The Illusion of Control

June 11th, 2017

David Sorn

So much of life makes us feel that we’re in control. However, when we live trying to control everything, we end up pushing others away and living in fear and worry. Find out how to get off the throne and discover what God has for you!

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Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. 

I was about 16 when I decided I was going to be an incredible gambler. 

Now, I wasn’t following Jesus back then, so settle down. 

I started by organizing a bunch of my high school friends to get together and play all sorts of card games…for money of course. 

And I decided I was going to be an incredible gambler because…I was smarter than all of those other people…of course! 

Gambling is kind of a funny thing. 

When people are losing, why do they usually think they’re losing? 

Just bad luck, right? The cards aren’t falling their way. 

When people are winning…why do think they they’re winning? 

Usually, because of something they’ve done!

They’re simply better at the game. 

Maybe they bet on sports, and they must have done better research

Even people who just play slot machines, develop ridiculous superstitions to give themselves the credit for the success. 

They’ll say, “I’m winning now BECAUSE…I rubbed my ring 3 times, threw chalk in the air, and then pulled the lever!” 

And yet, despite all of these supposedly smart people in the world, Casinos never seem to be losing money.  

We have this illusion that we are in control, and it drives us to do all sorts of crazy things that we wouldn’t normally do if we realized we were not in control… 


And our everyday lives aren’t all that different. 

Most Americans live with the illusion that they are in control of their lives and their choices. 

It’s an illusion that not everyone in the world is susceptible too. 

When you live in extreme poverty, like a sizable portion of this world does, and you’re not sure if you’re going to EAT today… “the illusion of control” is not one of your temptations. 

You KNOW you’re not in control. 

You’re praying to someone bigger than you to help you get through the day. 

But you and I don’t live like that. 

Many of us in Suburban America, we feel like we’re constantly in control. 

Some of you have lived out the classic American Dream. 

In Elementary School, your parents asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up? And you said, “A teacher!”

And you went to college, and here you are, “A teacher…just like you planned” 

And you said, “I want to live in a house someday…with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms”

And unlike the vast majority of the world…you can do that! 

That is nowadays…if you beat the other 10 people who just put an offer on the same house. 

And it seems like we have a whole lot of control over so many little things. 

Feel uncomfortable that your house is SUPER hot today? 

No worries…just turn on the miracle of AC

When I was a kid, this was the time of year, I just sat with the face in front of the fan all day, trying to do Darth Vader impressions.  

Feeling bored? 

No need to kick a can down the street…just pick up your phone and you can binge watch a Lord of the Rings movie marathon without ever leaving your couch! 

And so our affluence, unlike many others, leaves us incredibly susceptible to the illusion that we are in control. 

Now, I just described one of the main reasons why people often get away with “Feeling in Control” here in America…

But that doesn’t necessarily explain why they WANT to be in control.  

That’s a different question.   

Control is “supposed to” make us feel good. 

It’s supposed to make us feel safer. 

Maybe even happier.  

And so, many of us work really hard to control so many things in our lives. 

Like our finances. 

If we just make sure we stay at this job…

If we just make sure our budget’s okay…

If we control our spending here…and save there…and invest here…


If you can control your health…and eat right…low calorie…gluten free…beach body workout…then everything’s going to be okay…

Unless…you randomly get cancer? 

So you start researching how to avoid cancer…

Turns out the studies aren’t that helpful. 

First article: A glass of wine a day will help you avoid cancer

Next article: A glass of wine a day will increase your chances…for cancer…and alcoholism.  

But guess what? It doesn’t stop there. 

We even try to control other people!  

Especially those closest to us. 

Listen, you can be, even extremely successful at work, and maybe you’re the boss, and everyone listens to you from 9-5, and you come home, and your 2-year-old spits on your shoes…and then laughs in your face. 

Or maybe you are super mom, and your kids listen to you, but your husband…certainly, he’s deaf, because he’s not listening to a word you say. 

Yet, we TRY TO CONTROL others!

A lot of people, rather than just admitting the truth…that they don’t have control over others…they just dig their heels in deeper into manipulation.  

And soon enough their whole family is supposed to do just what they want…to make them happy…which by the way, clearly isn’t working!

You know people like this? 

Is it you?!? Yikes! 

You can see it a lot in the way people parent nowadays.  

We have a whole new generation of helicopter parents. 

Parents obsessively watching over their children…making sure they never fall or that no one ever says an unkind word to them. 

Parents calling their kids’ coaches or teachers…controlling every aspect of their child’s lives. 

A lot of people try and control the details of their lives…thinking if everything goes well, THEN I CAN BE HAPPY!

