Mark 6:1-6

Who Controls You?

July 8, 2018

Have you ever seen the movie “Rudy”?

It’s a very inspirational movie about Rudy Ruettiger – one of those movies that include sports and a “feel good” message – so it’s a rare “guy flick” and “gal flick”.

Rudy Ruettiger grew up in a devout Catholic family in Joliet, Illinois. Like many devout Catholic boys, his dream growing up was to attend the University of Notre Dame and play football for the Fighting Irish. Growing up, though, he was told he didn’t have a chance to even attend Notre Dame — much less play for the Fighting Irish. People told him that he was too dumb to attend such an elite university and too small to play football there. Rudy was only 5’6″ and he graduated third in his class — third from the bottom, that is! After high school Rudy went into the Navy — then spent four years working at steel mill. It was a good job – a secure job with good benefits and a decent pay. Something within him, though, told him the secure job was not for him. He knew that there was something else he wanted to do with his life. He continued to dream of playing football for the Fighting Irish!

Of course, it was a ridiculous dream. Everybody told him so – but he refused to let it go. Finally, Rudy made the most important decision of his life: he decided to take control of his life  — or better yet to let God take control of his life. He came to the realization that it was his life, that he was responsible for it, and no one else could live it for him. He decided to take control of his life away from others, and give it to God. He quit his secure, comfortable job and moved to South Bend, Indiana – the home of the University of Norte Dame Of course, nothing had changed for him academically. He still had a poor high school transcript, and he was denied admission to Notre Dame. The admissions counselor at Notre Dame told him that if he really wanted to attend Notre Dame he would have to attend Holy Cross Junior College first. If he made straight A’s four semesters in a row at Holy Cross, he would be admitted to Notre Dame. At this point in his academic career, Rudy had never made anything better than a C! However, he threw himself into his studies, and made the necessary grades – and was accepted at Notre Dame. In the process he discovered he was dyslexic, and he learned how to deal with this condition.

After getting accepted at Notre Dame, he faced his next challenge – playing  football for the Fighting Irish! He tried out for the team, all along knowing that, at  5’6″ and 190 pounds, he had very little chance of making the team – but maybe, he thought, he could make the practice squad. He knew that the football team had about 60 players who dressed out for each game, but he also know that there were an additional 40 or so who were on the practice team who practiced with the team every day and served as “punching bags” for the team when they practiced. Rudy hoped to make this practice squad, and because of his effort and determination he made the practice squad. Monday through Friday Rudy would work out with one of the greatest teams in college football history, then on Saturday while the best 60 players suited up to play, Rudy watched the games from the stands, like any other fan.

In the last home game of his senior year, Rudy was given the opportunity to suit up. What had seemed impossible years before had become reality. Rudy’s hard work and intense enthusiasm had caused him to become something of a local hero among the other players, the students, and the fans in South Bend. Toward the end of the game, with Notre Dame leading by more than a touchdown, the players and fans began chanting, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” The coach sent Rudy in to play with 27 seconds left in the game. On the last play of the game, Rudy broke through the line and sacked the opposing team’s quarterback. The Fighting Irish players spontaneously lifted Rudy to their shoulders and carried him off the field.

Rudy’s success didn’t end with a 27-second college football career. He sold Hollywood on the idea of producing his life story, and he now makes his living writing and speaking to sales organizations and Church groups. He is an example of what can happen when an individual decides not to listen to others but to listen to  God – and let God take control of their lives.

Friends – you don’t have to live your life enslaved to the thoughts, opinions and expectations of others. That’s not the way God wants you to live. God wants you to let Him take control of your life. God wants you to take control of your life away from others and give it to God. Of course, this is not to say that God wants you to live in total disregard for others — but God does not want you to give to others that which belongs only to God. The decision to give the control of your life to God frees you from the expectations of others, and empowers you to live a life committed to God – a life committed to God’s will for you  and God’s expectations for you.  

