Study Guides, Leaving Control Behind

Leaving Control Behind

Newbreak’s Sermon Study Guide is an in-house resource that serves sermon-based Life Groups and/or individuals who want to reflect further on how the message contributes to their spiritual formation. In this week’s study, we talk about the illusion of control and how trusting God is the antidote to control.

Icebreakers for Life Groups

  • Do you prefer to sleep with white noise or no noise?
  • Would you consider yourself a “control freak” in certain areas of your life? Why or why not?

Trusting God is the antidote to control.

Read Exodus 16:1–20; Psalm 23:1

Point 1 – Trust in God’s provision.

Exodus 16 tells us of how God provided the Israelites with manna to feed them through their wilderness journey. This, however, required an immense amount of trust. Think about it this way... imagine being told that your fridge would have the food you need for the day, all you need to do is just trust that it’ll be–oh–and only the food you need for that day. Anything saved for the next day would be rotten. This would be harder to do than it sounds! But in a sense, this is what is asked of us. Of course, for the Israelites and us, today—this doesn’t mean we don’t work or do anything. We aren’t just sitting around and then, bam, food! That’s not the point. The point though is to see God as “Jehovah Jireh” (God our Provider).

Yahweh-Yireh (Jireh) means “the LORD will provide” but more literally in Hebrew “the Lord will see it through.” The point is that to trust God will provide means that we trust He will see things through. Relinquishing control of provision comes with the belief that God finishes what He starts (Phil 1:6). He will carry you through. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, He will not leave you in the “wilderness.”

Like Moses, David too had experience as a shepherd. I imagine their experience coined the imagery of seeing God as a shepherd. They knew what it was like to look at their sheep and say: “Follow me and I’ll provide for you and protect you. Stray from me and you’ll be wolves’ food!” The relationship between the shepherd and his sheep provides one angle of looking at the care God has for us.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1, NIV).

Read that phrase out loud again. Do it again. And now, five more times. Isn't there something amazing in this declaration? It's like David was surrendering control.

We want to look into the crystal ball and see that not just today’s needs, but tomorrow’s and next weeks–months–and years’ needs will be met too. But God is inviting us to trust that He has that under control. The future is far too vast for us to try to control–that’s God’s job.
When it comes to God’s provision, we are to seize what we have for today. Our first line of provision is never our own effort, and it’s always God’s good gifts. The air we breathe, the rain and sunshine that feeds our crops, our very bodies—these are all good provisions from Him.
One more food for thought (no pun intended!). Consider the words of Holocost survivor Corrie Ten Boom: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • When reading Exodus 16 what details stick out to you? Why do you think the Israelites failed to trust God as they tried to save food?
  • David’s words in Psalm 23:1 are worth contemplating: “I lack nothing.” Is this your attitude? Be honest and reflect on why or why not? Allow your answer to guide a time of reflection.
  • Do you trust in God’s provision? What does it look like for you right now as you evaluate it?

Trusting God is the antidote to control.

Read Exodus 17:8–15

Point 2 – Trust in God’s protection.

Exodus 17:14-15 says: After the victory...Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”).
As the Israelites were fighting the battle against the Amalekites Moses was at the top of a hill, “with the staff in his hands.” He was the picture of the banner of God. The Israelites could look to the top of the hill and see Moses with his hands raised and be encouraged that God was watching over them and protecting them. God does this in our lives as well. He shows His protection to us and to our family and friends. We can look to them, or they can look to us, and see the evidence of God’s banner over us. When we share our lives with each other, our stories with each other, we become encouraged that God is working in our lives, that He is protecting us for His purpose and timing.

The best part of God’s protection is that it transcends this life. One day we will pass away physically, and thank God He has made a way for His permanent protection over us. So, although we “go through the valley of death” not even that destroys us. He loves and protects us this whole time on earth and into eternity.

