What does God say about control? Is control godly or not?
Let’s look at this in today’s post and start by defining what control actually is.
What Is Control?
The dictionary defines control as “to exercise restraining or directing influence over; to have power over: rule” (Mirriam-Webster dictionary reference).
So the next question is: can control be part of God’s will?
What God Says About Control
There are two types of control: godly control and sinful control.
Godly control, or biblical control, is about faithful stewardship and self-control as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Sinful control, or independent control (i.e. not in dependance to God) is ungodly because it’s about attempting control without submission to God, and controlling others.
So let’s look into biblical control, and non-biblical control and supporting verses.
Control can be good when it is about stewardship and self-control as a fruit of the Spirit—I will call this type of control Biblical control.
This is because both stewardship and self-control are in submission to God’s will, who is ultimately in control of all things.
The Bible shows the godly nature of these two types of control in these verses:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22,23);
“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2);
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
There are, however, some types of control which are independent of God and these manifest in rebellion to God’s ways, and attempts to control other people and situations.
I will call this control non-Biblical control because this is about attempting control without submission to God.
One of the Bible passages that best clarifies the sinful nature of this type of control and our need to surrender to God is James 4:7-8.
This is what James says: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8)
There are some who see this type of control as extreme and uncommon. I disagree.
As human beings who battle with the flesh, desiring and attempting to control is a temptation we face daily. The fall of man in the Garden of Eden is a clear example of this.
When God created Adam and Eve, He commanded them to subdue the earth and have dominion over the living creatures.
Yet, when faced with the temptation to gain the knowledge of good and evil, and the enemy’s lie that they would become like God Himself, Adam and Eve fell.
They desired to be like God. They desired more control than that which God had given them. They desired knowledge and power.
Our flesh does not want to surrender to our Creator. We want to be like Him. We want to rule. This is what we desire in the flesh.
In our spirit, we desire God’s rule. And while as Christians, we have the Spirit, we also battle with the flesh.
Therefore, we need God’s truth to help us relinquish this enemy so we can grow in releasing other people and circumstances to God’s will.
From Non-Biblical Control to Releasing – the Good News of God’s Character
How do we get to a point where we release circumstances and other people to God’s will rather than trying to control them?
In surrendering our lives and relinquishing control of all details and outcomes, we need to know God. We need to trust in Him.
The more we know who God is, how good He is and how His way is perfect, the more we are able to release our anxiety and the mindset that what we want is best.
When we focus on our desires, we are looking at ourselves instead of looking at God. The good news of God’s character, of who He actually is, should cause us to trust Him more and ourselves less.
In releasing other people instead of controlling them, we also need to trust God and know His ways are best. But that’s not all.
We can only truly release other people when we take responsibility for our own life. This means understanding what loads God has given us to carry and what loads are not ours to bear.
This is Biblical control.
Growing in surrender
As humans, we often rely on our experiences and backgrounds to inform our decisions and desires.
Often when we feel anxious about the future, we try to control situations because we fear what will happen if we don’t. It’s easy for us to default to the “my way is the best way” mindset.
Yet, the more we know God and surrender to Him, the more we can dispose of our own ideas, expectations, and experiences.
When we know God, who causes all things to work together for our good and His glory, we surrender to Him. When we trust God, seek Him for guidance in our planning, and submit all things to His control, we rest and experience peace.
The Bible tells us to surrender all our anxieties to God. So it’s in the secret place that we’re to leave our anxieties at the foot of the cross, and thank God for His sovereignty.
In that secret place, sometimes God will show us to be still and let Him work. Other times, God will show us how we need to deal with certain situations.
Sometimes we may need to repent and change our actions. Other times, we may need fresh vision for the future. The main thing is that we become aware of His direction.
Surrendering our need for independent control is about understanding the difference between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.
God’s sovereignty over all things. Our responsibility to steward what He entrusts to us.
One of the major ways we grow in surrender—both of our own lives and the lives of our loved ones—is that we grow in faith in God.
We can’t surrender our lives to God if we don’t trust Him. And we can’t trust Him, if we don’t know Him.
So how do we get to know Him better?
By getting to know God’s word and obeying it in practice. By listening to the Spirit and obeying Him, even though the world tells us other things. By being obedient to what God has shown us, and trusting His promises.
The faith life is not supposed to be a stagnant pool of artificial words and surface feelings.
The faith life is meant to be a river rushing with life, beauty, and growth. When we enter into it, we step into trust, faith, and peace. As we go deeper, we abandon our past preconceptions, pain, and desires and we let God take over with the Truth—His living water that heals the depths of our hearts and makes us whole again.
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