I Want It

“One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.” His father and mother objected. “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?” they asked. “Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?” But Samson told his father, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.” – Judges 14:1-3.

When we want something we usually want it yesterday. We are into instant gratification because we lack the patience for waiting…for anything. When our computer takes a couple of extra seconds for a page to load, it can feel like an eternity. Movies and TV shows begin streaming in seconds. I am reminded of the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There is a girl named Baruka who once she has seen the geese that lays the golden eggs, decided she wants one and breaks into a song about all the things that she wants and she doesn’t want to wait. The lyrics include: “Don’t care how… I want it now.” She eventually falls down the garbage chute.

Samson wanted something. He had to have it. He was going to get it, and he wanted it now. Her name was Delilah. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was moving toward the garbage chute the minute he told his father “Get her for me! She looks good to me.”

But before we judge Samson too harshly, he is not the only man who forgot logic when they want or lust after something. It happens today all the time. Today, we may just look a little too long at a woman and start to wonder what she is like. Today, we may be willing to do just about anything to advance a career or to make more money, or to win an award or achievement. We may want the new boat, or new car, or new house or some new thrills. The problem is when we forget about reason and logic and pursue what we want with reckless abandon. And that’s what Samson did. 

Samson went down to Timnah and there a Philistine woman caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her.” Basically, he went into enemy territory and saw a woman that was forbidden to him because God said, “You shall not intermarry with those who do not worship me.”

And at that moment, he looks at her and he forgets everything else and he says, “I want it! I don’t care what my God says. I don’t care what my Dad says. I don’t care what my Mom says, I don’t care what’s right and I don’t care what’s wise, because I want it.” This is just one of the failures because this strong man has a weak spirit.

The story of Samson completely confounds me. He was arrogant. He was impulsive. He was violent. He was selfish. And in the end, it seems he pretty much got what he deserved. However, he did eventually yield to God’s great purpose for his life and finished his life praying for God’s help to accomplish it. We can learn from both his mistakes and from what he did right.

Discussion Questions:

  1. We have learned in this story that once again the people were doing what was right in their own eyes. Why is it not okay to live this way? What are some consequences of living according to our own definition of right and wrong?
  2. If you were Samson, and was getting into a relationship with a Delilah, would you have a friend that would throw up some “red flags” about the relationship?
  3. Samson’s sin in this story is irrational. In what ways do our own sinful choices fail to make sense rationally?
  4. Like Samson, what successes in your life might lead you to put your trust in yourself rather than in God? How can we maintain a strong sense of dependence on God?

The Weak And The Strong

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” – Judges 13:1-5.

Most people know the basic story of Samson and Delilah from Judges 13-16. We all know that eventually long-haired Samson tells her the secret to his strength and she hands him over the Philistines, who eventually take him captive by plucking his eyes out and enslaving him. Then God grants him a final request and he takes out all 3000 men and women in the coliseum and he dies with them.

The common assumption is that Samson was destined for greatness no matter what he did—but faltered before he could reach his potential because of Delilah. Samson’s story begins in Judges 13:1-5 (above)  There are some rules of engagement when someone is either born or becomes a Nazirite. In addition to never cutting his hair, these rules include abstaining from alcohol, and never touching a dead body. Samson was a man that was used by God and at times acted solely on his desires; in other words, what he wanted, is what he wanted. 

Samson wanted to marry a woman that didn’t worship the one true God. (Judges 14:1-4) This gives us an initial view into Samson’s selfish and lustful nature. Next Samson touched the dead body of a lion. (Judges 14: 5-6; 8-9)  Samson officially broke the Nazarite vow that says not to go near a dead body. What makes this situation worse is that he gave some honey from the dead lion’s belly to his parents. In short, he got his parents caught up in the transgression as well. Then he seemed to make light of this when making a riddle to the Philistines (v12-14). 

Samson liked to have relationships with women who he wasn’t married to, and women that he wasn’t supposed to be in relationships with. In fact, Samson committed multiple sins. That’s to be expected since all fall short of the glory of God. The glaring issue here is he committed sins and didn’t repent. In short, he used his life to pursue what he wanted, despite God’s instructions.   

