Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Have you ever been in a place where you lost control of things? I have. I have left home to go on a short trip of 40-50 miles and after getting half way there realized I did not have my cell phone. Without my phone I felt I had lost control and it felt scary. If I needed to contact someone for help I was out of control, and so what did I do? I turned around and went back home to get the phone and be in control again.
I’ll make one more confession of losing control. I had a funeral one Sunday afternoon several years ago. I had prepared my sermon and taken my sermon notes to the church office to review prior to the funeral. After reviewing them and praying, I took what I thought was my notes to the pulpit to be there when I needed to refer to them. As the service got underway, and it was time for the sermon, I stepped into the pulpit, read the gospel, and looked down at my notes. That’s when I discovered I had brought my Sunday morning sermon notes instead of the sermon notes for the funeral. I had lost control. The message I delivered was totally from God in the moment that I needed it. As I spoke to the family, friends and community gathered that day it was what God wanted to say to them to comfort them and bring hope to their hearts. Without a doubt, God was in control.
Whether it’s forgetfulness, simple mistakes, illness, sudden death of a loved one, or job loss, all kinds of things unsettle our plans and snatch control from us. And that can be deeply troubling in the moment.
Those Jesus referred to in this statement were individuals who perhaps wanted to follow him, but had other priorities that kept them in control of things in their life. They could not put their hand to the plow for Him until those things were all in their control.
Learning to keep my hands to the plow and not let other things draw me away from what God calls me to do is a life-long lesson. I just seem to have to keep learning it. I am reminded of what Elisha did in 1 Kings when Elijah cast his mantle of calling on him to be a prophet of God out there in the field as he plowed. He first wanted to go home and bid farewell to his family. Then I think he decided to let God have control, so he killed the yoke of oxen, cut up his plow and used it to barbeque the oxen to celebrate his new calling from God. He decided to celebrate the moment of giving God control of his life. No more farming for Elisha. His farming tools had been given over to God, and he devoted his life to be God’s prophet. I wonder, how can we celebrate giving God control of our lives?
These are some of the questions that this statement of Jesus causes me to ask of myself.
How about you?
Consider your own control issues then pray that God will give you the courage to celebrate giving that control over to Him so that you can keep your hand on the calling that God gives you.
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.