Craig Groeschel - Controlling People
Hey, welcome today to all of our Life Churches, all of our Open Network churches. Today we're beginning a brand new message series that I believe has the potential to speak to you in a massive way. We're gonna talk about loving people, because as God loves us, we're called to love people. I wonder in all of our churches, how many of you recognize that some people are a little more difficult to love than others? Any of you ever come across someone like that? That's what we're talking about in the next few weeks. We're talking about relational vampires. What does a vampire do? A vampire sucks your blood. What do relational vampires do? They suck the life out of you. And that's what we're gonna talk about in the upcoming weeks. How do we love the people that suck the life out of us?
Let me tell you where we're gonna go next week. We're gonna talk about loving the people that can be overly critical, always picking us apart. Week number three, we're gonna talk about loving the very needy people that whatever you do for them it's never enough. They always need more. How do we love them appropriately? Week four, we're gonna talk about loving people who are hypocritical. Maybe there's some people that call themselves Christians, but their behavior doesn't align with God's word. What is our role if at all? How do we help them find life? How do we love those people? Today I want to dive in with something that many people face. How do we love those who are incredibly controlling? I wonder in all of our churches, if I can get all of you to participate, how many of you know someone who can be a control freak? Raise your hand, raise your hand.
If you tried to raise your hand and the person next to you pulled it down, what I hope you'll understand is you're sitting next to the very people that we're talking about today. Control freaks. Unfortunately, some of you really have been hurt by people who tried to control you. Maybe someone who is in an authority role in your life and was abusive and hurt you. Most often the people trying to control us are not malicious. Sometimes they're just needy. Sometimes they're insecure. Sometimes they're just hurting people who are trying to get us to do what they really think that we should be doing in our lives. And if we don't, these people who can be an emotional black hole, we pour into them, and no matter what we do is enough, no matter what we give them, they want more. If we give them a tinch, then they crave even more. If they don't get what they want, sometimes they'll pout, sometimes they'll stomp, sometimes they'll whine, sometimes they'll complain, sometimes they'll give you the silent treatment, sometimes they'll walk away, and all the time you feel like you're walking around on egg shells.
If you're thinking about someone right now, just think about them, do not point at them because that would make this message much, much more difficult. How do we love those who are trying to control us? Let's start by building a foundation. What are the weapons that controllers have? How do they try to take control? There are two weapons that controllers have. You probably know this. But they use threats and they use guilt. They use threats and they use guilt. How do the threats manifest? In some form or fashion, they may say it or they may imply it. But that is, you better do it or you will regret it. You better perform or you will be punished. In other words, if you don't do what I want you to do in one form or fashion, you're going to pay for this, and they'll use threats. It may be your boyfriend who says, I'll break up with you if you don't, you know, do what I want you to do sexually. It may be your boss that terrifies you and makes you feel like you're gonna get fired or demoted. You're always on edge. It may be a spouse who threatens to leave.
Whatever it is, one of the manipulators or controllers' great weapons is to use threats. They'll also use guilt. They may say it, or they at least imply it. After all I've done for you, you won't do this one thing for me. I mean, I thought we were friends, and you won't even do this. You call yourself a Christian. What kind of Christian are you anyway? Your relative says, you never call me. You must be too busy for me. You don't love me. I could be dead for two weeks rotting in my house and nobody would even know. Threats and guilt. Threats and guilt. How do we as followers of Christ love those who intentionally or unintentionally try to control and manipulate us? What I want to do is I want to show you a story in Matthew's gospel, and it involves Jesus and one of his disciples, Peter. Jesus is very clearly explaining that he must do the will of God in his life, and Peter unintentionally, trying to do what he thinks is right, literally tries to take control of Jesus, and in a very unintentional way is gonna try to distract him from what God wants for the life of Jesus.
Let me give you kind of the context of what we're gonna see. Jesus was clearly explaining to his disciples that he had to suffer and he had to die, that he was gonna give his life and then God would raise him from the dead. And Peter looks on and essentially says, "Oh no, you don't. We're not gonna let that happen. This cannot happen to you". And as Jesus is clearly explaining the will of God, Peter is saying, "No, I want to take control and make sure this does not happen". Here's how the story goes, Matthew 16 verse 21. Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. You may notice sometimes the controllers and manipulators, they often like to isolate you, they often like to take you aside away from others so that they can help impose their will upon you, and that's what Peter is doing. He took Jesus aside and said, "Never, Lord! This shall never ever happen to you! This is not what I want, and I'm not gonna allow this to happen". What did Jesus do whenever Peter tried to manipulate him away from God's will? This is what Jesus did. He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns". Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me".
