Who Is In Charge of Your Life?
Ephesians 3:1, March 28, 2021
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Q: Who is in charge of your life? My life? Our lives?
Fatalism? The belief that are events are predetermined and inescapable.
Determinism? The belief that all events, including our choices and our actions, are ultimately determined by causes external to our choices and our actions. Are we are victims of circumstances, life. Are we at the mercy of circumstances of whatever life brings our way.
A: Paul answers that question in verse one when he writes, “I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus”
Q: Why would Paul say this? Who was Paul a prisoner of when he wrote this epistle?
A: Easy answer, right? He was a Roman prisoner. Romans had arrested him. Romans had brought him to Rome for his trial before Caesar. He was guarded by Roman soldiers and at night was chained to a Roman soldier. So clearly, he was a prisoner of Rome. Right?
Wrong. Paul had a different way of looking at his life, a different way of looking at reality.
Because, for Paul, it came down to one simple question, ‘Who is in charge of my life?’
We must keep in mind Paul was technically and physically a prisoner of Rome. However, Paul could not, would not, say he was a prisoner of Rome because he knew Rome was not in charge him or his life.
How could that be? After all we know from the book of Acts the Romans took him from Jerusalem to Rome. Nonetheless, Paul did not believe the Romans were in charge. Instead, Christ Jesus was in charge of his life.
Q: What are we, as Christians, followers of Christ to make of this?
A: We are also to acknowledge Jesus as being in charge of our lives. We may say Jesus is the Lord of our lives. But what else do we say or talk about? We talk about people, events, health, family, employment, car or house problems as if those people or events or things are in charge of our lives.
What does our language communicate about ‘Jesus being in charge of our lives’ when we talk about our lives? Whatever the trials or tribulations are, they do their best to convince us they are in charge, literally in charge of your life, my life, our lives. Troubles can do that. They can seem to be fully and completely in control of our lives.
I know. I know because it has happened to me. And it has happened more than once. More than once the troubles in my life were in charge – not Jesus. The troubles continued until I believed they were in charge of my life … and then I confessed it with my mouth one way or another.
But there were times when I gave up trying to either control it myself or gave up believing the circumstances were in charge. It was then I gave up and turned everything over to Jesus and His control, eventually realizing He was in control all the time anyway. It was not an easy thing to do, at least not the first time.
Still, we as Christians, when our trials or tribulations get so bad, so very bad, we transfer the authority in our lives from Christ to our troubles. But Jesus showed us a very different way to approach this, a different paradigm, a different reality (at least to those around us who are non-believers), a different way of looking at life and our troubles. Looking at a few verses from John 19 that we can call upon when life wants to tell us our troubles or trials or tribulations are in charge.
It is from the time after Jesus had been flogged, slapped, had a crown of thorns forced upon His head. The Pharisees were calling for His crucifixion when Pilate noticed Jesus did not reply to the charges against Him or the calls for Him to be crucified. Pilate and Jesus had a very short conversation in John 19:9-11. Pilate asked Jesus where He was from. Jesus remained silent. Then Pilate said, Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you? Pilate was frustrated, things were not under his control as he wished. I imagine him almost spitting these words out to Jesus with great intensity.
Then, Jesus, who had not replied to anything the Pharisees had accused him of, nothing at all, but now He chose to reply to Pilate. You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
What’s the point of this? What does this have to do with Paul being a prisoner of Christ Jesus?
First of all, Pilate’s words to Jesus are just like the voice we hear from trials, tribulations, pain, things, events, people in our lives that says to us Don’t you realize I’m the one or the thing that has the power to make your life miserable, to kill you? In some cases, Don’t you realize I have the authority to take your life, either literally or to put you in prison as the Romans had done to Paul. Often it begins as a whisper but all too often it grows to a constant intolerable volume and we can’t turn it down. That is when we begin to give into that voice and eventually our speech begins to reflect that. We speak as it this thing, whatever it is, has the authority and the power to be in charge of my life.
How are we to respond? Listen again to Jesus’ response to Pilate and imagine Him looking directly at Pilate when He said, You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. With those words Jesus gave an answer to all Christians applicable from day one to our circumstances today. He gave an answer to the question Who is in charge of your life? When Pilate tried to tell Jesus Don’t you get it, don’t you understand, I’m in charge and I have the authority! Jesus’ reply – spoken quietly, firmly, with absolute conviction or rather knowledge (in my imagination), You would have nothing if it had not been given to you by My Father in heaven. This can be our answer as well as born again Christians. No matter what we are facing or experiencing that is at max volume in our heads that it is in charge. We can come back and say, You would have no power over me if it had not been given from above.
I don’t know what you are going through or have gone through to where you might think or even say, Easy for you to say, but you don’t know what I am going through. Fair enough. But I know what I have gone through and I know what Dave Elkins went through when he had a stroke. While he lay in a hospital bed, paralyzed and blind on one side, we talked. He told me, he was accepting his circumstances, after all medical science said he would never be right again and it would be months before he would be able to go home – dragging one leg and one arm almost useless. Then he told me he had asked God what He wanted him – Dave Elkins – to do while in the hospital. And he said God answered. The answer was, Tell them about Me. Testify about Me. Why did a man, an incredibly strong man full of life, ask God what He wanted him to do while in the hospital? Because the stroke was not in charge of his life, God was in charge of his life as he lay there half paralyzed and blind in one eye. God was still in charge of his life.