In retrospect, his story is very familiar. It reminds me of the lives of us men, who with the best intentions, set our sights on being used by God, only to set it aside to pursue our own agenda. We don’t go in planning to compromise, but we find it expedient to do so. We can wander into areas we shouldn’t be in and we lose sight of God in the temporary pleasures that we enjoy, not realizing that our pleasures can easily become addictions. Samson was no different and his story paints a dark reality of what happens when our will is weak and we don’t have self-control. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did your perception of Samson change this week? If so, how?
  2. What can we learn from the life of Samson?
  3. Why do you think Samson would eat honey out of the carcass of a lion?
  4. Why didn’t Sampson realize what Delilah was up to? Why don’t we sense danger when it is lurking?

Forgiven

…for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” – Matthew 26:28.

One of the most scandalous claims Jesus made while walking the earth was his ability to forgive sins. In this week’s teaching, a sinful woman interrupted Jesus dining with a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Despite the woman’s reputation and public shame, Jesus welcomed her acts of repentance and assured her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48). Onlookers were shocked: “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” (Luke 7:49) Luke recorded a similar question earlier: “But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” (Luke 5:21)

They were right, only God alone can forgive sins. But they were blind to a crucial truth—Jesus is the Son of God. And with that authority, He could make such an audacious claim to forgive sins.

The story of the sinful woman is one of perspective. Simon the Pharisee has an inaccurate understanding of this woman. He sees her only as a sinner, thus he considers Jesus’ contact with her as inappropriate. He is judging her based upon her reputation. Jesus obviously has a different perspective. Jesus tells Simon that he must reevaluate her actions at the dinner. These are not inappropriate or wanton expressions of an outcast; they are deep love offered in response to deep forgiveness. The woman is not, in fact, who readers might think she is at first glance. As Jesus publicly declares, she has been saved. “And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”(Luke 7:50)

But those watching knew that a holy, righteous God cannot simply forgive sins—they must be paid for. And they knew that God had instituted the means through which forgiveness was possible: the shedding of blood. “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22). So when Jesus granted the sinful woman forgiveness while giving no instructions or provisions for forgiving her, the assembled people were baffled.

Jesus knew something the onlookers didn’t: sin would be paid for and there would be blood shed. And it would be His. In his book The Prodigal God, Tim Keller elaborates on this truth: “Jesus was stripped naked of his robe and dignity so that we could be clothed with a dignity and standing we don’t deserve. On the cross Jesus was treated as an outcast so that we could be brought into God’s family freely by grace. There Jesus drank the cup of eternal justice so that we might have the cup of the Father’s joy.”

God’s unconditional love is a very difficult concept for people to accept because, in the world, there’s always payment for everything we receive. It’s just how things work here. But God is not like people. If you’ve asked God to forgive you and to come into your life — you are forgiven. His word says so. Thank Him for His forgiveness and begin to rejoice in your secure relationship with Him. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is forgiveness to you? What should our response be to Christ’s forgiveness? 
  2. What are some of the promises God gives us about His forgiveness?
  3. Can self-righteousness interfere with your forgiveness?
  4. What can we change in our lives as a result of the story of the sinful woman? 

A Labor Of Love

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13. 

All this week we have been talking about the sinful woman that anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. If you analyze what the woman did you see strong indications of faith, deep repentance, an unwavering commitment and love for Jesus. I doubt you could read anywhere in the Bible of another woman with more courage than this one because, evidently, this woman went into the house of Simon the Pharisee totally uninvited. The point is, she heard that Jesus was going to be there and she wasn’t going to let anything or anybody stand in the way of finding Jesus Christ. And in that day, that took a lot of courage.

But not only did she show courage, but she was distinguished by love. If you are looking to define love, aside for the love of God, you may want to take a good close look at this woman, because her actions reveal true love. The Bible says that when she found Jesus she fell at His feet. She did not stand up in the face of Jesus with some haughty high-minded attitude saying, “I’m no worse than all the other people in this room.” Rather, she revealed a spirit of humility and love when she was in the presence of Jesus. The question is have we ever demonstrated a love for Jesus like this woman? What would it mean for you to love Jesus the way this woman did? What would prevent us from doing that?

Maybe it is pride like that of Simon in the story. Or perhaps fear, or broken trust. Or maybe it is something in our past. 

The question is this: how much of our love do we express to Jesus?  Are we overwhelmed by the grace and goodness of Jesus and His love for us? Are we overflowing with love and thankfulness like the sinful woman? Will we demonstrate our love this year by doing the simple loving things for those around us? Will we bless others with what God has blessed us with? Will we expand the borders of our hearts and lives to find room for others?   