I was talking to a woman recently who told me that back when she was preparing for her wedding, her mother asked her, “Now which pen do you think you’ll be using to sign your marriage license after the ceremony?” 

And she looked at her mom and said, “We’re done here.” 

That’s awesome

But the idea behind that belief is if you can control every little thing…every little detail…THEN…you’ll be happy!

But will you??? 

Where is this happening in your life? 

Where are you trying to control something…that you don’t really have control over? 

I find control to be a really fascinating subject. 

It’s one of the only things that when pressed…most people will admit that “yes, they don’t really have full control over their lives,” and yet we take that truth, throw it out the window, wave goodbye to it on its way down, and then try and live like we never knew it in the first place.  

We want control so bad, we willingly chase after even thought we KNOW it’s an illusion. 

Can we at least start with admitting that it’s not working? 

Maybe that’s the easiest place to start. 

When you live a life trying to control everything and everyone around you…you choose (whether knowingly or not) to also live a life of fear, and worry, and anxiety. 

Living in the illusion of control…is a relationship killer. 

Many friendships, marriages, and even parent-child relationships have been sacrificed on the alter of control. 

Because when you’re constantly trying to make everything work out right (so you can be okay), you’re doing 2 things that make you really hard to be around.  

#1: You’re always worrying. You’re a “nervous nelly” because you’re trying to make sure everything’s okay, otherwise you can’t be okay. 

And that doesn’t usually make you the life of the party. 

#2: Unfortunately, in order to make things “go according to plan” (so you can be happy), you have to manipulate people to follow your plan

And guess what, people don’t usually enjoy being controlled. 

And look at the cycle here: 

We grasp for control because we’re under the illusion that we can get it, and under the illusion that it’ll make us happy. 

But when we can’t get it, we start to worry…

Then we make our grip on everyone else, even tighter…which they don’t like…and now we worry more, which pushes people further away, and we worry more, trying harder to get control back…

And it’s a mess. 


And why, even as Christians, do we often live like that? 

The premise of this series is that so many of our problems stem out of a forgotten identity. 

We’ve forgotten who we are in Christ…and we’ve forgotten what our relationship to Him is. 

And so we live in anxiety and worry, when we could be living in joy and contentment…all because we’re not remembering our identity. 

Here’s the simplest way I can explain this to you (write this down) 

You can’t have the good things God has for you when you’re sitting on His throne.  

Let’s start with the fact that it’s HIS throne. 

Let’s start with the Biblical teaching about WHO exactly is in control. 

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is JOB 38.  

Where after 30some chapters of Job and his friends debating about who’s responsible for what…

God says: 

(Job 38:1-5)  

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?

Who are we really in comparison to an Almighty God? 

Are we really in control of what’s happening and what has truly shaped our lives? 

Did you control when you were born or to whom or where? 

Did you control the fact that you were in America, and not Haiti? 

Did you control the color of your skin or your hair? 

Can you control what others think of you or how they react to you? 

Can you control when you die? 

What can you even really control? 

This goes back to what we taught on in the Book of James this past Fall: 

(James 4:13-14) – NIV

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 

If you struggle with always trying to have control over your work situation, your next promotion, your unpredictable in-laws, your rebellious children…here’s the danger in that…

And this might be hard to hear…

When you try to control all of the things around you…you are in a sense…sitting down on God’s throne. 

You’re saying, “I will control the outcome of this event” 

And those who struggle with control often rationalize that sin by saying, “It’s not like I’m doing anything bad…if anything, I’m trying to help here!” 

And yet, what you’re doing, is saying, “Move over God…I’m going to need to sit on this throne. I’ve got this. If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself” 

And that…is a dangerous thing. 

Something you ought to fear doing. 

The Fear of the Lord would be helpful here. 

God is not afraid of pulling the rug out from under you…to remind you…if He must…who is in control…and who, really, sits on the throne. 

(Proverbs 19:21) – NIV

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

All of this doesn’t mean that you don’t plan or you don’t go out and try and influence things. 

The Bible’s not saying that you just should throw your hands up in the air, become a hippy, listen to Enya, and stop caring about life. 

No, the Bible COMMANDS us to get out there and do a lot of things. 

It’s not that we shouldn’t try and influence people, but our purpose is simply to be obedient and then leave the results to God.  

Letting go doesn’t mean doing nothing, it’s letting go of controlling the results.  


And so step down off the throne. 

You’re not in control of the results…and you never will be  

And I want to show you that life is better off of the throne. 

