Willpower only accomplishes so much

By Dave Henning / July 23, 2018

“We actually receive greater power by surrendering. . . .  There is only so much that willpower can accomplish.”- John Ortberg

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”- Matthew 5:37 (NIV)

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 6 of When the Game is Over as he talks about three problems that result from being Master of the Board.  The first problem centers on the illusion that you are Master of the Board.  As a result of this illusion, often your efforts to control outcomes damage us worse than what others do to you. In addition, you miss all of life’s creativity and serendipity when you try to control something too tightly.  For you have this control on your own little ideas.

Furthermore, a second, deeper problem with a Master of the Board mentality results in putting you at odds with others. Because living in the myth of control makes other people the problem. When people don’t behave the way you want them to, you try to find a way to manipulate them.  Also, you find a way to placate, flatter, intimidate, or boss them around.  As Pastor Ortberg quips, “We all get a little confused about whose kingdom it is.”

Thirdly, if we’re really in charge, our hopes die when we do.  On the other hand, when we surrender to Jesus, the true Master, then there is a better hope.  As Jesus taught, we receive power when we freely yield our little control centers to God.  And willpower only accomplishes so much.

In conclusion, John underscores, the outcome of life’s moments isn’t a referendum on us.  The outcomes rest in the hands of God.  Therefore, Pastor Ortberg realizes, “trusting God means learning to let go of each moment so I am free to fully inhabit the next one. . . .  That is why I can never get control issues right outside of partnership with God.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you cede your willpower to God’s control?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Floating in a season of helplessness”

About the author

Dave Henning

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