How Giving Up Control is the Prerequisite to Peace

Practical and profound wisdom from a Chinese parable

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Only God Knows

There is a story about an old man in a Chinese village who, while very poor, was the envy of wealthy kings jealous of his beautiful white horse. These kings offered fabulous prices, but the old man loved the horse as a friend and refused to sell.

One morning, the old man discovered that the horse was not in the stable. The village gathered and called the man a fool for not selling the horse when he could have. They called the loss of his horse a terrible misfortune and lost opportunity.

But the old man said, “Who knows. It could be misfortune. It could be a blessing. Only God knows.”

The people thought the old man had gone mad. He hadn’t gone mad. He had just surrendered.

After fifteen days, the horse suddenly returned. It had not been stolen but had escaped to the wilderness. Not only did the horse come back, but he also brought a dozen wild horses with him into the poor man’s stable.

Again, the people gathered and said, “You were right. It wasn’t a misfortune; the loss of the horse was a blessing after all.”

The old man replied, “Who knows. It could be a blessing. Maybe not. Only God knows.”

The old man had a young son who started to train the wild horses. Just a week later he was thrown from a horse and both his legs were badly broken.

The people gathered again, saying, “You were right. The return of your horse was not a blessing after all. It was a terrible misfortune. Your only son has lost his legs, and in your old age, he was your only support. Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man said, “Who knows. It could be a misfortune. Or it could be a blessing. Only God knows.”

A few weeks later, the country went to war, and all the young men of the town were forcibly taken to serve in the military where they all died in a dreadful battle. Because he was lame, the only one not taken was the old man’s son.

The father learned that giving up control is the prerequisite to peace.

“Therefore, We Will Not Fear”

It is this conscious willingness to surrender control to which the Psalmist calls us in Psalm 46:1-11.

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The Surrender of Jesus

When the apostles witnessed Jesus being crucified, they must have thought it the greatest calamity imaginable. Yet God used that horrific injustice to accomplish the greatest good imaginable. If they only knew the parable of the old Chinese man they may have had a more humble perspective on the plan of God.

What they beheld in watching Jesus die was surrender, where the Savior as a substitute absorbed into himself the curse of our sin, protecting us from the eternal consequences of its curse.

As verse 8 of Psalm 46 beckons us, “Come see what the Lord has done!” Look upon the King of Kings with nail-scarred hands and feet. He has desolated our sins and conquered our great enemy of sin and death!

Come and see. Look and believe!

Not My Will but Yours

Paul tells us in Phil 2:8, that Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Jesus was not forced into crucifixion but voluntarily submitted to the plan of the Father, praying the night before, “Not my will but yours be done.”

What if that could become my prayer? “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”

That is surrender, which involves letting go of my control idols of moral superiority, physical comfort, health, financial security, preferences for national and international politics, the story God is writing for my children, etc.

If you are willing to put your control idol down at the cross, I believe you will discover a secret portal of living water beginning to flow, washing away fear with the peace of God—because giving up control is a prerequisite to peace.

Remember, our surrender is not to the whims of fate. It is a surrender of control to the one who has saved us by his surrender upon a cross and who rose again, showing us that giving up control is not the path of losing one’s life but is the path to experiencing the fullness of God’s peace.

Now What?

I want that peace, and bet you do, too. The simple “now what” for this Monday morning is to ask honestly, "What control idol am I holding on to that needs to be put down today as I turn my eyes of faith to the sovereign reign of Jesus?” What will it look like to pray with integrity, “Not my will but yours be done?”

My prayer is that through conscious surrender of control you will be filled with supernatural peace as the Father pours grace upon grace into your heart!

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