Genesis 18:1-15, Acts 10:1-22
June 16, 2013
One of the most basic questions of faith is “Who’s in charge?” Every week, we pray, “Thy will be done.” But do we mean it? Who is really in control of our lives? Who has the final say? Who is the master of our destiny? Can we indeed, “Let go, and let God?” as Robert Schuller used to say.
Who’s in charge? Even Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, recognized the importance of that question. In his famous pamphlet called “The Four Spiritual Laws,” he depicted a persons life as a throne. And he asked the question, “Who is on that throne? Is it you? Or is it God?” Does anybody remember that?
Sigmund Freud had a field day with this whole thing. He divided the self into several parts, the “id” the “ego” and the “super-ego.” (Believe me, Ive known a lot of “super egos” in my day, havent you?) But he asked, which was in control? And all of that had to do with how we relate to the world. Well, I don’t claim to know all of what he had to say about that, but I know it wasn’t far from this basic question, “Who’s in charge?” Are we masters of our own destiny? Or do we place our trust in something beyond ourselves? That’s what I want us to think about today.
So, for the moment, I want you to think about the way we perceive the world. And I think this is fascinating. Our senses, our personality, and our thought processes all combine to give us a moving, dynamic picture of the world around us. Its as though we were “human video recorders” and we were video taping everything. It’s pretty amazing, if you think about it! That’s why movies and TV are so powerful. They give us a perception of the world similar to our own. And even though what they give us is manufactured, and these days even computer generated, modern technology makes it seem more real to us all the time. And sometimes it’s hard for us humans to determine which is reality and which is not. And we get caught up in it, even though we know its not real!
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the movie “Jurassic Park.” Have you seen that? It was a 1993 Spielberg movie about cloning dinosaurs and bringing them to life in the 20th century. And it was great. But it was also very scary! At one point, the humans in the story were being pursued by the “mean” dinos – the velociraptors. And they were climbing through the ceiling in one of the buildings trying to escape. But, all of a sudden the little girl fell through the ceiling and was hanging there with the dinosaur about to leap up and grab her from below. And of course, just as it did, the others pulled her up to safety in the nick of time. But as the dinosaur jumped – and I didn’t even realize I was doing this – I pulled my legs up to my chest! Everybody around me in the theater laughed!! Sure, it wasn’t real, but without realizing it I reacted as though it was!!
Well, let me tell you. The confusion of what is real and what is make believe is not a new phenomena. It has been building for a long time. Does anyone remember watching “Marcus Welby, MD?” That was a TV show that aired in the early 70s. That was the age of 3,6, and 10 – plus UHF, if your TVs could get it! Well, did you know that, in those days, Robert Young, who played Marcus Welby, received thousands of letters a week asking him for personal medical advice?
So, we perceive the world and interact with it through our personal senses our human video recorders. It truly is our “own little world.” And we like to be in charge of it, don’t we?! And some people can’t get out of their own little world to reach out to others, unless its to get them to interact with their little world! All of us have a natural tendency to want to control that world, to be masters of our own destiny. It’s hard to let go of the reigns, to step down off of the throne of our lives, and to let someone else have power there.
You should all be grateful youre not my mechanic! I have a very good understanding of what’s happening with my vehicles and a very strong understanding of what I want out of them, and how I want them to be maintained. I want to know exactly what’s happing and how its being dealt with at all times! I trust no one as much as I trust myself in those matters! So, heaven help anyone I take my cars to! I want to be in control of what happens to them!
So, when it comes to matters of faith and belief, do we not want that same control? Do we really seek the truth, even if its beyond our understanding? Or do we simply seek what we want the truth to be. While entertaining the angels who came to foretell the birth of her son, Sarah laughed, as did Abraham before her, in last weeks passage. In fact, the name “Isaac” actually means “laughter.” They laughed, and we would have, too! What was being told them made no sense! They knew 90 year olds had no business having babies!