I want to show you that you can’t have all the good things God has for you until you step off of his throne

I realize that all of these teachings could lead you to believe that I’ve got all of these topics figured out…since I’m always the the one standing on the stage with answers…

But that’s simply not true of my life

This topic, in particular, has always been a real struggle for me. 

At the office this week, Zach Foty and I were having a conversation about what our church looked like 7-some years ago when we started (as Zach has been our worship pastor from the beginning) 

And so I, very nostalgically, started looking at pictures from our Launch Sunday in October 2009. 

And as I was scrolling through the 100 or so photos that were snapped that day…I came across a couple photos that reminded me of my constant struggle with today’s topic

…and yet, I felt encouraged in the growth that God has brought about in my heart over these past 7 years. 

Take a look at this first photo: 

(BBall Hoop)

This was about 25 minutes or so before the start of our very first service. 

What’s wrong with this picture!

There’s a basketball hoop right where our screen should be!!!

The custodian had somehow misplaced the key to put the basketball hoop up, and so we couldn’t put up our screen for the service. 

We had to call the head custodian, who took forever to get a hold of, and then he was “rushing” from his house, trying to get there before the service started. 

What triggered this memory for me though was this picture that I saw first


That was me, anxiously checking the door for the custodian every 2 minutes….so often I guess…that someone decided to snap a photo of it.  

And then I saw this picture next that was snapped about 3 seconds later


I know, my haircut is awesome. 

And I can see, that my mind is a million miles away. 

Thinking about all of the people who’s lives I’m going to ruin because they’re not acting according to my plan!  

And it’s no way to live. 

I remember my father-in-law came up to me as I was walking back down that hallway and said, “You need to calm down.” 

We all need people like that in our lives!

Whether the key came in time or not (Which it did…barely)…I was still going to share about Jesus…and God was surely going to move either way. 

So many of our feelings that come with the illusion of control end up just being wasted energy. 

How many of you have seen the movie “Bridge of Spies” about the American lawyer who has to defend an arrested Soviet Spy during the Cold War? 

One of my favorite scenes in that movie is when Tom Hanks’ character grows frustrated with the Soviet Spy’s lack of worry. 

(SHOW CLIP) – He keeps saying essentially… “Why worry? Would it help?” 

This is the same reason Jesus tells us not to worry. 

(Matthew 6:27) – NIV

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

It’s just wasted energy…because you’re not in control anyway!

Me worrying about the key to put up the basketball hoop, didn’t get it here any faster. 

It just distracted me from doing what I needed to be doing, like talk with new visitors, or pray, or anything halfway productive! 

Through our all whole process of moving towards purchasing land and building a building of our own, we’ve had more ups and downs than I would have liked if I were controlling things. 

And yet, God’s plans have proven superior to mine (shocker I know) 

And my faith is being built up. 

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we just recently went through a process where we had to ask our seller for a 2-month extension for our closing as we wait for necessary paperwork to come back from our not always speedy United States government…

And it was a part of the process we weren’t expecting, and the Seller didn’t HAVE to grant us the 2-month extension. 

And yet, when I learned about it, I just said, “Well, God’s in control…and He’s going to work it out however He needs to work it out.” 

And then I had this moment like, “Who are you?!? You’re not David!”  

I’ve been so used to the guy who’s staring out the door grasping for control, it was refreshing to see God changing my heart. 

But you won’t experience all the good things God has for you until you get off of his throne. 

Can you trust God? 

Can you let go of your need to control the results just how you think they should go and trust God? 

Listen to me, God loves YOU…and your spouse…and your kids…WAY MORE THAN YOU even love them. 

And, He happens to be way more capable of taking care of them than you are. 

Can you trust Him? 

The goal for us as Christ followers is NOT to find our happiness in making sure everything works out, but our happiness in HIM…no matter how things work out. 

And that’s exactly what a lot of people struggling with this idol miss. 

The reason that so many people are trying SO hard to find control is because they are operating under the false belief that they need their circumstances to all “work out” in order to be happy. 

But the Apostle Paul, who suffered much for Christ, demonstrates this is not true: 

(Philippians 4:11-12) – NIV

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

When you step off the throne of trying to control every detail of your circumstances so you can be happy…and you say, “God, you’re in control…and I’m going to find my joy in you…DESPITE my circumstances…” 

You’re going to free yourself from a lot of the anger and frustration that so many of us live in. 

God has a plan.

Trust Him. 

He’s a Good Father.  

Remember your identity. 

You’re not in control. 

He’s the Father. 

You’re His child.  

He’s got this thing!

So step off the throne of control. 

God has so much for you if you can step off!

And live in faith…which for Christians…is the opposite of control. 

Will you step off the throne with me? 

Let’s do it. 

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn

Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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