Perhaps you want to love Jesus more but don’t know how. Like the sinful woman who gave what she had, start with what love you have, be faithful in loving Jesus in the small things and He will lead you into a deeper love for himself.

In closing, I want to stress that it is only because Christ first loved us that we can love Him back at all.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How easy do you think it is to live out the greatest commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind?”
  2. How does God’s love compare to the human expression of love? Do you agree with the statement “you’ll never know how to love God until you know how much God loves you?”
  3. If you were completely honest, how would you rate your love for God? 
  4. How can we love God in even greater ways than we do now?

Broken Vessel

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18

This week we have been looking at the story of the sinful woman found in Luke 7. We are not sure what her sin was, but whatever it was, the woman was keenly aware of her sinful state.

Jesus had been invited to dine at a Pharisee named Simon’s house. The sinful woman comes in, stands behind Jesus at His feet with a vial of perfume. She is so overcome by Jesus that she starts to weep. She uses her hair as a towel as she is wiping Jesus’ feet, she is kissing them and anointing them with her alabaster container of oil.

While it is hard for me to imagine someone crying hard enough to wash someone’s feet and then wiping it with her hair, this story demonstrates the beauty of brokenness. This woman was compelled to seek Jesus out. She went where she was not welcome, in front of someone who held her in very low regard. This woman worshiped Jesus in the only way she knew how – with tears, kisses and anointing oil.

This woman did not cling to her pride or even her dignity. Jesus was more important to her than what anyone thought of her. Worshiping and adoring Him was more important than the cultural etiquette. It was more important than the opinion of Simon, a religious leader. It was more important than her precious ointment which she poured out at Jesus’ feet. Her posture of kissing His feet speaks of submission and humility. Because of her brokenness, her submission, she left with the peace that true repentance and God’s forgiveness gives us.

Maybe you are facing a time of brokenness in your life. It is easy to think that God will think less of us, but the opposite is true. Jesus wants us to be real with Him. Until we bring all that brokenness to Him, He can’t heal us and put us back together again. 1 Peter 4:12-13 tells us: ”Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

Don’t waste your sorrows, don’t run from breaking circumstances, but be still and know that He is God. At these times we need to be still and let our trust be transformed into our actions. Let Him work it out and take care of it. Let God work through it. As you open your heart to the Lord, remember that brokenness and humility are the keys that will unlock some of God’s richest blessings in your life and relationships.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Many problems/issues have their root in pride. Agree or disagree?
  2. Humility is God’s prescription for nearly every condition that ails human hearts and relationships. Agree or disagree?
  3. Why is it important to realize we are broken? How aware are you of your own brokenness?
  4. How can you bring your brokenness to Jesus?

Who Were The Pharisees?

“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” – Mark 12:13-17.

Most people read the story of the sinful woman in Luke 7 and take it at face value. It is a story of a woman with a past that finds redemption through her act of worship. But, is that the entire story?  Or is she just one element in the story? Is it also the story of Jesus educating and maybe evangelizing a pharisee?

That would not be so far fetched. After all, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10) People accused Him of being the friend of sinners. And He was, but He wasn’t just a friend of the outcast sinners, the undesirables and the marginalized. He was also the friend of holier-than-thou religious leaders like the pharisee. In fact, on this occasion and others in the gospels, Jesus had conversations with pharisees obviously intending to expose them to the reality of who He was and why He came. In Luke 11:37 we read, “As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table “ Luke 14:1 says, “One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely.”

The other gospels record some of those events as well.  Jesus was committed to presenting the gospel offer to all sinners, whether they were the low or high by society standards. One of the pharisees asked Jesus to dine with him. On the surface, that might seem like a good thing, like he had some personal interest in Jesus, like he was open to Jesus. Well that’s really not the case, as the story makes it very clear. The pharisees had already rendered a verdict on Jesus. 

The scribes and the pharisees had already collectively determined that Jesus was a blasphemer. He was a blasphemer because He forgave sin. And so, He acted as if He was God, forgiving sins. And He had continually defiled Himself by hanging around people the pharisees would never associate with. They were constantly looking for ways to undermine Jesus by finding a way to use His own words to incriminate Himself.   

