Someone asked me this question recently. I thought this might spark good conversation so I placed it on my blog (but not in less than 500 words). Let me know what you think.
How do you know when you have given up control and given it over to God?
I like to live my life with myself at the helm. I like to make my own decisions. I like to be in charge of what is going on in my life. Even though I know I’m not in absolute control of everything, I try to be in control of as much as possible. My inclination is to exert my will on everything that I possibly can so that I can influence the results. This is how I try to control things.
This is the way God made me. He gave me a will and he gave me the ability to make choices with that will. Since I am sinful, I naturally use that will for myself. This is what I do with all of God’s gifts: I take the gifts from God and use them selfishly. So I focus all of my will on what I want.
Since I am a follower of Jesus I know that this is sinful so I must learn how to use my will differently. I must learn to use my will for God’s purposes. You see, God’s gift to me is my will and my gift to God is to give my will right back to him. I think I accomplish this in the following way.
Seek out God’s will. My inclination is to seek my own desires and to pursue them. I must learn to first ask God what his desire is. I have a friend who starts every morning by praying, “Good morning, Lord. What’s on your agenda today?” It is important that I decide that my life isn’t going to be all about me and what I want, rather it will be about God and what he wants. To make that so I will have to have a pretty clear idea each day what God wants. That means I’m going to have to spend some time in prayer seeking him out.
Listen for the Holy Spirit. My thoughts come from one of three places: myself, the Holy Spirit, and The Liar. Most people think their thoughts are all their own and so are fooled into following The Liar. I must learn to distinguish between the voices and especially learn to recognize the voice of the Spirit when he speaks to me. If I am a baptized follower of Jesus then I have the Holy Spirit and I can learn to hear him speaking into my life. That means I’m going to have to spend some time quietly listening for God to speak.
Look for consistency with the Scripture. If God is leading me it will always be consistent with the truth of Scripture. Any idea that is inconsistent with the Scripture is not from God. God has revealed much truth and he desires to use that truth to guide me. That means I’m going to have to know the Scriptures with some adequacy.
Be suspicious of my motives. Human Beings are notorious for convincing themselves that God wants for them exactly what they want for themselves. Anytime I think God is moving me in a direction that I really want to go, I should be suspicious of myself; there is a good chance I’m fooling myself. If this happens I should immediately proceed to the next step.
Surround myself with the people of God. One of the most valuable resources God has given me is the saints. People who love God and love me are extremely helpful in my quest to give up control and give my life over to God. If people will love me enough to be honest with me, then they will help me see when I’m being selfish and when I’m truly following God’s will. Every major decision I make in my life should involve the saints around me seeking God’s will for the very same decision. Many times they will all come back to me independently with the same answer. Then I have confirmation that I am following God and not myself.
Wait on the Lord. God’s timing is frequently not my own timing. Nearly every time I jump the gun and move without knowing where God is taking me, I mess things up. When giving control over to God I have to learn to hold my action until I get a clear direction from him or he takes care of things through other means. Waiting on God can be the most challenging part of giving up control, but it is also extremely rewarding.
So, I guess my answer to your question is: I know I have given up control and given it over to God when I am practicing the disciplines of giving my will as a gift to the Lord. A longer answer than you expected, I’m sure. But that’s my best shot.