How do we love those who are trying to control and manipulate us. From this story what I want to do is I want to show you three very important things that we need to know to love people who are trying to control us. Three things to know. The first thing if you're taking notes is this. Number one, we need to know what you are called to do. We need to know what you are called to do. And Jesus, he was so clear on what his calling was. I love it because over and over and over again, Jesus would say in different ways the very clear, very purposeful mission of why God sent him to Earth. Why did Jesus come? Jesus said, "I came to seek and save the lost". He told us who he came for and who he did not come for. He said, "I did not come for those who are healthy, but I came for those who are sick". Jesus said, "I didn't come for those who are righteous, but I came for the sinners". Jesus said, "I didn't come "so that other people would serve me, but I came to serve them by giving my life as a ransom for many".
Jesus was incredibly clear on his calling and the purpose why he came. And that's what he was describing to Peter. "I've got to give my life. I'm going to suffer, but it's God's calling, it's his purpose for me, and he will raise me back up again". For you to love those who are trying to control you, it's really important that you clearly define your calling, what it is that God is calling you to do. And a lot of times I think people mistakenly think a calling is like this grandiose, like, I'm supposed to be a missionary to Uganda. That may be your calling. But they think, I'm supposed to have a cure for cancer, something like that. I would argue that our calling isn't always specific, but sometimes it's to the people that are closest to us. Your calling might be to love your wife. You calling might be to lead your children. Your calling might be to, in this season, to study well, be a good student, and to graduate from college. You're building a foundation of which to build upon. Your calling might not be to a work, but it might be to be a witness. Not called to a job, but you're called to be a witness in the job that you possess. And you clearly identify your calling.
For example, I believe that my calling is clear. I'm to lay down my life to serve my bride, Amy. I am to lead my children to become fully devoted followers of Christ. And my calling is to shepherd this flock, that's the metaphor, that I'm the pastor of the church and that is my calling. This is very, very clear, and this will drive what I'm called to do. You need to know, clearly, what you're called to do. This is my calling, love Amy, lead my kids, and lead this church. The problem is, I'm a people pleaser. The problem is, many of you are people pleasers. In fact, how many of you would say that you battle with people pleasing? Raise up your hands. How many of you just raised up your hand to make me feel better right now? You're a people pleaser, okay? Many of us battle with being a people pleaser. What we need to understand is that people pleasing is a form of idolatry. What is it doing? What we're doing is we're wrongly putting people's opinions of us ahead of God's calling for us. And that's why we have to be so clear on what his calling is.
What does calling do? Calling clarifies, it clarifies, because let's be honest, if you look at me, a lot of people have a very clear view of what I should be doing with my life and my time. The same is true for you. There are people who want to control and say you should do this, you should go here, you should do this for me, and they have a very, very clear plan of what you should be doing with your time and with your resources. When you know what you're called to do, it creates clarity. In other words, there are a lot of people who want me to do exactly what they want them to do, and I cannot do everything. I cannot please everybody. Are you guys with me? Is anybody here today? Does anybody else ever see this going on in your life? I cannot save everyone. Honestly, I wish I could, but I cannot meet with everyone that wants to meet with me. I can't do everything, I can't be everywhere, but I can, because I'm called by God, I can love my bride, I can lead my children, and I can use the gifts that I have to do what I'm uniquely called to do in pastoring this church.
You need to know what you're called to do. Why does this matter? What does every controlling person have in common? There is one thing that every controlling person has in common. Are you ready for it? Every controlling person has someone who allows it. Everyone who is controlling has someone else who allows it. So, the person who is doing the controlling has a problem. But, so do we if we wrongly allow it to happen. That's why calling is so important. Clarify your calling. In this season, what is it that God is blessing you to do? When you clarify the calling, it will keep you from being distracted away from his calling toward someone else's desires. Know what you're called to do. The second thing is to know when someone is trying to control you, is to recognize and to acknowledge when someone else is trying to push you into doing what they want and perhaps even away from what God wants.