Jesus was willing to go into the house of a man that He knew was a hypocrite. He knew the man had evil intentions toward Him. He knew the man was going to do everything he could to get some incriminating evidence against Jesus by something that Jesus did or said. He knew he was looking to mount the case for Him. But nonetheless, Jesus, gracious as He always is and coming to seek and to save that which was lost, is willing to expose this wicked, hypocritical pharisee to the power that He has to transform.  And so He entered the pharisee’s house.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does this story tell you about the pharisee?
  2. Have you imagined God would never love you because of something you did in the past?
  3. Do you believe that God loves even the worst person in the world and wants that person to come to Him?
  4. The more we grow in Christ, the more we will see our own sinfulness. Agree or disagree and why? 

The Sinful Woman

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.” – Luke 7:36-38.

We don’t know much about the sinful woman highlighted in Luke 7. We don’t know her name, her age, or her history. We know only that she was bad for a season. To be specific, it is believed she sold her body for money. Because her sinful lifestyle was common knowledge, people whispered about her, eyed her with disdain, and avoided her company. Except Jesus. 

Here’s the story: Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to a large public dinner. Then “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life ” showed up at Simon’s house. (Luke 7:37) She came alone, bearing a “beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume….Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.” (v. 38)

Jesus didn’t pull away, recognizing this heartfelt expression for what it was—worship, pure and holy. Simon the Pharisee had seen enough. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” (Luke 7:39). He was unimpressed with Jesus. Jesus knew the man’s thoughts, and so responded with a story about two men in debt to a moneylender. One owed a lot, one owed a little. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?  (Luke 7:42) When Jesus asked Simon, “Which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42), the Pharisee had no choice but to confess, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” (Luke 7:43). Too right, Simon.

The Lord affirmed the man’s answer, then turned toward the sinful woman, even as He continued speaking to Simon. This is my favorite part. “Look at this woman kneeling here….” (Luke 7:44) Simon saw a sinner, period. He didn’t see her as a person, nor had he noticed or understood her acts of worship for what they were.

But Jesus missed nothing. He saw her. He saw her sordid past, her humble present, and her glorious future. He quickly described all the ways she’d honored him—unlike Simon—then finished with this startling announcement: “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47)

Discussion Questions:

  1. With which person in this story do you most identify, and why?
  2. What might we learn from this story about approaching Jesus?
  3. Why did Jesus let her continue, since by all appearances what she was doing was scandalous?
  4. How is Simon different from the woman? How is she better than he? Who do you think is the worse sinner here, the woman or Simon?

Hitting The Pause Button

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1.

This week I challenged everyone to pause and pray. I am talking about slowing down long enough in our everyday lives, no matter where we are, no matter whom we are with, to seek God’s wisdom when we feel the need for control in our lives. We are in a series called “Shameless: The Bad Girls of the Bible.” While we are talking about Jezebel this week, I would like to highlight the story of another woman in the Bible. The story of Esther and how she paused and trusted God. 

The story of Esther reads like a novel and is full of great spiritual lessons. The greatest being that God protects His people. He may not always do it in the way we think He should, but the book of Esther shows that He is in control even when we don’t see Him. An enemy named Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom. He convinced the king to pass a law for genocide of the Jewish race in Persia. Esther who is now queen is asked to speak on behalf of the Jewish people. 

Esther tells the king she has a request. She invites both the king and Haman to her house for a meal and she would tell her request at that time. But during the banquet, Esther was led to pause before sharing her request with the king. She was a woman who was willing to wait on the Lord, even if it didn’t make sense to her at the time. Her trust was firmly planted in God, in His will, and in His timing. She was willing to wait if that was what her Lord was guiding her to do.

And so she waited. “If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request and do what I ask, please come with Haman tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for you. Then I will explain what this is all about.” (Esther 5:8) Some of us might think she was just putting off the inevitable, and it would have been better for her just to get it over with. But again, we are going to see that God was working behind the scenes and He needed just 24 more hours to add an amazing twist to the plot of this story. Esther was right in line with what God wanted to do, as we will see in the rest of Esther 5 and on into Esther 6.

He does the same for us. When we pause and pray seeking His will, God is working behind the scenes, writing a story that is yet to be revealed. I believe God does some of His best work in the “pauses” of our lives.

