Monday, April 13, 2015

Relinquishing Control

SCRIPTURE: John 8:31-32
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: March 13th, 2015

31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

It is not easy to relinquish control. The more competent a person is, the more difficult it is to stay away from controlling things, circumstances, or even people. An expert mechanic would be able to sense the reasons behind a rumbling noise behind the wheel. Upon hearing the troubling creaks or squeaks, he would be quick to offer a way for the driver to look into. After all, mechanics are trained to listen for strange sounds or problems regarding the automobile.

Like mechanics, computer technicians too will be ready to solve any problem regarding computers. If a computer slows down, try adding additional RAM memory, defrag the hard drive, or simply reboot the machine. If the software breaks at some point, try to tweak it, or to uninstall and reinstall it afresh. Troubleshooting problems can be very time-consuming, especially when customers do not really know what they have done before. It takes a patient and understanding technician to get to the root of the problem. While skilled technical people find it easy to get into a problem solving mode, it is not so easy to relinquish control of the situation. For some, it is the thrill of finding out the cause that drives them. For others, it is their reputation of a computer expert that is at stake. Yet, for others, they need to satisfy the impatient and increasingly irritated customer.

This is a world of technical prowess in a culture infatuated with speed. If one is not competent, one will lose the job to the competition. If one is not quick enough, customer satisfaction will be affected. For such people, rest is particularly hard especially when it means relinquishing control over things that are within your domain of expertise. For Christians who honour the Sabbath, it is also a practical question. How would you reconcile trying to solve work issues on your rest day? Are you able to relinquish control for an immediate resolution to a problem? Why is it so hard to wait?

There are many reasons why people find it hard to rest. Let me share just three.

A) Trapped in a Spiral of Busyness

In many societies, being busy is more a norm rather than an exception. In some cultures, not busy is equated to being idle. When one is not using the time to do something, it can be quite embarrassing. In a capitalistic world, success is defined as how much money is made. With money as an incentive, busyness can be the fuel to drive one to make more money. In difficult economic environments, busyness can also be necessary to avoid being laid off!

I know what it means to be busy. With tough quarterly numbers, the top brass expects subordinates to meet the demands or face the chop. The best thing to be doing is to bury oneself in constant busyness so that the boss will have one less reason to terminate our employment. Honestly, that takes the wind out of the sails of work. Over time, fear of losing one's job leads to risk averse behaviour which then leads to unwillingness to go beyond one's circle of comfort or familiarity. Busy is good in some ways, but also bad in many other ways, especially when the motivation is fear. I think it is not true freedom to work. It is a false perception of security which then leads to a denial of one's true self. Justify all we can about feeding the family. Rationalize away that any job is better than no job. If we live by fear, we shall crumble in fear. Fear is bad for true rest.

B) Trapped by the Fear of Losing Control

"If you do not want to do it, I will find someone else who will." says the key decision-maker of an important client. This is another of those fear driven situations where losing an important client means losing one's control over the corporate relationship.

In the service industry, all it takes is one bad experience and the annual contract can become the final contract. Competition is tough, and with shrinking margins, companies are finding not only ways to cut costs but also how to maximize profits with minimal overheads. Project managers sometimes compete on the basis of how they could do more with less. If Project Manager A makes more money at less costs, compared with Project Managers B and C, A would usually be commended and rewarded richly. In the business world, money talks. Profits silence the critics. Great financial numbers excite the shareholders. News of retrenchments boost up the company stock prices. It is a tough and often cruel arena of reality.

When Jesus calls his disciples to abide in Him, to continue as His disciples, and to persists in the call to discipleship, He issues to us a challenge of faith. Are we willing to follow Jesus in faith even in situations where we fear losing control? Are we prepared to maintain our business integrity but lose to an unethical competitor? Are we prepared to make unpopular decisions for the sake of Christ, like refusing a bribe or speak out against unethical practices? Are we prepared to lose control over our future in order to do the right thing?

True rest is a step of faith. Without learning to depend on God and to trust Him for our future, we cannot truly rest.

C) Fear of Losing Our Identity

When we abide in Christ, we are putting on the identity as Christians. The gospel writer in John continues to shine a light on what true freedom is about. Followers who abide in Christ will in their abiding know Christ; in knowing Christ know truth; in knowing truth be set free; in being set free to be truly free. For freedom is not about doing whatever we like to do or to do anything we want. True freedom is learning to see from the eyes of Christ. It is continuing in the Word. It is persistence in following Christ, knowing that it is the knowledge of Christ that will set us on the path for true freedom.

The world says: "Every man for himself."
The Christian says: "The gospel for every person."

The world says: "Freedom must be fought for by shedding the blood of enemies."
The Christian says: "Freedom is purchased by the Blood of Jesus." 

The world says: "Freedom is to be grasped at the world."
The Christian says: "Freedom is to be received through the Word."

The world says: "Follow the ways of the world's wisdom."
The Christian says: "Follow the ways of Christ."

The world says: "Freedom is about being free from outside domination."
The Christian says: "True freedom sets us free inside and outside."

True freedom comes from a strong identity in Christ. Only in a strong identity in Christ can we truly learn to rest in Christ. The 19th Century American editor, Horace Greeley asserts the following about true freedom.

"It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom."
True freedom is according to what Christ had done for us at the cross. It is fully grace. It is absolutely the work of Christ at the Cross. How then do we respond?

Respond by refusing to give in to fear and to replace it with faith. Respond by not becoming busybodies or trapped in constant busyness. Respond by questioning any desire to control things, circumstances or people. Respond by acknowledging God's sovereignty over our all. Respond with gratitude.

It is not our fear of losing control that can win us freedom. It is responding in faith to God's work which has already set us free. Totally free to rest and to abide in Jesus. Always.

THOUGHT: "The paradox of faith is that when we conform our lives to Christ then we gain our true freedom. And its fruit is profound and lasting happiness." (Vincent Nichols)


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