The One Thing We Have Control Over

“The race is not to the swift
nor the battle to the warriors,
neither is the bread to the wise,
nor wealth to the discerning,
nor favor to men of ability
for time and chance happen to them all”
(Ecclesiastes 9:11).
Anyone who has been an innocent victim in an automobile accident, lost employment because of the economic downturn, inherited a debilitating disease, or suffered the effects of a malicious unfounded rumor knows full well that none of us is truly in control of his circumstances. Our situation can change dramatically in an instant without regard to whether we have done anything wrong.
While willful sin will sow those seeds which can later produce disaster, we cannot eliminate hardship by doing what is right. We are not in control of our situation.

  • In one pounding wave after another, Job received the news how various disasters had decimated his household and possessions. And then his body broke out in boils.
  • Joseph found himself in prison.
  • David saw king Saul hurl a javelin from across the room toward his body.
  • The Jews awoke one morning to learn that by Haman’s edict they were to be destroyed on a particular day.

When we strip away the illusion of “I’m in control,” we discover that actually we are only in command of one item — how we choose to respond to our situation. And this one aspect of our lives makes all the difference!
Managing our lives through the one true power we possess is nothing new. Several decades ago, the popularization of the power of positive thinking tapped into this fundamental resource. As people resolved to think positively regardless of their circumstances, they found that they would act accordingly. This then often led them to reap great benefits.
While there can be some temporary benefits to a secular philosophy of positive thinking, ultimately, it is shortsighted, since all people die. It can also be unreliable, since it can short-circuit our natural warning signals of genuine danger. On the other hand, to choose to consistently respond to life’s situational roller coaster based upon God and the positive foundation of that victory procured through Christ is the most reasonable and healthiest way to live.

  • We can choose to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17,21).
  • We can choose to demonstrate love where hatred has gushed forth (Matthew 5:43,44).
  • We can choose to have faith in the midst of trials (James 1:2,3).
  • We can choose to serve God and righteousness regardless of our circumstances (Romans 6:11-14,18,22; 1 Corinthians 10:12).

Why would anyone make the decision to live for God regardless of what life has served up?
First, through Christ, all of humanity’s true foes have been conquered. Death and condemnation lie strewn in the valley of the vanquished (Romans 6:23;8:1). God and the slain Lamb are worthy of our allegiance and worship (Revelation 5:12,13).
Second, receiving eternal life is contingent upon our remaining faithful in spite of whatever situation might arise. As Paul wrote, “he has now reconciled you in his physical body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach — if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:22,23).
To continue in the faith describes maintaining our allegiance and service to God. God in turn beckons us to live in a manner worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1).
As God’s servants we can choose to respond to life grounded upon to Whom we belong, instead of the roller coaster of how we feel about our situation. We are responsible for what we choose to do. It is the one aspect of life which we truly do have control over.

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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