Esther probably had a sleepless night, but an amazing turn of events was in the works. In Esther chapters 7 and 8 you can read about how the plot failed and the Jews were saved. We can do what Esther has done. Be faithful to the Word of God. Live in obedience to Him. Get instruction from friends and family who are wise and mature in the Christian faith. Pause and wait when we need to and then pray. Then, and only then, make a decision and go with it, trusting that God will work out all of the details as only He can.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever had a “pause” in your life lead to unforeseen opportunities?
  2. When you “pause” do you pray as well?
  3. Why are we so impatient when waiting for God’s timing?
  4. How can we make “pause and pray” part of our everyday lives? 

Expect Some Delays

“Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’” – Deuteronomy 32:35

In 1 Kings chapter 21, we read the story of Naboth. King Ahab has his summer palace in Jezreel. One day while walking, he sees the vineyard of Naboth and decided he wanted it.

So Ahab went to Naboth and said, “Would you please sell your vineyard to me? If you will not sell your vineyard to me, would you please trade it? I am the king. If you will give me your vineyard I will give you another piece of land here in Israel that is worth much more.” But Naboth was a man of God who followed the law of God. Here is his simple reply to the king: “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.” (1 Kings 21:3)

Naturally the king was humiliated and then became angry. He got into a deep funk. He whined, sulked and even refused to eat. When Jezebel asked why he was so grouchy, he tells her the story. Jezebel is into control so she hatches a diabolical plot. She decides to write a letter in the name of the king and sends it to the elders of the town. The elders do as the queen suggests and Naboth is set up and stoned to death. Jezebel tells the king that the vineyard is now his. King Ahab was pleased.

It appears that the king and queen got away with murder. When you read the story you wonder, “where is God? Where is God when the wicked rise to power? Where is God when a man like Ahab and a woman like Jezebel can get away with murder? Where is God when evil is let loose in the world?”

But that is not the end of the story. Proverbs 15:3 tells us, “The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.” God had been watching. God is in control and now He is about to act.

God came to his prophet, patted him on the shoulder, and told him to head for Jezreel. ““Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. Give him this message: ‘This is what the Lord says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!” (1 Kings 21: 18-19)

Ahab and Jezebel die just as God had predicted, although Jezebel lives for another 20 years.  There are important takeaways from this story. First, God’s patience will not last forever. He’s not slow in the way some people count slowness. God is patient, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s timing is always perfect. And, because He is in control, I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Naboth’s response to the king tell you about him? What does the king’s response tell you about him?
  2. Why do we expect God to act immediately? What should our expectations be?
  3. Does control and coveting things go hand in hand?
  4. What application does this story have for our lives today? What gives you contentment? What takes away your contentment?

The Illusion of Control

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55: 8-11. 

There is a great scene in Kung Fu Panda between Master Oogway and Shifu about the illusion of control. Oogway tells Shifu that the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control. Shifu believes there are things we can control using a peach tree as an example: I can control when the fruit will fall, I can control where to plant the seed: that is no illusion. Oogway calmly tells him that no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach. Oogway concludes by saying that you cannot change the nature of a thing.

When we try to control others, we deceive ourselves. We cannot change people’s natures. We can try but more often than not we will fail. But when we let go of the illusion of control, we set ourselves free. Free to allow others to be themselves. Free from the need to control. Free to be out from under the control of others. And above all, free to let God be in control.

Consider the Israelites for a few moments: The Israelites have just been freed from bondage in Egypt and are on route to land God promised. When they worried about their enemies, God parted the sea to give them victory. When they worried about food, God made manna fall at their feet in the desert. When they worried about water, God caused it to flow from a rock. Yet, despite God’s miraculous provisions again and again, the Israelites’ hearts wavered with fears and doubts again and again, never fully resting in the knowledge that God is in control and will provide.

But lest we think badly of the Israelites, we too have experienced proof of God’s steadfast care and his blessings. I have seen it in good times and in bad. But every once in a while we have the urge to take control away from God, not completely, but on something on our radar screen at the moment.  Or we try to control others so we can get what we want. But that is the illusion of control because God is in control. Isaiah 14:24 reminds us of this fact: ”The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”  And Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

As long as we believe that we are in control of our lives, we will leave God out of the equation. God wants us to trust in Him and that trust is built up as we release control of our situations into His loving hands.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is God driving your life, or is God in the passenger seat?
  2. In what areas of your life do you find it hard to give God control because you want total control?
  3. The only ability God requires is availability. How does this apply to control?
  4. This week, identify one area of your life that God is not in control of—such as school, sports, eating, computer, or relationships. Pray and give God control in those areas of your life. Come up with tangible steps to follow and ways you can give God control.