I Have Control Issues

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series: Confessions From Your Pastors. I shared about overcoming control issues. You can watch the message and see the notes below.

To dig deeper and apply the message, work through the Next Steps.

Let me describe what it means to have control issues. Listen to see if maybe you have this same struggle and don’t realize it. You know you have control issues when: 

  • you find yourself angry, anxious, or frustrated when what you want to happen doesn’t happen.
  • you find yourself angry, anxious, or frustrated when what you want to happen does happen but not in the way you wanted it to happen.
  • you tend to blame others when things don’t go your way.
  • you find yourself judging other people.
  • you get extremely frustrated with yourself when you mess up.
  • you find yourself feeling anxious.
  • you struggle to acknowledge there are things that happen beyond your control.
  • you have a short temper which is usually ignited when you cannot get someone to do what you want them to do in the way you want them to do it.

So here’s why control issues are destructive in our lives. In our worst moments:

  • There are times when you can say what people want to hear instead of what is true.
  • There are times when getting someone to do something you want them to do is more important than the person.
  • There is a very real danger that you could miss what God wants to do in your life because you refuse to trust Him since you want to be in control.
  • There is a very real danger that you could so try to control the people you love that the only way to avoid your control issues is to escape.

Ultimately, at its core, we have control issues when we struggle to trust others and when we struggle to trust God.


There is a moment in his life when the prophet Elisha healed a man who had control issues. That man was Naaman. As I read this story, consider if you may be like Naaman in some ways.

2 Kings 5
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

The king of Aram then sent Naaman for healing to the king of Israel. The King of Israel was wicked, did not trust God, and thought that Naaman coming to him was a trick and freaked out. Elisha heard about this and sent a message to the king of Israel saying:

 Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” 

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel….

After all of this, Naaman tries to offer Elisha a gift to thank him, but Elisha refused.

When you read the Scriptures, it is important to put yourself in the story.

When have you been like Elisha? Has God used you to bring healing to others – physical, emotional, or spiritual healing?

Have you been like Naaman’s servants – willing to speak up in intimidating situations? Willing to point others towards God and hope?

Or have you been like or Naaman?

Naaman was a proud man with control issues. He was used to telling others what to do and getting his way. People did what he said – even his own king!

However, there was one thing over which he had no control – his health.

In order to experience God’s healing, Naaman had to humble himself. Naaman’s pride could have kept him from overcoming his control issues. At least four times Naaman had to stop trying to control his circumstances and the people around. He had to humble himself and trust God and God’s messengers in his life to experience healing.

Fearing a very bleak future, he humbled himself and went to his enemies – the Israelites.

Even still, Naaman had in mind how he should be healed. He assumed that the prophet will come out and pray for him. Instead Elisha remained inside. He wanted Elisha to do the miraculous for him.

Then once he found out he would have to humble himself by dipping in the dirty Jordan River he wanted no part of it!

Fortunately, he listened to his servants. He had people he trusted even if he struggled to trust Elisha the prophet of Elisha’s God.

He wanted to pay Elisha. Elisha probably turned him down to give God credit for the healing and so that Naaman could not feel like he deserved it because he had paid for his healing. Once again, Naaman’s next step required humility.

To overcome our control issues, we need to trust God and trust those God has placed in our lives as spiritual mentors.

Too often we try to tell God what to do and even how to do it!

Naaman found healing by willingly taking a path of humility.

Perhaps you know what you need from God. Are you willing to trust Him even if He never answers your prayer? Are you willing to trust God even if He answers your prayer in a way you did not want or expect?

Naaman was willing to humble himself and obey God by obeying what Elisha shared with him.

How do you need to be healed? What need do you have that you keep bringing back to God?

Is he asking you to take a next step that you feel is beneath you? Is your pride getting in the way of God’s healing?

In what ways is God asking you to be faithful in the little things in order to experience the miraculous or are you wanting someone else to do the miraculous for you? Is your impatience getting in the way of God’s healing?


When I have been stuck spiritually, part of what has helped me grow in my faith at Gateway and in years past has been acknowledging I need to grow.

The closer we grow to God the more we realize how far we have to go to become like Him.

Are you too proud to ask for help? Are you too proud to see areas in which you are stuck? Are you too proud to trust God and others so you try to control your circumstances and the people around you?

You see we grow in different areas faster than others. Have you hung out with middle schoolers much? Some have size 12 shoes even when they are 5 feet tall. Some have their adult teeth even though they still have a baby face. You see 4’8” boys dancing with 5’8” girls at the dance.

We may be mature in one area, but we are quite immature in other areas. We may be great at hearing God’s voice, but we still have a lot of work in forgiving others. We may be great at serving people in need, but we still have a lot of work in generosity.

Some of us in this room are not as mature as we think we are. As a result, we are stuck. When we get stuck, we blame others. We blame our life group leader, our ministry leader, our parents, our pastors, or even God.

Humble yourself and ask God to speak to you. Ask Him to give you an open heart to hear His voice and even hear from others who you may have stopped listening to.

Our path towards growth remains humility.

Our path towards progress includes choosing to trust God even in the smallest of ways.

When you find yourself stuck or in the midst of a difficult time, ask yourself: “God, what can I learn from this? How should I respond to this?”

No matter how you got into these difficult circumstances, trust God and stop trying to control others or even control God. Be honest with Him but shift from telling Him what to do to asking Him what you should do.

When you are not sure what to do: just start doing the right thing no matter how small it is.

When we stop doing the right things, our default is to drift away and back into unhealthy patterns.

If we are honest: there are times in our life when we think God is making a mistake. There are times in our life when we think God does not know what He is doing. There are times in our life when we think we know better than God. We think to ourself: “if only God would have asked for my advice then He could have avoided all this damage!”

Humility and faithfulness in the little things (no matter how small) helps me overcome my control issues, and so does perspective. I cannot see all that God sees. I do not know all that God knows.

Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City once said: “God answers prayers the way we would if we knew what He knew.”

Too often we are upset on behalf of others who aren’t even that upset! Or we are angry with God even though one day we will look back with gratitude for the good He brought of a difficult situation.

Have you lost someone? In losing someone or going through a painful moment, have you struggled to trust God? In losing someone or being hurt by someone, have you stopped trusting God completely?

Why do we blame God when we know death is part of this broken world? Every one of us will one day die. There are no exceptions yet every time, we feel the pain of loss.

Rather than being angry with God, turn to Him and let Him bring healing.

Why do we blame God when other people hurt us? Every one of us will experience pain inflicted by others. There are no exceptions, yet every time we seem surprised that broken people have sharp edges.

Too often we let the worst people in our lives affect us in a way that we don’t even trust the best people in our lives.

Rather than being angry with God, turn to Him and let Him bring healing.

A passage which has been a great source of encouragement to me in letting go – not trying to control others, control my circumstances, or control God comes from the words of Jesus in Matthew 10.

28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands. 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:28-31, 38-39 NLT and MSG)

I have experienced God’s peace and power. His love has felt so real to me! His love brings a sense of joy and gratitude I cannot explain in words!

I honestly wish I could make you feel what I have felt!! But I cannot control you. I cannot make you.

Neither does God attempt to control you. He cannot make you feel His love. You must want Him in your life.

Are we telling God what to do for us or are we humbling ourselves and asking God what He wants to do in us and through us?

Are we waiting for someone to do a miracle for us or are we willing to do the small things no matter how humbling to experience the miraculous?

Are we turning away from God when things happen beyond our control or are we willing to turn to Him in these moments – even when we do not understand?

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