence of God. I saw his hand at work on a daily basis. Even when the boat grounded, I had a peace in knowing he was near. He had been with me through the entire trip, and he was still with me when I grounded.

At home, I took a day to get some much needed rest. Finally, with a cup of coffee, I enjoyed a long conversation with God. I am pleasantly surprised at my response to the entire situation. It is, in fact, God’s boat, not mine. We sat and talked about his boat and what he wanted to do with it. If he wants to provide the funds to repair it, it will cost this much. If he wants to put it in storage at the marina and repair it at some point in the future, it will cost this much. “You tell me what you want to do with your boat, and I will do what you want to do.” And I left it at that. I honestly do not care what he wants to do. What I care about is my relationship with him. The rest of my conversation with him was in regards to how much I love him and relish his love for me. He’s a good, good, father.

I am pleased with my response to this. I believe it is a test to see what I have learned. Do I really believe that God owns everything? Do I really believe that stewardship is the cure for anxiety? Yes, yes I do. And I am thrilled with the utter confidence that God is in complete control.

How exciting this has been. Not just the journey of the boat, but the journey my own relationship with God is taking. I am excited, content, full of joy and peace knowing he is fully in control. He is God, I am Tim. When he is ready for me to bring his boat to this side of the state, he will let me know. In the meantime, I have lots to do, and far more important things to pray about – influence, changed lives, relationship with God – the things that matter.

I enjoy reading your responses. Feel free to write your comments below.

From Stress to Rest

This article was originally published in the April 2013 Newsletter.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I was tired but determined – tired from having just returned from an international ministry trip the night before and determined to get a bike ride in before the end of the day. I was grateful to be home and to get some needed rest.

Before I left on that trip, at the end of a long bike ride, the sidewall on the rear wheel of my bike had come apart from the rim. Thankfully I was just a couple of blocks from the house when it happened. Now the disassembled bike sat in the garage waiting for the wheel to be repaired. My plan was to repair the wheel in the morning so I could fit in an early afternoon ride before spending the evening with friends. I would soon learn that God had other plans.

I left the house mid-morning and headed to the local department store to buy a new tire. I bought the tire as well as a few other items, checked out, and headed home. When I arrived home, I unpacked the items I had bought only to discover that the tire had not been put in the bag at checkout. All the other items I had bought were there, but not the tire. Frustrated, I drove back to the store to get the tire. Parking was a mess and I drove in circles trying to find a spot, my blood pressure rising with every turn. I finally parked and went into the store only to find the line to customer service was several people deep, and only one attendant was on duty.

At this point, I am tired, frustrated, and ready to tell the customer service lady what I think, and I am not thinking good thoughts! But I held my tongue, got the tire and finally headed home. At home I immediately set about changing the tire so I could get the ride in. The clock was ticking. In my haste I pinched part of the inner-tube between the wheel and the rim and the slow hiss of air I heard let me know I would need to patch a hole before I could proceed any further.

I patched the hole, put the inner-tube back inside the tire and mounted the tire on the rim. Success! I glanced at the clock. It still looked good for getting in the ride. I got the air pump out, plugged it in, and reached down to fill the tire with air. At this point I noticed a sticker on the rim detailing the size of tire it would hold. A sickening feeling settled into my gut as I noticed the size marked on the rim was different from the size I had purchased. “You have got to be kidding me,” I thought. Before I had left, I had looked on the tire sidewall for the size to make sure of the correct size. The problem went all the way back to the day I had bought the bike. I bought the bike used, and whoever sold it to me had mounted the wrong size tires on the rims! Now I understood what had caused the tire to fail in the first place. But I also realized that this meant I was going to have to remove the tire and make yet another trip to the store. I glanced at the clock again, hope fading.

I drove back to the store, found a parking spot, waited in line at the same customer service desk, and returned the tire, grateful that the lady who had helped me earlier was absent from the office. I went back to the sporting goods department only to discover that they were out of tires of the size I needed. I drove to another store only to find that they were also out of tires in that size. It was like there had been a run on 26”x1.75” bike tires. The odds of that happening left my mind spinning and my blood pressure banging on the sides of my skull.

I headed back to the house, revising my plan. The original tire had worked fine for many road trips. It wasn’t until I had inflated the tire to its maximum pressure that it had become an issue. I decided to reinstall the old tire and then only inflate it to the middle of the suggested pressure zone. I could still get a ride in. I would just stay closer to home than usual.

I reinstalled the old tire, careful not to pinch the inner tube, and hooked it up to the air pump. The tire filled to about 25 pounds of pressure and then for some reason the pressure would not go up. Dismayed, I discovered the original hole patch from earlier had failed. So I removed the tire again, repatched the hole, and reinstalled the tire. I hooked up the air pump again, and this time the air pump broke. I am not kidding. It just broke. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was broken as well.

I could not believe it. I mean, all I wanted to do was to take a bike ride. All I needed to do was to change a tire. But I felt like the entire universe was against me. My day off had become a travesty . I wanted to look to the heavens and say, “Really, God!” I was stressing out. And ironically, while all of this was happening, I was working on a message for church entitled, “From stress to rest.” It was as if God were giving me a giant sermon illustration, and I really didn’t appreciate it. “I mean, really, God? Did you have to use my day off to provide a sermon illustration?”

I gave up. I mean, I just completely gave up.

Sometimes our lives look like chapters out of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Our blood pressure rises, we feel like the universe has turned against us, nothing seems to work the way we want it to work. And frankly, many of us struggle with issues far greater than simply wanting to go on a bike ride. Cancer strikes. Jobs are lost. Divorce tears apart a home. A hurricane makes landfall. Children rebel. In those times, what do we do?

One of the key lessons God has taught me is this: the level of rest in my life is directly relative to the level of control I am willing to give to God. If I am willing to give God complete control, I receive complete rest. If I am willing to give God only partial control, then I receive only partial rest. And if I am not willing to give God any control, then I will not receive any rest.

So my problem had little to do with the tire issues and a great deal to do with the fact that I wanted to be in control. I wanted to do what I wanted to do! I would have benefited greatly if I had simply given the day to God at the beginning of the day and then let him be in control of everything that happened. The irony is that whether I am willing to give him control or not, he is still in control. Ouch!

Friend, where do you find yourself today? Is your blood pressure rising? Are you stressed out over something and you feel you are losing control?

Jesus said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, ESV). Can you imagine? We come to him with all our problems, all our burdens, all the weariness, and we lay it all at his feet. In exchange, he gives us rest – pure, sweet, rest. But we cannot pick up his rest with hands that are clinging to our burdens. The burdens must be laid down first. Then with empty hands we pick up the rest he has given to us.

I pray that today, wherever this finds you, you may find rest. Give God 100% control of your life and your circumstances. Come to him with open arms and receive his rest. He waits for you now.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But it ended really nicely, full of rest, when I finally gave it all over to God. No, I didn’t get my ride in, but I did receive rest. And so will you when you finally give it all over to God and he takes you from stress to rest.