Locus of Control

Posted: August 5, 2019 in Theology

If you were a devil, and you knew that the saints had everything they needed to advance the kingdom of God and destroy your kingdom, and you had no authority to come against them as long as they are standing in the authority of Jesus and walking by faith…then wouldn’t you do everything in your ability to try to deceive them instead of fight a losing battle of frontal assault? Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to convince them that either there isn’t a threat present, or if they see your play, that they can’t do anything about it? Spiritual warfare is sometimes temptation, sometimes sneaking unseen, sometimes discouragement, sometimes about provoking friendly fire, sometimes intimidation, but one thing spiritual warfare is always about is deception.

From the believers’ standpoint, spiritual warfare is almost always about TRUTH, about the renewing of the mind.

Someone said,

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

If you believe you can do a thing, even if it calls on your greatest efforts of preparation, skill, and knowledge acquisition, your faith that you CAN will provoke your best effort. But if you believe you cannot, any efforts you make will be anemic and short-lived. Maybe even pouty and self-pitying.

I think sometimes we Christians fail to develop the attitude of a lion, the attitude of an overcomer, because we have internalized a can’t do attitude when we were in the most formative years of our families of origin. Perhaps we learned that life is unfair and determined mostly by the choices of others. Maybe we learned that sometimes bad things happen and you can do nothing to stop it. And much of what we’ve learned from life’s painful experiences wasn’t what Jesus wanted to teach us. The devil often uses facts to deceive, and Jesus often makes up parables to tell truth. The same experiences teach people opposite lessons depending on whose voices they hear.

But our family of origin may have instilled the opposite as well. Maybe instead of powerlessness we learned that we really CAN do hard things because we have the capacity to learn, grow, develop, and problem solve. Maybe we learned that there are answers if we are determined to find them. If we had parents taught us an empowering worldview of doing hard things and taking responsibility for outcomes that affect what matters to us, then they helped us develop a strong internal locus of control. If they did not train us to take responsibility, but only to accept what life gives, we developed an external locus of control. I’m sure other factors come into play in our development, but surely our families of origin have an impact. I personally refuse to believe we are stuck where we start. All of us can change and grow and develop from where we are, no matter how young or old we are.

So where are we on the sliding scale from internal to external locus of control? The sorts of phrases that we use as we talk about life’s challenges tell on us. Even our pronoun use can reveal it. Lot’s of “I” language indicates that we believe outcomes, failures and successes, are mainly due to what we contributed or didn’t. We can easily see how this could lead to falsely blaming yourself when you aren’t to blame, so the picture with internal locus of control isn’t 100% rosy.

The alternative pronouns in the face of challenges and failures (external locus of control) are, “they” and “its.” We may think that having an external locus of control might not feel so hard on the individual, since essentially, “not much could ever be my fault, since it wasn’t fair and there’s nothing I could do.” On the contrary, the feeling of powerlessness and never knowing when something else unfair or terrible will happen soon and I won’t be able to stop it. Who else will leave me and I can’t affect meaningful change in our relationship? And, objectively, what lessons am I missing by not examining my contributions to failures or successes? Additionally, studies do show a correlation of increased anxiety and other related emotional problems with a strong external locus of control.

I’m convinced that the follower of Jesus has received authority AND power from God to walk out divine life here on earth. God has total faith in the new nature of Jesus that he has implanted in us. He has total faith in the Truth he makes available for us to feast on and internalize in our minds. He has total faith that his people can be for each other, solution oriented, answer-aware, and heavenly minded. He believes in the possibilities of humans in right relationship with the Trinity to live, love, and work well in the midst of all manner of setbacks and hardships. He believes in resurrection out of death. But Lazarus must hear his voice and come forth. And, as my friend Shirley has reminded me recently, his people have the task of removing the grave clothes from each other.

In the coming ages, Ephesians says God will showcase his wisdom in having that faith, and what happens in history to validate God’s faith will make the demonic kingdom look like fools. Ephesians 3:10,

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

It’s a CAN DO gospel. If what you’re believing about your current challenges doesn’t stir you up in faith, point you toward God’s solutions, mobilize you for a path forward in hope…what you’re believing probably isn’t from God. Facts, arranged the right way, can deceive, but truth (the right interpretation of the facts) makes us free. Listen for Jesus’ voice even if you have to strain to hear it faintly in the storm.

What would it look like for Jesus to live the life in and through me today that he lived when he first came in the flesh? I believe that is precisely what the Gospel is offering us today.

What is Locus of Control

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