I think we agree with that! And i’ts not just because the elderly no longer have the incredible energy that’s needed. They don’t have the short term memory! As one elderly woman once told me, Old people shouldnt have babies, because they would put them down and forget where they left them! I’ll never forget when Patty and I got married. My then new doctor asked me, “Are you going to have children with your new wife?” I said, “Are you kidding?” “We’re 50!” How’s that gonna happen?” “Besides, I’m sure one day one of us would say, ‘Where did you put the baby?’ and the other would say, ‘We have a baby?!'” Well, I’m betting that conversation was not all that far from the one God had with Abraham and Sarah!
Over and over in the Bible we have stories of people questioning God, people wanting to be the final arbiter of reason in their lives, people wanting to keep control of their own little world. Last week, God told Ananias to go and minister to Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the Church. And he said, “Are you kidding God?” “Do you know what this man has been doing to your people?!”
Questioning God. Questioning God is a matter of challenging Gods sovereignty over our lives. It’s a way of resisting the notion of letting him have control over us. As I said at the start, that’s a tough thing in our faith! As I said a few weeks ago, one of the questions I’ve heard over and over in my years of ministry is “How do I know God’s will for my life?” But the more I think about it, the more I believe that the more pertinent question would be “How do I follow God’s will?” That question I’ve rarely heard!
And that’s the hard part, isnt it? Praying “Thy will be done” is important, but seeking to do Gods will is even more important! In all the stories of God calling people in the Bible, knowing what he wanted them to do was never the problem. The problem was doing what he wanted them to do!
In Acts, Peter wasn’t liking what God was telling him. He knew what was right, and he told God what was right! “Lord, Ive never eaten anything unclean! Ive never broken the kosher laws!” That’s what the vision of this great sheet coming down from heaven was about. And Peter had to see this vision and hear this voice three times! It wasnt easy to get through his thick head! Do you remember how he rebuked Jesus for talking about his death and resurrection. “Enough of that, Jesus! That’s not gonna happen!” Who was in control there?
The early church would struggle with the question of the Gentiles for some time. Because that’s what this whole story was about. Keep in mind that this is a story within a story. While this vision was happening to Peter, some men were coming from the household of Cornelius to ask him to come and bring them the good news. And they were Gentiles. They were the unclean. So, when God said to Peter, “What I call clean, you must not call unclean,” that meant more than just the un-kosher animals in that sheet! He was talking about the Gentiles, as well!
That issue would build to the point where there was a special council held in Jerusalem in Chapter 15. It was actually the first Christian council, and its purpose was to try to settle this Gentile question. But even then, there was considerable debate. In those early days of the church, there were Jewish Christians who were not interested in the fact that God seemed to be including the Gentiles. They were more concerned with what was their will in this matter. They knew the laws and customs they had followed all their lives, and they didn’t want to hear about, or accept, anything new that God was doing.
So… and you know what I’m going to ask. “What about us?” Do we question God? Do we second guess him when we feel him leading us somewhere? Do we react to him like Abraham and Sarah, and laugh? Do we fight against him and hold our ground like Peter? Do we drive him nuts like I’m sure I do my mechanic?
I can’t tell you how important these questions are in our faith! And I hope you see how difficult they are to address! These are things we need to be struggling with all the time. We do live in that little human video world. Our perceptions and our control of our own little world do take up an enormous part of our brain capacity, and an enormous part of our every day life. And it is uncomfortable to let someone else in, and to place our trust in something beyond ourselves. But that’s what faith is.
I want you to think about that this week. “Who’s in control of your life?” Are you able to “let go and let God?” Try this. Pray the Lords Prayer every day and stop at “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” And then think about that. Practice placing your trust in God. And trust often is a matter of practice. Think over and over about the words of the psalmist, who said, “Happy – or Blessed – is the one who trusts in the Lord.”
Eternal God, our lives are truly in your hands. Forgive us when we question your sovereignty in our lives, and stubbornly cling to our own ways. Help us to know the joy of trusting in you. Help us to learn to seek your will each day, and to grow in our desire to follow it. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.