God’s protection over us doesn’t always look the way we think it will, or should, look. He starts this protection with His Word to us. Scripture is full of God’s love for us in His preemptive protection over us. Sometimes we think of protection as something that needs to happen only when we’re in jeopardy, but He wants to show us how to stay out of jeopardy when at all possible. When we follow His Word and live according to His plans for us it’s easier to live under His protection. Like when we tell little kids not to touch a hot stove, or fire, or to run on a pool deck, we’re not trying to keep them from having fun, we’re trying to keep them from unnecessary pain.

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • When was the last time you experienced God’s protection in your life? Who did you tell about it and what was their response?
  • Where do you want to see God’s protection in your life or in the lives of your friends or family? Do you feel comfortable asking God for this? Why or why not?
  • What does it look like for you to focus on “Yahweh-Nissi” when you are in the midst of a battle and need His protection? How do you stay focused?

Trusting God is the antidote to control.

Read Exodus 24:12–18; 33:15–16; Proverbs 3:5–6

Point 3 – Trust in God’s process.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the tablets of stone on which I have inscribed the instructions and commands so you can teach the people” (Exodus 24:12, NLT).

Notice how this text begins. It sounds like it is going to be a quick thing. “Come up here and I’ll give you the instruction you need to move forward,” God says to Moses (paraphrasing). But then it is six days of His presence residing on the mountain. On the seventh day God Moses higher up the mountain where he remained for forty days and forty nights. That’s a long time! I’m sure the urgency was weighing on him. The people needed instruction from God! Yet, God was not trying to rush the encounter, because Moses actually needed more than God’s instruction–Moses needed God’s presence–and to linger in that sacred atmosphere.

Few things humble our perspective of control like shifting how we embrace the pace of God’s process for our progress. The Christian life is often referred to as a “walk with God.” It’s so true! We would rather it be a “run” because we want things to move at the speed of our preference. But God’s timing is likened to a walk. Think about how it looks when you walk next to a toddler (or even that friend who walks as slow as a toddler!). Don’t they know there are places to be and people to see? But that isn’t always the point. And God knows that. Sometimes the relational equity is just as important–if not more important than the task’s efficiency.

With that, there is a mantra that you might want to include in your prayer life... “Lord, help me not to run ahead of You or fall behind You.”
Decide to move at God’s pace, refusing to move without His presence leading. It’s like what happens later on in the book of Exodus.

15 Then Moses said to him [God], “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15–16, NIV)

Did you get that? The distinguishing mark of God’s people is God’s presence. It sounds obvious, right? But what could be more true? And yet, how often do God’s people move forward without God’s presence? Sobering. But this is not the way it has to be. And, admittedly, Exodus 33 is a unique time when Moses is calling on God to act on his covenant promises for his people so the language makes it seem like Moses has to call for God to go with them when it really has been God’s initiative all along. And now, as Christians belonging to the new covenant, we know that our task is to follow Jesus. Yes, by the Holy Spirit we are actually following our Rabbi and Messianic King even as he leads his Church from heaven where he rules until he returns.

So, the question is: Are we keeping pace with him? Or are we trying to run ahead or falling behind?

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • How did Moses have to trust God’s process in the Exodus story?
  • How does trusting in God’s process fit in with releasing control?
  • We are called to keep pace with God. Do you tend to want to run ahead or do you tend to fall behind? Why do you think so?
  • What is the next step you think God wants you to take in your walk with him? How does this fit with his process for you?

Memory Verse: Proverbs 3:5–6 (NLT) 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Final Challenge Questions

  • How are you going to think or live differently in light of what you have read, heard, and discussed this week?
  • How does this week’s message shape or nurture your relationship with God?
  • BONUS: For those of you with kids or around kids: What is one truth from this message that you can share with your kids in a way that they would relate to or understand?

About Our Current Series

The Summer season is known for a few iconic things: Sunny days with late evenings sunsets; barbecues with friends; cooling down in the ocean or pool, and of course–vacations. It’s well established that most families take a vacation during the summertime. And while in the peak of it they might even think: “I wish this vacation would never end.” There is something to be said about having an endless vacation, but we are not talking about never returning to the rhythms of home and work. We mean that some things are worth not just a one-week break, but an “endless vacation.” In this sermon series, we will unpack what things we should leave behind–for good!

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