Then there was Richard Wurmbrand, imprisoned for 14 years for his faith. He and other pastors would preach to one another. For doing so, the guards would beat them. He considered it a fair trade because for him, Jesus was in charge. One day he was praying and the warden asked why he was praying and for what? His answer – he was praying for the warden. Months later the warden joined him in jail as a believer. The prison was not in charge of Wurmbrand, God was.
So the question of
Q: Who is in charge of your life?
A: Was answered for us in verse one of Ephesians chapter 3, when Paul said, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus while he was a prisoner of Rome. He was telling us who was in charge of his life just as Dave Elkins let me know as a prisoner of a stroke, God was still in charge of his life. Just as Richard Wurmbrand let the ‘authorities’ know God remained in charge of his life.
We can argue all day that Paul was chained by Rome, in prison in Rome, but Paul knew Rome belonged to and belongs to Jesus to this very day. We can even argue Dave Elkins was chained to his hospital bed by the effects of his stroke. And he was. But Dave knew his life and even the hospital belonged to and still belongs to Jesus. Dave Elkins after witnessing about Jesus for a number of weeks, got up and walked out of that hospital owned by Jesus with two good legs and full vision. He would be with us another 3 years. Today he, like Paul, is in heaven with Jesus. Jesus was and is sovereign over both Rome and Dave’s stroke. We can argue the beatings Richard Wrumbrand suffered regularly proves the prison controlled him. His actions show he disagreed as God remained in charge of his life.
Paul, even while in jail in Rome, could write, and did write, with complete confidence and faith that he was a prisoner of Christ Jesus. We can begin to do the same in our own lives no matter what we are facing. This is important because our culture today is doing it best to marginalize us as Christians, to eventually make us think of ourselves as victims whether it be from the culture or the victim status of so much where the ‘victim’ culture encourages us to look upon ourselves as victims for one reason or another – our age, our sex, our job, our upbringing, our life experiences. Anything so long as we look upon ourselves as victims. Why? Because then we forget Jesus is in charge.
We have to remember God is sovereign, almighty and He knows what we are going through. We can be comforted by that no matter what we are going through, regardless of what is going on in our lives. If we can’t do that, if we don’t believe He is sovereign, then what are we doing in church? What are we doing reading the Bible?
Actually, we should be reading the Bible as it may change our mindset, permit us to see reality differently.
Look at what Romans 8:37 says about us, No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. But that doesn’t tell enough of the story imo, so we are going to look at Romans 8:35-39 where Paul wrote 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Then Paul quotes verse 22 from Psalm 44, 36 As it is written “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Then the powerful conclusion, 37 No, in all these things [trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword] we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Repeating v37, 37 No, in all these things [trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword] we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Some of you may not feel like a conqueror with what you are going through. Certainly, that has been true of me, but what we must grasp and hold onto is that It is not about how we feel. Instead, it is all about who we are in Him and who He is. Remember in chapter one there were 10 to 12 references to us as believers, being in Him. We need to remember He is sovereign and in control no matter what we are going through.
It is because He is sovereign and in control that we are more than conquerors because of who He is. No other reason. Look around you, everyone in here, no matter how young or old, no matter how healthy or unhealthy, no matter how great or how little their Bible knowledge, if they believe they are more than conquerors through Him. Because Jesus is in charge – we are safe in Him. That is why Jesus told us in John 14:1, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. We have said similar things. Ever held someone scared or hurt and said, “Don’t worry. It will be okay.” I have, our children and a few adults. What was I saying? Do not let your hearts be troubled, it will be okay.
But it was a lie in the sense I had no power or authority, but Jesus does. He is our creator, He is sovereign, He has the authority AND He has promised a place in heaven for those of us who believe. I believe.
He can say, Do not let your hearts be troubled, don’t worry – I’ve got this. I’m in charge. He is! Anything and everything that might have us concerned or a lot more than concerned is under His authority. Anything and everything is under His authority.
Jesus says: Are you a prisoner? Then you are My prisoner. Are you a patient? Then you are My patient. That is the point of Paul’s opening verse in chapter 3. This is why God, and only God, can say to us in Proverbs 3:5, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. That can be tough, especially the greater our understanding. But only God can really and truthfully Trust in Me with all your heart. Many in the media or in government will say it, but only God can say it and back it because He is in charge. He is the one that is sovereign and with the authority.
Finally, are we convinced, in our hearts, that God is in charge? Truly in charge? What do we believe? I know what Paul believed and knew in his heart. Rome was not in charge. Christ Jesus was in charge. I know what Dave Elkins believed and knew in his heart. His stroke was not in charge. Christ Jesus was in charge. I know what Richard Wrumbrand believed and knew in his heart. The prison was not in charge. Christ Jesus was in charge.
I want to challenge you and me to say to whatever it is in our life – say to that thing or person, You are not in charge, Jesus is in charge. When you question that return to verse one of chapter 3 of Ephesians and read,
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.
And then focus on this I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus. Then ask yourself, if Paul was a prisoner of Christ Jesus and in a jail in Rome, Who was in charge of Paul’s life? And then as a corollary, Who is in charge of your life?