This is what's going on in the story. Jesus says, basically, "This is what God is calling me to do. I'm going to lay down my life and God's going to raise me up". And then what does Peter do? Peter stands Jesus down and says, "No, no, no, no. This isn't gonna happen. Never ever, ever, ever, ever, Lord". Now, ask yourself, was Peter the worst guy that ever lived? No. Did he hate Jesus? No. Was it his intentional plan to distract Jesus from the will of God. Not at all. He was a good guy who loved Jesus. In fact, moments before this conversation, he had just won Jesus Jeopardy. What is Jesus Jeopardy. Jesus was playing a little game and he said, "Who do other people say that I am"? And the disciples were answering it, and they were saying all these other people say... And they kept getting the answer wrong. And Jesus said, "But Peter. Who do you say that I am"? And Peter got the answer exactly right when he said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". And Jesus says, "Peter. People, flesh and blood did not reveal that to you, but my Father in heaven".
Peter was not an evil man just like perhaps most of the people that are trying to manipulate you. But in that moment, he was putting his own plan, his desires ahead of God's, and that's why you have to acknowledge, when you're called to something and someone is trying to exert their will to take you away. Why did Peter try to control Jesus? Because in that moment he didn't understand God's plan. And that's why we have to recognize it. It may be a really good person, a person that we love and loves us, but we need to recognize when unintentionally or even intentionally, they're threatening us, or they're trying to guilt us into doing something, or they're trying to just isolate us from our friends, or manipulate us to rescue them again, or to try to get you to meet needs that you were never ever designed to meet. You have to really know your calling. This is my lane, this is my purpose during this season of my life. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. And then you need to acknowledge and to know whenever someone is trying to control you.
The third thing, and this is where it gets a little bit more difficult, but this is the loving thing to do. The third thing is you need to know when it's time to draw a line in the sand. You know when it's time to draw a line in the sand. And this is exactly what Jesus does to Peter. Jesus says this, "This is what I'm called to do". Peter said, "No, no, no, no, no. Not what you want, what I want". Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan"! This is kind of fun to say. Have you ever said it out loud? Just go ahead and say it, all our churches, say it. Ready? Get behind me, Satan! "You are a stumbling block to me and you don't have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns". Say it again, get behind me. Get behind me, Satan! So if your grandma ever makes you feel guilty, just look at her and say, I'm not gonna let you talk to me that way, then call her Satan. Don't do that, don't do that, don't do that, don't do that. Don't do that. Work with me for a minute. Jesus says this is God's will. Peter unintentionally says, "No, no, no".
Imagine with me if you will if Jesus is codependent. Imagine if his identity is wrongly wrapped up in Peter's opinion of him. "This is what God wants me to do". Peter says, "No, no, no, no, no. This will never happen". And Jesus is like, "Well, okay. I mean, don't get upset". "If you do, Jesus, I'm not gonna be your disciple anymore. If you do that, Jesus, I'm gonna be really, really mad. I'm gonna unfollow you on Instagram, and oh, you're gonna pay. I'm not gonna call you. I'm gonna give you the silent treatment". And Jesus says, "No, no, no, no, no, Peter. No, no, no, no, no. Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay. I'm not gonna die. I'm not gonna die. That was for mankind, but I'm gonna do this for you. What do you want? You want tea together? You want no more miracles? Whatever you want". What if Jesus was codependent and his identity was wrongly wrapped up in what Peter thought of him? He would never do that because the moment he gives control to someone else, then someone else is now directing him and God is not leading him. And this is why it's so incredibly dangerous.
We need to know what it is that we're called to do. We need to recognize when someone is trying to take us away. And Jesus looks on and says, "Hey. Just a minute ago you won Jesus Jeopardy, but in this moment, there is an evil spirit who is trying to take me away from doing what God called me to do". What if, in your life, there's someone that you love and care about, someone that even loves and cares about you, but in their dysfunction, they are distracting you from serving a higher calling and a higher purpose because you idolize what they think and you've lessened and walked away from what God thinks? This is why it's so incredibly important. And Jesus looks on and says, "In this moment, you don't have in mind the things of God, but you have merely human concerns". Alright, let's let everybody breathe. What do we do? Where do we go when we recognize we've got an unhealthy dance? Where someone threatens us, someone makes us feel guilty and we give in and perhaps we're not doing what God called us to do.
