It wasn’t until my early forties that I decided to play competitive tennis. I had hit the ball around for fun with my husband at a local park on occasion, but I had never taken a lesson, didn’t have any solid technique, nor did I know how to keep score. Mind you, I did have a few cute outfits and have always been athletic, but I assuredly didn’t look the part once I stepped onto a court (note the above comment about technique!).
We had moved to Dallas a few years prior, and I noticed how many women my age played tennis, so I thought it would be a great way to meet people. Of course, I didn’t want their first impression to be me making a fool of myself, so I decided to equip myself for this new venture. I began taking lessons and practicing frequently. I adjusted my grip, developed my swing and considered strategies to win points. I bought new shoes, a new racquet and all the accessories. I joined drills and spread the word that I wanted the opportunity to play. And when I played, I wanted to win.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the people who win are the same people who can dictate the play. The victors are those women who can move their opponents around, keeping them on the defensive, off-balance and out of breath. The winners are the ones in control. And I tend to like control. On the tennis court…and in life.
I grew up with a lot of things out of control, so I can often struggle with the tendency to want to manage things according to a plan. MY plan – which is often very well researched and thought out, thank you very much. As if that makes a difference. My plan, your plan, any plan that isn’t God’s plan won’t bring as much joy, fulfillment or purpose to life. This is probably the single truth that evades me most frequently.
It’s the way the enemy tempts me most; teasing me with the notion that if I can equip myself well enough, I can control things well enough. And let me tell you, it’s a double-whammy lie. Not only can I NOT control much of anything in life aside from myself (and sometimes not even that), but MY plans, with my limited knowledge and vision, can’t possibly be as good as my sovereign God’s.
I’m certain I’m not alone in my wishful, controlling thinking, as there’s a common misnomer that gets repeated time and time again. That saying goes, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” But it’s not true. It’s not scriptural. And, although it’s meant to bring someone comfort, it only sets them up for failure. God does, in fact, sometimes allow (not cause, but allow) hard things to happen. He does it to get our attention, to help us realize our own sufficiency has limits and to lead us to a place where we might finally cling to Him. He uses these times for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). He uses everything with eternity in mind. See the big difference? His plans are eternal, versus our plans that are only for today, a season, or for the remainder of our short lifetime, at best. His focus is on forever – paradise into perpetuity – in full splendor and in His presence, without death, sorrow, crying or pain ever again (Revelation 21:4). (And we think our plans are good?!)
The truth we need to repeat daily is a saying that IS actually found in the Bible: with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). The best equipping we can give ourselves is to know, trust and follow God and His plans. Not ours. I love how He, in His tender-loving kindness, gives us so many illustrations to reinforce this. He often uses the imperfect and ill-prepared. He changes their lives and uses them to impact others. And His divine glory shines brighter the more fallible the person He chooses to do the mightiest of works. These people were certainly not the most capable and definitely not in control of their lives. Rather, they allowed themselves to be instruments of the Almighty Lord, and their outcomes were incredible.
- Abraham, who is known as the “father of faith”, still doubted God. (Genesis 16-18)
- Moses was a stutterer and was chosen by God a spokesman and leader. (Exodus 3-4)
- Rahab was a prostitute used by God to shelter spies and later become part of the lineage of Christ. (Joshua 2)
- Jonah was a cowardly and narcissistic escapist, who God brought back to save Nineveh. (Jonah 1-3)
- Esther was an adopted orphan and unlikely Queen positioned by God to save the people of Israel. (Esther 1-8)
- Paul was a brutal and ruthless enemy of Christians, transformed by God and then divinely inspired to author the most books in the New Testament – ones that will assuredly encourage you. (Acts 7-9)
These heroes of faith clearly had some issues on their own. They were far from perfect, completely human and not the strongest candidates for the job that God called each of them to do. But they each allowed Him to work through their lives and circumstances, and He made miracles happen. He can do he same for us if we make ourselves available to Him.
Are you ready?
If this was a tennis match, I’d tell you to relax. You have the greatest pro ever as your partner. Listen to his strategy, let Him make the toughest shots (He’s more than capable) and follow His lead. He will ensure your greatest victory!
The same is true in the reality of life. We have a God who knows how to win. In fact, He’s never lost. Ever. And He’s made Himself available to coach us through. Are You listening? Seeking His advice? Are you ready to lay down your desire to control and replace it with a desire to follow His teaching? He has great plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). He’s ready to show you the way to win!
Lord, thank you for releasing us from the pressure of making our lives great on our own! How amazing is Your love that You give our lives purpose and meaning with opportunities to follow You. Help us to lay down our own short-sighted plans for your perfect vision of eternity. Equip us, Lord, as only You can and give us courage to use our gifts and follow Your ways. Remind us often (because we forget!) to seek You in all we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.