A Message from Pastor John
Robert Burns once wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley,” or to render it in contemporary English, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We live in a chaotic world, in which our best hopes and dreams so often are laid out into elaborate plans that soon disintegrate into dust. Church and governmental institutions grow increasingly dysfunctional. Politicians craft budgets and propose legislation… ambassadors labor to secure peace between hostile nations… business leaders carefully analyze markets and production capacities, develop dealer networks, and secure creative advertising… non-profits try to put an end to systemic injustice… and all of their best-laid plans fail to come to fruition. These are the marks of a world that breeds anxiety.
So what do we do in the midst of such a world? Take control? Of what? Self-help books and television gurus advise you to sharpen your budgeting skills, control your caffeine and sugar intake, limit your time with social media, lose weight and exercise more, eliminate distractions, and offer a slew of other dos and don’ts. And there are times when taking a degree of control over something we can control may help us. But there are still matters that are beyond our control. So how do we cope with them?
I’ll share a thought from Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World.
“… the most stressed-out people are control freaks. They fail at the quest they most pursue. The more they try to control the world, the more they realize they cannot. Life becomes a cycle of anxiety, failure; anxiety, failure; anxiety, failure. We can’t take control because control is not ours to take.”
He then says: “The Bible has a better idea. Rather than seeking total control, relinquish it. You can’t run the world, but you can entrust it to God. This is the message behind Paul’s admonition to ‘rejoice in the Lord.’ Peace is within reach, not for lack of problems, but because of the presence of a sovereign Lord. Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty, as Paul did. ‘The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ’ (Phil. 1:12–13).”
Please don’t think that God so carefully directs our every action to the point we ultimately have no choices to make. We do make choices. We decide what to do and what not to do. And we decide how we can react to a world that is continually in chaotic action around us. And we should remember that when Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Philippi it was from a Roman prison. Later in that same letter, Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The peace that Paul knew arose not out of the circumstances surrounding him or from of his own control of his life, but rather emerged from his rejoicing in and reliance upon God… a God who Paul fully knew was in complete control of what lay around him.
Our world may be full of chaos, but as Lucado puts it, “rather than rehearse the chaos of our world, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.” Make plans? Of course. But be prepared for the unexpected. And wholly trust in God. Because, ultimately, it all comes down to who’s in final control.