Grace and Control

Recently I have been pondering about the control we have, or the lack thereof, over what happens in our lives.

God is the master draftsman and orchestrator of much of what goes on in our lives. He chooses to work with whatever we do, and whatever others do to fulfil his goal: Love. He loves the world not in a domineering way, although He would have every right to, but in a way of communion, fatherhood, and partnership. I believe He is currently working on helping us to understand what true love is and is doing a work in us so we can properly understand love, and thereby, understand Him and His ways.

Think about control for a minute. How much of our lives do we try to control? Our culture teaches us to always be in control; of our finances, of our family, of our future, of situations. “The world is your oyster” as the saying goes. But is it? Do we get to control and pillage the world in any way we choose? It can be easy to slip into the mentality that we are the God of our lives, that we can dictate and change circumstances to serve us. Perhaps to a certain extent we can, and we do have authority over certain things, but that authority is always subordinate to God’s and to be a good steward of something means submitting to a God who knows so much more of goodness and wisdom than we, and can therefore make better decisions. We can direct our future and we can plan our path in life, but God will choose the steps we take to get there (Prov 16.9). I wonder, how much control do we have over our desires when God, out of his goodness, places desires in our hearts to do certain things?  (Phil 2.13) I think of Parker Palmer’s book, Let your Life Speak where he reflects, “Vocation… comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfil the original selfhood given me at birth by God.” (p.10)

A new thought to me, that is still in the process of developing, is the link between control and grace. Grace is a phenomenon which we have absolutely no control over. We cannot control the amount of grace that we receive, nor when and how it comes. Grace is more than salvation, it is inclusive of God’s providence, mercy, and is part of his very essence. There is no real love without grace. In terms of salvation by grace, we can, if not careful or intentional, hijack God’s saving grace into something we control and thereby something we can ‘earn’ through controlling our actions and mind patterns. We do not control grace, there is nothing we can do to make God’s grace heighten or lessen in our lives (if there is indeed anything we can do to heighten or lessen the amount given to us, of this I am unsure). To pretend that we control our salvation or that of other people in regard to evangelism, is to misunderstand that salvation comes from God alone, not something we control through our words or deeds, but something that God wants us to partner with him in. He enjoys and delights in working with us, but he always remains the leader. This is not to say that we don’t hold some sway over his decisions, but it is like a father to a son, the Father ultimately is in charge (Luke 11 5-10; Matt 7.7). Let us not slip into following the Law through trying to control our actions to receive grace, for then it is not grace at all.

Let us not control situations as if we were God, but let’s plan, act, and be, in submission to God, with all we do being in communion and partnership with God. Let us act and plan with wisdom, pursuing good desires that have been given to us by God, with the knowledge that He will determine the steps we take, fitting them in to his master plan.



Palmer, Parker J. Let Your Life Speak: listening for the voice of vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

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