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Whether I like to admit it or not, I think I have often lived my life as if I was the Dictator and God was the Co-Pilot. Far too many times have I wrestled for the Driver’s Seat when what I needed to do was say, “Jesus take the wheel.”
But I suspect I am not the only one who struggles with control.
As a child, I loved when my mom would play Polly Pockets with me. Between the tiny rubber clothes and luxury houses, it was a child’s dream.
My mom, however, did not enjoy the childish activities so much. And who could blame her when I told her what to wear, what to say, and how to say it, all within 5 minutes of pretending!
Unlike Polly Pockets and Barbie Dolls that children quickly grow out of, my control issues only continued to grow more rampant. It is not surprising then that as life continued to grow out of fairytales and into the reality of monsters that do not live under your bed but within your heart, the harder I grasped for power.
I think Peter in Acts chapter 11 knew this fight well.
Who Was I To Think That I Could Oppose God?
Before Acts chapter 11, Peter had quite the testimony. He and his brother Andrew met Jesus (John 1:40-41) and left everything behind to follow Him while fishing (Matthew 4:18, Mark 1:16-18). From changing his name to Simon Peter (Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14, John 1:42) and witnessing miracles (Matthew 9:23-26, Mark 5:37-43, Luke 8:51-55), Peter walked on water (Matthew 14:28-29, John 6:19-20) and swore he would never leave Jesus (Matthew 16:21-23, Mark 8:31-33, Matthew 26:35, Mark 14:31).
But by 33AD, Jesus’ prediction that Peter will deny Him comes true (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:55-60, John 18:16-27). And though Peter makes many mistakes, he is later reinstated by Jesus after meeting Him on the shores of Galilee (John 21:15-17). He then preaches the Gospel, endures persecution, and saves entire households (Acts chapters 1-12). Even his later death is known as one who died for the sake of Jesus (In 64AD, Peter is crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as Jesus).
An Interesting Look
But in Acts chapter 11, we learn something interesting about Peter. Because though this man loved God and loved sharing the Gospel, it is clear that he and the other Believers of their time thought they knew God and had Him all figured out, when really, they knew nothing at all.
After a strange encounter with the Lord in Acts chapter 10 and sharing the Gospel, Peter went to Jerusalem to tell the circumcised Believers that the Gentiles had also received the Good News of Salvation. Although Peter had questioned God on this matter of cleanliness, God made it clear to Peter that His presence was and still is for everyone (Acts 10:1-48). Peter started to understand this, but those he went to did not.
“The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them. ”Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story” (Acts 11:1-4, New International Version).
After re-telling the entire story, Peter stops the opposition in their tracks:
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11: 15-18, New International Version).
He is God
When Peter declared that the Gentiles were just as equal to receive Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as the Jews, He made a cross-cultural statement. The issue of Jews and Gentiles surpassed decades to this time, yet Peter chose to obey Christ over what he thought he knew.
“So I concluded that if God is pleased to give them the same gift of the Holy Spirit that he gave us after they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who am I to stand in the way of God?” When they heard this, their objections were put to rest and they all glorified God, saying, “Look what God has done! He’s giving the gift of repentance that leads to life to people who aren’t even Jews” (Acts 11: 17-18, The Passion Translation).
Peter realized that no matter what his preconceived notions were regarding clean and unclean animals or Jews and Gentiles, He needed to set them aside and obey Christ alone.
Today, we must learn to accept that He is God and we are not.
Today, we must decide to let go and let God.
We must choose to stop fighting the One who is already in control in the first place.
We must choose to set aside how we think things should go and accept that man can plan his steps, but it is the Lord who directs his path (Proverbs 16:9).
How God Works
Both in AD and 2022, God works how God wants to work. God does not work how we want Him to work or how we think, expect, and demand He should work. Things are on His timetable and not our own. We are not that powerful, but God is. And He wants to move in crazy and cross-cultural, unexpected, unplanned, unsystematic, and unlearned ways if we will be open to His move.
But I wonder how many times we lose opportunities, and I lose opportunities because I am too stuck in my ways of how things should be. I call things unclean that God says are clean. I judge ideas and propositioned times because they do not fit my agenda. I avoid opportunities seeing them as interruptions and not divine appointments.
Maybe I am too busy attempting to fix broken plans when God wanted them to break in the first place. Who am I to think that my schedule and priorities are over God? How foolish. Forgive me, God.
Many days I know that I try to take control. Like Peter, I am good at articulating how things should go, when the reality is that I know nothing of your ordained and orchestrated plans. Please forgive me. I am sorry. Help me to do what is right. I want and need to be open to all the things you want to do in and through me, no matter what it looks like, and no matter what I thought I knew and understood before. You are God, and I am not. I tried to put you in a box, but you cannot be contained. Help me to humble myself and allow you to move. To make room for more of you and less of me, no matter how, when, where, or why you see fit. We love you, God, and we give you ultimate control. Amen.
Who Are You?
If you earnestly prayed that prayer, know that God will begin to work in you like He is in me.
Because God is The Great I Am. He always has. He is El Elyon, El Shaddai, Yahweh Shalom, and He always will be.
He moves in the most unexpected ways, in the most unforeseen places, and in the most unlikely circumstances.
He calls something we thought was unclean, clean.
He calls graves gardens.
Broken dreams realigned visions.
Messy relationships hopeful restorations.
And when He says He will move, nothing can or will ever stop Him.
Not even the preconceived conceptions we called holy and righteous without being either.
Far too many times are days I read my Bible more but loved my neighbor less.
I volunteered at my Church for hours but lacked a servant’s heart.
I gave my Bible and Christian writings the time they deserved, but not those I love who are around me.
I showed love for Jesus without possessing His love for others.
But let it stop here.
Let the rain pour down.
Let the Holy Spirit wash over every part of me not like Him and reign repentance in this calloused heart.
For God is God, and I am not.
And who am I to receive such love as this?
Such freedom as this?
I would be a fool to not receive, live, and share it.
Today we walk in not who we think you are, but who You say you are. We walk not in who we say we are but who You have called us to be.