When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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Open your hands!

September 30, 2019

One of my favorite things about children’s ministry is observing how children relate and interact with each other. This summer we held Art Camp at our church, and I watched as two young kids were in a tiff over who was going to hold the pool noodle for the next game. Each one had their hands clutched tightly around one end and the adult was trying to pry their hands away so they could actually play the game. They each wanted so desperately to be in control and to be first. They weren’t in a position to enjoy the game because they were so obsessed with who was “in charge.” Sound familiar?

We’ve all been that kid – attempting to exert control. Prioritizing control at the expense of the future. Where did this start? When did we get so wrapped up in being the masters of our own destinies, the owners of everything we desire? This possessive nature traces its roots back to the garden of Eden. Eve saw something she wanted and grabbed it.

In the garden, Eve wasn’t happy with her role – tending the garden wasn’t enough. Walking in the cool of the day with God wasn’t enough. She wanted to be more like God – she wanted to be God. She took hold of the chance to gain what she wanted – to know and understand good and evil. She took a bite of fruit and as the juice filled her mouth, so did shame, guilt, grief, loss, pride, and sin. So much sin. She wanted to control – to have more than she was ready for; to be independent and in charge of her own life. But in her quest for independence, she found herself completely dependent on God’s grace. In trying to have it all, she lost it all. In closing her hands around that fruit, she gave up what she needed most – intimacy with God.

What if Eve had not closed her hands around that fruit? What if she waited with open hands and took what she received from God instead of pushing forward with her own will and wants? Let’s be honest – if Eve hadn’t done it, one of us would. Keeping an open-handed posture in terms of what we want is difficult for all of us. We think we know best. We want what we want when we want it. But more often than not that’s not what’s actually best.

Imagine what your life would be like if you lived with open hands! Receiving what God wants you to have when He wants you to have it and then giving it away and sharing with others when He wants you to be generous. Giving and sharing; in and out; being blessed and blessing others – this would be the rhythm of our lives without a struggle for control. Sounds pretty amazing, right?

How do we live with open hands?
  • Release control over things that were never within your control. Your way isn’t the right way; God’s way is the right way. He is in control of all things – the only thing you can control is yourself and your reactions.
  • Refuse to let fear determine your behavior. We often hold tight to things because we’re scared to lose them. We’re afraid that if we let go, God won’t give us something to replace what we’ve lost. The reality is that sometimes God can’t give you a new blessing because you’re holding on too tightly to the old one. Sometimes blessings come with an expiration date – we need to be willing to release them so we can receive what is next.
  • Be willing to be uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to release what is known and exchange it for what is unknown. But the unknown with God is so much more than anything we have in our hands right now.
  • Assume a posture of humility. It’s difficult for us to admit we’re dependent on God. We like to think we have it all together and that because of our talent and hard work we’re able to accomplish great things. It takes humility to admit everything we have and are comes from Him.
  • Open your mind to new things. Control causes our vision to narrow – we only see what’s in our hands and what is right in front of us. This prevents us from seeing a bigger picture. Opening our hands to what God has allows us to gain a better, bigger picture of the world and see how God has equipped us to engage the world.
  • Seek after God. When we clench our fists and try to control, it’s a protective posture – we defend what we have and cannot actively seek where God is leading us. We can’t protect and seek at the same time, we have to choose. Protection focuses on the past and what is known, while seeking focuses on the future and what is unknown. We can’t embrace what is possible for God if we’re protecting what is possible for us.
What will you choose? Tightly closed hands around the blessings you’ve been given in the past or open hands ready to give and receive as God intends?

Jay Hanson, Lead Pastor, and Anne Bosarge, Multi-Campus Director, serve at The Chapel Ministries. They love sharing about the ways God is moving in their church. Contact them at jay@thechapelministries.com and anne@thechapelministries.com.

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Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.