Craig Groeschel - Letting Go of Control
Well, on behalf of my entire family, my bride and best friend Amy, my six children, my two son-in-laws, my one grandkid, and my second grandchild that's on the way, in the oven as we speak. I want to wish all of you the most merry and faith-filled Christmas. It's one of the greatest honors of my life, for the 23rd consecutive year, to talk to you out of God's word about celebrating the miracle of the virgin birth as we honor God, who became one of us in Emmanuel, Jesus, God with us. We celebrate his goodness today, and I'm honored to take a little bit of time to break open God's word with you. We are in a message series that's called Travel Light, and we're talking about letting go of some of the things in this world that hold us back spiritually.
Today, what I wanna do is I wanna let Luke chapter one speak to us about letting go of control. If you're new with us, we're a participatory church. It's no fun without you. I'd love all of you to participate in all of our different churches. I'm curious, how many of you would say honestly that there's at least one area of your life, some of you, it would be a lot of areas of life, but there's at least one area of your life that you love to control. Raise your hands up right now. Raise 'em up, raise 'em up. One person has two hands up in the air right there. You look like you're worshiping. If you find yourself tempted to reach over and lift the hand of the person sitting next to you, just understand, God is about to speak to you about letting go of control. If you wouldn't mind today in all of our churches just, in honor of the reading of God's word, would you mind just standing to your feet?
And we wanna read a big portion of scripture from Luke's gospel as we celebrate the birth of God's Son Jesus. This is from Luke chapter one. I'll start in verse 26. This is God's word. In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, greetings, favored woman. The Lord is with you. Confused and disturbed. Everybody say confused and disturbed. Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. Some of you right now, as we're gathered together, you may be confused about something going on in your life. I wish this were not happening. Why am I here? I never thought I would experience this. You're disturbed. I can't handle this, I don't know what we're gonna do. I'd like to take control. I need to figure this out. Why in the world is this happening? I never thought at this point I'd be experiencing what I'm experiencing right now.
Mary was confused and disturbed. Don't be afraid, the angel told her, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him the name that is above every name. You will call him Jesus. He will be very great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. Mary asked the angel, but how can this happen? I'm a virgin. The angel replied, the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the baby to be born will be holy. He will be called the Son of God. And Mary responded, this is not convenient for me. It's not in my five-year goals. You have no idea. If this happens, then I will be pregnant in my wedding gown. I paid a lot of money, and I wanna look good in my wedding photos. Mary responded, I am the Lord's servant. May everything you've said about me come true.
There's another version, translation of this I like. It's the ESV, the English Standard Version. It translates the verse like this. Then Mary said, behold, the maidservant of the Lord. Then, she quotes the Beatles. Let it be. Everybody say let it be. Let it be to me according to your word. Disturbed, confused, the angel speaks, and she says let it be. Why don't you greet a few people around you and just say let it be as you work your way back to your seats today. Let it be. I'm not a mind reader, but I can already tell that there are some of you thinking, this is the perfect message for my spouse. This is for my mother-in-law. I'm so glad they're gonna hear this one. You're gonna think, I'm not controlling. I'm just aggressively helpful. I'm not controlling, I'm just thoroughly organized. Listen, some of you, you're wound so tight, you make coffee nervous. You wanna control everything. Your kids know it. You wanna control what they look like, where they go, who they hang out with, what they do, what they make on the ACT, where they go to college, who they're gonna marry, how many grandkids they're gonna have, how they're gonna take care of you when you're old.
You wanna control them. Your spouse, you're wearing 'em out. How you chew, how you dress, what you say, what you want, where you go, how you load the dishwasher, how you vacuum. Of course, vacuuming is important, and must be done with parallel lines, never crossing, and you must get all the way up to the edge. If you don't do that, you do not honor God. We do everything as unto the Lord. We vacuum just right. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, right? You wanna be in control. Some of you, you really wanna control what people think about you. Social media is your greatest weapon. You get to show them the life you want them to see, filtered, edited. It took you 37 attempts to get the Christmas photo by the tree. You almost gave away a kid and divorced your spouse, you were so mad at each other, #blessed! I'm talking about myself. It's funny, because the more you try to be in control, the more you fear losing control. The more you fear losing control, the more you wanna be in control.
That's why today what I wanna do is I wanna give you just one thought, one big idea, a simple thought to remember, but not a simple thought to live. To live this out, it takes faith, but on the other side of your faith, lemme promise you, you will always see the faithfulness of God, the God who is with you. The big thought, if you're taking notes, is this, I hope you'll understand, that you don't always have the power to control, but you do always have the power to surrender. Let me say it again. You don't always have the power to control, to make him do what you want, to make her behave like you want, to get your marriage where you want it to be, to get your finances in line finally, to get your future just lined up, to get your health where you want it, to have your kids doing everything you want them to do. You don't always have the power to control, but you do have the power to surrender.
