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Understanding What We Can And Cannot Control

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NKJV)

If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is the promises contained in God’s Word. This is a huge point, but unfortunately it is a point we can become jaded to hearing.  Let’s face it, life is full of a combination of uncertainty and hurt, along with hope and blessings — all sort of mixed together.  Each day brings a host of new challenges and opportunities.  All too often we can perceive the challenges we face to be a negative, when in fact, they can very well be both an opportunity, and a blessing. 

It seems to be our nature to focus most of our attention upon those things we cannot control.  When I think about this I am quickly reminded of the popular serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

There is great wisdom contained within this prayer.  First of all, we do need a peaceful tranquility when we are faced with things we cannot change or control.  We can achieve this only by trusting God and His sovereignty (cf. Isa. 26:3; Rom. 8:28).  

Next, we must seek God for the courage to change the things we can.  For me, this simply means I need to focus on the things I can control, which are my actions and reactions to what I am facing—my trust and faith.  I need to seek the Lord for His wisdom and will, and then I need to plot a course to begin doing my part.  God has a specific plan for each of us, no matter what we may be facing.  And regardless of what someone else may be doing, we are responsible to do our part, and to do it with a proper attitude and heart, as if we are doing it for our Lord (1 Cor. 10:31; cf. 2 Cor. 9:7).

So let’s bring some application to these biblical principles.  Let’s say we are experiencing a problem in a relationship with a spouse or friend.  Instead of finding blame with the other person, giving ultimatums, or trying to change them, we should make it our heart's desire and then our goal to focus on what we can control and change.   We should take responsibility, apologize and ask for forgiveness for anything we may have done to cause a strain in the relationship — this is a way we can do our part in the healing process.  Choosing to forgive the other person and looking for ways to improve the relationship is another way we can focus on what we can control.  When we are committed to utilizing this godly principle we will soon find many applications for the challenges we will face.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17 (NKJV)

I want to encourage you to think and pray upon these things today. 

STUDY QUESTION: According to the Scriptures contained within this devotional, what can we learn about how we should overcome evil?

PERSONAL INVENTORY: Are you willing to focus only upon the things you can control?  Are you willing to do your part, and allow God to take care of the rest?

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Continue to be steadfast in seeking God in prayer to give you the wisdom to understand when you are attempting to change another person, rather than focusing on your part.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Father, thank you for Your amazing wisdom.  Father, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  In Jesus’ precious name, amen…


Be Blessed, Pastor Scott


Copyright ©2017 by Pastor Scott Wright.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Bible text from the New King James Version is not to be reproduced in copies or otherwise by any means except as permitted in writing by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000