Let me give you a couple thoughts, and hopefully, for somebody this is going to be freeing. For somebody here, God's gonna do something, God's gonna shake you, God's gonna move you. And instead of settling for something lower, God is gonna move your relationships to something higher. What do we know? We know this is true in any relationship, that the relationships you have are a combination of what you've created and what you've allowed. Think about it. Every relationship you have, your marriage, your siblings, the relationship with your boss, your coworkers, your friends, your children, they're always some combination of what you have either rightly and purposely created or what you have passively allowed. We create patterns. We create healthy patterns, or we allow unhealthy ones. Every relationship you have. The person that drives you crazy. Your mother-in-law that's getting up in your business. Your spouse that you love and yet you continue to do this. What do you have? It is a combination of what you have created and what you have allowed.
Next thought, and this is the application. If you don't like what you have, change what you expect and what you accept. If you don't like what you have, change what you expect and what you accept. Know when to draw a line in the sand. Jesus loved Peter. You got the answer right. God revealed that to you, well done. A moment later, no, no, no, no, no, that's not appropriate. "I'm not letting you, in your desire, take me away from what God called me to do". How do we do this? I'm not gonna let you talk to me that way. I love you, but that's inappropriate. I care about you, but you can't talk to me that way. I know this is difficult, but because I love you, I'm not going to bail you out again. You can throw a fit, you can yell, you can scream, but I want you to know I'm gonna consistently express my love for you, but I'm not gonna tolerate this. You know we do this with two-year-olds in a grocery store. Right? Your two-year-old will go, "I want a candy now"! A good parent will say, no, I expect more and I'm not gonna allow that. Unless it goes on for about 20 minutes, and then even good parents surrender because the terrorist now has control and you give them the candy and you whisper into their ear, you can have the candy now, but someday nobody's gonna be watching. You don't tolerate that. I expect more, and I'm not gonna accept that kind of behavior out of you.
And this is what we do with the people that we love. I love you so much, but you can't yell at me. We don't use the divorce word in our marriage. You can't threaten like this. You know what? I'm not gonna own the guilt that you're trying to put on me. I'm gonna love you consistently. When you do this, what's gonna happen? Most of the time a controller is going to kind of rare up, and they're gonna get upset. They might double down on some of their dysfunctional behavior. Am I the only one that had these people in my life? You're like so quiet, man. Either this is speaking to you... I don't know, you're just like so quiet today. So you're gonna draw a line in the sand and say, that's not acceptable. A lot of times... Whatever it is, whatever their MO is, that's gonna become an attitude. Why are they gonna act like that? Because they're hurt and you're redefining the dance. We had a dysfunctional, codependent dance, and you're trying to change it to something that's healthy. They're hurting.
Is that difficult for you? It's always difficult for you. It's difficult when you're redefining it because you love them and you don't want them to hurt. But even though it hurts, you know that on the other side, there is something better. Does it hurt when they're hurting? Yes, it does. But it hurts every day when there's a dysfunctional relationship and someone has taken someone else away from the will of God. So we have to love them enough to know when to draw a line in the sand. In this case, no, you can't talk to me that way. God has something better for you. Now, let's get real for a minute. It's really easy to talk about those control freaks. But every now and then, when I look in the mirror, I have tattooed across my forehead, king of the control freaks. Does anybody know what I'm talking about, okay? Because people say this, people say, well, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. I relate to that. God loves you and I have a wonderful plan for your life. I want everybody doing what I want everybody to do. And my wife said amen, and my kids said amen, and my staff said amen. Anybody who's around me said amen because I want them to fall into my life.
The reason why I want them to do what I want them to do is because, unfortunately, I like to play God. I like to call the shots. And any of you who are a control freak, and that would be probably a significant number of you, what we don't recognize is we are doing the very thing that lucifer did in the Old Testament, which is I want to be like God. And the problem is, I don't make a good God and neither do you. Neither do you. Think about this. No matter how much guilt you throw someone's way, no matter how many times you threaten, can you, do you have the power to change your spouse? And the answer is, in case you're wondering, no, you do not. Does God have the power and ability to change your spouse? Yes, he does. Do you, as helicoptery as you are, mom, getting up in your business, and I haven't been there yet, I'm coming your way, do you have the ability to control your child's future? And the answer is no, you do not.
Does God have the ability to open doors and to close doors to direct your kids? Yes, he does. Do you have the power to manipulate, to control, to threaten, to whatever, to change someone's behavior and help them overcome an addiction? No, you do not. But does God, through the power of Christ, have the ability to make someone new, the old is gone, and to set them free from the power of darkness? Yes, he does. And so when we recognize, we don't have the power to control, we stop trying to be like God, and we surrender to him. And that's why Jesus said right after this conversation between his will and God's will and Peter trying to stop it, what did he say? The very next thing in context of this dysfunctional encounter, he then turns away from Peter and he looks at his disciples and he says to them, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves".