When we talk about this, an angel appears to the virgin Mary, a lot of people hear this and think, well, it was easy for her, she was Mary. After all, there's statues named after her. There's cathedrals named after her. She's the Virgin Mary. No, when the angel appeared to her, we have to recognize, she was an ordinary, everyday, average teenage girl, just a regular kid. Some scholars would say she was 13 or 14, maybe 15 years of age. She had hopes and dreams just like any other little girl. She was dreaming about getting married. She didn't have any options like you all do. She couldn't like, snap the cute guy she met at youth camp or whatever. There was no match.com. She couldn't go on Christian Tingle or whatever the version's called. She doesn't meet somebody. She's got a limited community to choose from, and she would have been like any other girl. She wanted a guy with just a few simple, basic qualities. Women really don't have a lot they're asking for, just the basics.
A few simple things she she wanted: someone who most likely was strong and handsome, and charming, and drove a nice donkey, newer model that's reliable, nothing fancy, a good job, a man with a bright future, someone with strong hands and a soft heart, someone who's close to mom but not a momma's boy. She wanted a guy that was bold, yet humble, someone who was decisive, yet flexible, well-groomed but not obsessive, somebody that was fit, but did not post topless Instagram posts. Men, stop it, in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. You'll answer to God for that. She wanted someone that had big goals, yet was easygoing, someone that made her feel safe but was a little dangerous, someone who liked chocolate covered strawberries, long walks on the beach, and old movies, whatever it is. Most of all, she wanted a guy that was godly. This would be the man that would be the daddy to her children.
You know, whatever it is; I'm just making this up. But she had dreams. She'd meet him, and he proposed to her on the Bethlehem bridge, and the photographer would get the perfect Instagram moment, okay? They'd get married at Jerusalem Gardens, you know, and they would slow dance to "Thinking Out Loud". It would be perfect. You know, whatever it is. They'd have two kids, a boy and a girl. The boy would be named Joey, Junior. The girl would be named Ava or Olivia. They couldn't decide quite yet. They'd have a dog, not a cat. They'd watch Netflix and chill every night of the week, at least four nights, you know, who knows, whatever. She had hopes, she had dreams, and the angel comes to her and said, no, no, no, God has something different for you. Disturbed and confused.
Some of you, you kind of had a plan, some hopes and some dreams. You were done at two kids, and you got a bonus round. You didn't see that coming. Or the opposite, you hoped for three kids, and you found that you couldn't conceive your first, and you're disturbed and confused. You thought the job was the perfect job when you took it. You had no idea that the company would eventually be downsizing, and now you're not sure you're gonna keep your job, and you're barely paying your rent right now, and it's weighing on you. It could be a relational issue. Your marriage isn't where it's supposed to be. There could be an empty chair at the Christmas table this year. The person was there last year, and for whatever reason, they're not there this year, and you never thought it would happen. It could be a health issue. It could be a financial weight. It could be any number of things. You're disturbed and you're confused. You didn't think this is the way it would be. You were like Mary.
When you think about Mary, she didn't know the end of the story. Like, he didn't know three decades later that Jesus would be on the cross and that he would die and then God would raise him from the dead, and all the angels would sing, and he'd ascend up to heaven, and he'd be seated at the right hand of God the Father. She didn't know that. And you don't know what's gonna happen in your particular situation. She had a choice to make. You don't always have the power to control, but you do always have the power to surrender. She had to make a choice between her dreams and God's destiny. She had to make a decision between her plans and what appeared to be God's purpose. She had to choose between her control and God's calling. And what I love about Mary is this. Even though she didn't understand the plan, she trusted that her Father had a purpose. God's doing something, he's doing something. You always have the power to surrender.
What's interesting to me, when I think about it, is there's no such thing as what I call partial surrender. Like, you're surrendered to Jesus, you're surrendered, like, I give up, it's all yours, or, you're not. There's no like, degrees of surrender. Like, oh, yeah, I'm 87.5% surrendered. Like, I trust in him to save my soul, but I still like to, you know, fool around. Not giving it up. I trust him to make my past okay, but I can't trust him with my money. I trust him to give me peace when I'm hurting, but not with my kids. These are my kids. There's no such thing as partial surrender. What is our desire to control rooted in? When I look at all the different areas of my life to control, and believe me when I tell you, I'm preaching to me today, okay, my desire to control is rooted in a lack of faith. The more I find myself trying to control, the more I overestimate my ability to control, the more I underestimate the power and the goodness of God.
It's not easy, as I told you, because everything in culture tells us, you've gotta make it happen. If it's gonna be, it's up to me. I gotta get in there. I've gotta be strong. I've gotta manipulate it. I've gotta make it happen. But Jesus says something that is diametrically opposed to everything that culture says. Jesus says, if you cling to your life, in other words, if you try to be in control, you're actually going to lose it. But if instead, if you give up your life, if you surrender it for me, Jesus says, you will find it. In other words, to fully follow Jesus is to surrender control. Let it be. The interesting thing is this: surrendering control is not just a one-time decision. You know, back in 2012, I surrendered the control to Jesus, and it's all good. It's a daily choice, it's a daily choice. And when we look at Mary's surrender, what is so interesting is every time she chose to surrender something, she eventually saw evidence of the faithfulness of God.
Watch again and again. Think about it, okay? You're a virgin, and you're gonna be pregnant. I'm just being honest with you, okay? I'm dating Amy, she comes up and she says, the Holy Ghost got me pregnant, we got problems. She's gotta tell Joseph this, and she says let it be. She surrenders. And what does God do? She doesn't know he's gonna do it, but God then sends Gabriel the angel, who appears to Joseph in a dream and says, this whole thing is legit. She surrenders, she sees the faithfulness of God. People around town, you know they're whispering. Oh, yeah, Mary? I saw her donkey over at his house at two in the morning. We know what they were doing. And she's shamed for this, and then what happens? The Holy Spirit confirms it to her relative Elizabeth. This is of God, and there's some comfort there. You just think about all the different times Jesus is missing at the age of 12. You ever had a kid missing somewhere, they're panicking, and we surrender him to you.
And where do they find Jesus? They find him teaching adults. Oh yeah, we forgot, he is the Son of God. He does things like this. There you are, God. You think about whenever Mary is giving birth, she's nine months pregnant, riding on a donkey, can't find a Holiday Inn, no Motel 6. There's no rooms. This is not ideal. She trusts God. He provides a stall, a cave, next to farm animals. Not ideal. Shepherds show up to worship. Oh, yeah, God is with us. God is with us. Herod, the king, gets word. Who is this baby? We've gotta make sure he's dead. Think about this. The king and all the forces want to kill your baby. Every day, Mary, God, I trust you with my child. I trust you with my child. On the run, fleeing to Egypt, I trust you, I trust you, I trust you. How do you pay the bills when you're on the run like that? I don't know. I trust you. Three wise men show up and bring payment. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh, to worship the Son of God.
And I'm reading into it, but gold will help you when you're on the run. Surrender, faithfulness. Fast forward. Jesus knows what's gonna happen to him. He is the Son of God. He's in a garden in Gethsemane, and he's agonizing, knowing what's about to happen. He's agonizing. The pressure is so intense, if you look at it scientifically, his capillary burst. Blood comes out of his brow; that's how intense it is. He cries out to his Daddy, his heavenly Father, and he says, if there's any other way that you could remove this cup, what he's talking about is the cup of suffering that's coming, remove it. Then what he says is the exact same Greek word that his mother said. When she said let it be, he said the same thing, let it be your will, God, and not mine. And he goes to the cross, and his mother Mary looks at him on the cross.
And you gotta understand this. He's beaten so badly that he doesn't even look like a human being. And a mother, don't romanticize her as the Virgin Mary. A mother. Hey moms, mothers' sons, we have two sons, four daughters. My oldest two daughters, they got married, and Amy's like, oh, this is great. Some girl likes my son? Who is this girl? Psycho Amy, where did that come from? Mother's son, right? Her son. They're spitting on him, cursing him, and he's suffering. Jesus could have acted and taken control. He could have called legions of angels to wipe 'em out, give 'em all hemorrhoids. That's what I would have done. Show you. And what did Jesus do? He said, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, and he surrendered.
Lemme ask you a question. I'm gonna come a little closer, 'cause there's too much separation from us. God left heaven and came to earth. I'm leaving the stage and coming to the second and third row. Hi. What's your name? Rachel. Hi, Rachel. I'm not gonna embarrass you. Just relax. I promise. I just didn't wanna be in your space without saying hi, Rachel. I'm curious. What is it that you're trying to control that God wants you to surrender? I can't force you to do this today, but I wanna create an opportunity where perhaps God could do something special. There's, near your seat, somewhere around you, there's a little piece of paper you might look for. It looks like this. If there's a burden on your heart, and I don't know what it might be. It could be a relationship. It could be a marriage. It could be a child that you're aching for. It could be a bad diagnosis. It could be that financial weight that's crushing you. It could be a fear. It could be a hurt because of something that you've lost. It could be an addiction that you just can't seem to beat. It could be the guilt that you're carrying from something that you did that you can't undo.