In other words, you can't be your own God anymore. "And just like I'm gonna have to give my life, and just like God is gonna raise me up, you too have to take up your cross and follow me". Essentially, what was he saying? If you want to follow Jesus, you will never be in control again because it's not about your will. From that moment on, it's all about his will. Nevertheless, Father, not my will be done, but your will be done in heaven. Why is this so important? Because any time we let someone else wrongly control us, or any time we try to control someone else, essentially, we're trying to be God. But the only way we can truly follow him is to surrender our will to his will, not try to control someone else, but entrust them to him, to pray for them, to love them appropriately without entering into the dysfunction, and sometimes say, I'm just gonna have to trust that the Spirit of God is gonna do a work in you. I cannot control it.
I right now am dying to myself and trying to bring my flesh, my desires under the will of God because if I want to truly follow Jesus, it's no longer about what I want, but I will be fully submitted to him. So Father, today I ask that your Spirit would speak to us and give life. At all of our churches, as you're reflecting today in prayer, I wonder how many of you would recognize, honestly, there may be a little bit of dysfunction in a relationship, where someone is trying to exert their will upon you. You're dealing with someone with a controlling spirit. Would you lift your hands right now, just lift them up, all of our churches. Put them down for a moment. Those of you who would say, that may be true, but I also can do that to others, I can battle with trying to control, would you lift up your hands for just a moment.
Father, today I pray for both of these groups, and I would be included in both. God, for those who are wrongly dancing with someone, who many not even have bad intentions, but we recognize that this dysfunction could lead us away from your will, God, forgive us for the idolatry of sometimes putting someone else's opinion of us ahead of your calling for us. God, clarify our calling, that with everything in us, God, we would sense in this moment, this is your will, this is your purpose for us. And God, any time there is misdirection, there is someone that is trying to take us off, that God, give us the courage to say no to that distraction so we can always say yes to your will. God, give us the courage to love them in a way that we're not willing to be manipulated, but instead, we just change. What we expect. We expect something so much better, something healthy. We will not accept something that is anything less, God, than your will. Now, for us that are trying to control, God, would you empower us to trust in you, God, with all of our hearts? To lean not in our own understanding, trying to manipulate or control, God, but in all of our ways acknowledge you to know you. And God, we thank you that you will make our paths straight.
As you continue to pray at all of our different churches, the good news is, God has brought many of you here for this moment because you're gonna recognize, you are still in control of your life. And Jesus said it very clearly, "If you want to belong to me, you cannot be in control". You need to deny yourselves and to follow him. At all of our churches, there may be those of you that you recognize, you're still the king of your life, you're still the lord of your life, and deep down you know there's something wrong. If I ask you, where do you stand with God? You would feel the weight of your guilt, the sin. You feel the shame of it. And so oftentimes we try to take control. Well, I'll do good things. I'll stop doing bad things. Maybe I'll go to church and I'll give to somebody in need. Maybe that will win the heart and the approval of God.
The problem is that there is no way we can possibly ever work our way into the favor of God because our sin separates us from a holy God. The good news is, even though we've sinned, God still loves you more than you can imagine. And in his love and in his mercy, he became like you in the person of Jesus. And the very thing Jesus was explaining to Peter is the heart of why he came, that he must give his life, that the innocent one would die in our place as the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus would die, and God would raise him from the dead. Why? So that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on the name of Jesus, would be saved, changed, and forgiven?
At all of our churches, there are those of you you recognize that you are in control. Today you surrender control. You turn from your sins, you call on the name of Jesus. When you do, he will hear your prayer, he will forgive your sins, he will make you brand new at all of our churches. Those who say yes, that is me, I surrender control, I give my life to him, Jesus, take me, be first the Lord of my life. That's your prayer, lift your hands high right now. All over the place, lift them up and say yes, that's my prayer. As there are hands going up at all of our different churches, church online, would you simply click right below me. And as we have literally hundreds and hundreds of people all over the world coming to faith, would you join your hearts in prayer with those around you?
Heavenly Father, forgive me of my sins, make me brand new, Jesus, be my savior, be my Lord, fill me with your Spirit so I could follow you, so I could live for you, my life is not my own, today I give it to you, thank you for new life, now you have mine, in Jesus' name I pray.