Whatever it is, if you would like, I wanna invite you just to write that down on the piece of paper, and in a moment, we're gonna worship God with our giving, and you might give God something different today. You might choose to give him the burden of that which you're trying to control. Scripture says, I Peter 5:7, cast your cares, all your worries and anxieties, on him, your Father, because he cares for you. What's so special to me about the story of Mary is this, is the angel appears to her, and what did the angel say? The angel said, the Lord is with you. He's with you. Who is Jesus? He's also called Emmanuel, which means God who's with us. And I hope you'll feel that today, that God is with you. I'll try to explain this the best I can. I told you earlier that I love you, and some of you will probably think, but you don't even know me.
That's true, but there is a spiritual responsibility that I feel as your pastor, and I care more than you could ever imagine. The weight that Amy and I feel, and we bear that burden in prayer so often, and we agonize before every time we share God's word, because we want you to find life in Christ. We care, God cares. But here's what I had to realize in preaching this message. I can't control you, at all. I would love it if I could talk you into it, I could preach in powerful way that would help you to say, yes, I choose to surrender this, because when you surrender, here is a promise, is that our God can do way more through your surrender than you could ever do through your control. He can do way more. That which is on your heart is always better in his hand.
So what I had to do is I had to realize this. I can't control you. I can't force it. I cannot make it happen. So, Amy and I, in prayer, have simply surrendered you to the work of the Holy Spirit. We'll trust that maybe perhaps we'll do something. I'm gonna say it. I'm gonna set the table. I hope that you wanna feast on the goodness of God. But only his Spirit can move you to surrender. You don't always have the power to control, but you do always have the power to surrender. I promise you, God can do way more through your surrender than you could ever do through your control.
So Father, we ask that you would do what only you can do today, work in the hearts of the people that you love so much. Show them, God, that you are with them, that you're good, that you're here. And God, on the other side of their faith, I know they'll see your faithfulness. All of our churches, as we're praying, nobody looking around, those of you who would say I have something to surrender today. God, help me to surrender this person, this situation, this concern, this burden, whatever it is. Help me surrender this to you. If that's you, just, in a moment of faith, would you just slip up your hands right now? Just slip 'em up, all of our churches. God, I thank you, I thank you, I thank you that your Spirit is doing what no person has the power to do, but you're touching hearts right now. And in the same way Mary said it and the same way Jesus said it and the same way they lived it, God, help us say it, and help us live it. True surrender, not partial surrender, true surrender. Let it be, God. Not our will, but your will be done, knowing that sometimes it's not easy, not what we want. We'll be disturbed. We may be confused, but God, ultimately, even if we don't understand the plan, God, we trust you, your character, your goodness. We trust that you always have a purpose. Help us surrender, God.
As you keep praying today, nobody looking around. Give everybody just this private moment. There are some of you, you're gonna recognize that you're trying to live a partially surrendered life. There's no such thing. Others of you, there ain't no sign of surrender in you, and something's happening right now. You're sensing maybe the love of God, maybe his presence. Lemme tell you what that is. That's his goodness. That's his lovingkindness. Fear is not gonna drive you to him, but his lovingkindness is gonna draw you to him. He is so good. He left heaven to come to earth. Jesus was born of a virgin. Why does the virgin birth matter? Let me try to explain it as simply as I can.
If Jesus had been born of an earthly father, he would have inherited the sin nature of the human being. But because he was born of the Spirit of God, he didn't inherit the earthly sin nature, but he inherited the heavenly spiritual nature. Therefore, he was all God and all man, all at the same time. He was without sin. He was innocent. He was the Lamb of God, and that's why he could die as the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, and that's what he did on the cross. He surrendered, and God was faithful. God raised him from the dead, why? So that anyone, and this includes you, no matter who you are, no matter what you've done, no matter how dark your past is, no matter how many questions that you have, no matter who you are, when you call on the name Jesus, that name that is above every name, God hears your prayers, he forgives your sins, he makes you brand-new. You're not a better version of you. You're different, you're new. The old is gone; the new has come.
In all of our churches, there are those of you, you recognize, today is the day of your surrender. No more control. I give it up. I give you my life. Forgive my sins. I turn to you. All of our churches, those who said yes, I turn from my sins, I surrender my life, I give it to you, Jesus, that's your prayer, lift your hands high now. All over the place, lift them up now. Leave 'em up if you will. Up here, praise God for you, and back here, and over there, my goodness. Leave 'em up. Right back here, wow. Both of you, all of you over here and back over here, back in this section, my goodness. Praise God for you. Back over here, way back in the back. Church, I think you oughta worship a little bit more than that. Church online, you click right below me. All of our different churches, right back over here, are saying yes. As God is doing a work today, would you simply pray with those around you? Everybody pray aloud.
Heavenly Father. Forgive all of my sins. Make me new. I surrender to you, Jesus. Be first in my life. My Lord, my Savior, my friend. Fill me with your Spirit. So I can belong to you. Follow you, live for you, show your love. My life doesn't belong to me. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. You have all of mine. In Jesus's name I pray.