Jesus gives us a perfect image of this lifestyle of letting God control His life and listening to God’s will for His life instead of listening to the opinions of others. When you read the Gospels you get the impression that Jesus was “His own man”  — or more aptly put – God’s man. Our Gospel lesson for today is an example in the life of Jesus that shows us how to live our lives under God’s control and by God’s expectations of us instead of the control or expectation of others. In this passage from Mark 6 it is still early in Jesus’ ministry. He had performed some miracles throughout the countryside and had begun to establish a name for himself. Then He visited His hometown. As an itinerant Rabbi, Jewish custom dictated that He be invited to speak at the synagogue. When He did, the people were shocked by His words. They said among themselves: “Who does he think he is? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this the son of Mary? Don’t we know his brothers and sisters?” The people who heard His message become outraged – this was not who they thought Jesus was – or what they thought Jesus should be saying or doing. Jesus merely replied, “Only in his hometown is a prophet without honor.” Then, instead of listening to the “nay sayers” in His hometown and giving up on the ministry God was calling Him to be doing, Jesus merely left town and continued doing what He knew was God’s plan for Him.

Jesus let God define who He was and what He did. Jesus did not listen to the opinions of others or let the opinions of others keep Him from following God’s will for His life. Jesus did not let others be in charge of His life, but let God be in charge of His life.   

I believe that, as you look this passage groom Mark 6  you can see three keys to giving God control of your life and living under His control and His expectations for your life instead of the control and expectations of others.  

First — don’t let anyone else define you.

The people in His hometown had a specific opinion of who they thought Jesus was and who they thought He should be. They saw him a certain way: as a  carpenter,  the son of Mary, a member of His family. That was all they saw. Those were the only roles they saw Jesus in – and they were not willing to see Him as anything else.  Jesus, however, saw Himself differently. He saw himself as God’s Son, as the Messiah, as the one who would die for the sins of the world. Jesus refused to let anyone else define who He was or what He should do.  He let God define who He was and what He was to do with His life.

You have probably been “defined” by others yourself. Like Jesus, like Rudy Ruettiger, you may have had people in your life who have had an idea of who they thought you were and what they thought you should do, which may be the opposite of who God knows you are and what God wants you to do. You might still have people in your life who have their ideas and opinions of who you are and  you need to do that may not be God’s opinion of who you are and what you need to be doing.   

Many times others’ ideas of who you are and what you should be doing only serve to limit you, but you can’t let them do that. I heard a story of a busboy at a restaurant in Nashville. The “house band” at the restaurant was pretty good, but never did more than be the “house band” at that restaurant. The busboy knew he was a good musician and asked this band if he could “sit in”.  The band members didn’t laugh at him behind his back— they laughed at him to his face. They saw him as just a busboy and a big hick. The busboy, however, saw himself differently. He saw himself as a musician. He saw himself as a potential country superstar. He refused to let the band members and others define him — he knew he would make a name for himself.  Finally he did make a name for himself. That name is Randy Travis.  

How about you? How do others define you? Maybe they see you as “only” a busboy or a housewife or a teacher or a salesman or a retired person or a young person and on and on. But God sees you in a different way. He doesn’t see you in terms of who you are right now and where you’ve been, He sees you in terms of who you can be if you will let Him control your life instead of being controlled by others.

Friends — don’t let others tell you who you are! Let God tell you who you really are, and live by how God sees you.  Don’t let the opinions of others control you – let God control you.

So – first of all – don’t let anyone define you.

Second  — don’t let others judge you. In  verse 3 of our Gospel passage it says the people “took offense” at Jesus. Why were they offended at Jesus? Because He didn’t fit into their preconceived idea of who they thought He was.  He refused to fit into their preconceived notions of what they thought He should do so they judged Him. They took offense at Him. How did Jesus respond? He said, in effect, “You don’t get it. A prophet has honor everywhere but in his own hometown…and you don’t get what I’m trying to do.”

I read not long ago about “people who don’t get it.” You know – people who don’t understand even simple things. The people for whom instructions from small-appliance instruction manuals have warnings they shouldn’t have to have  … like the hair dryers that warn “Do not use submerge this appliance in water” — or the knife-set that says: “Warning! Blade is sharp. Keep away from children” – or the warnings fast food restaurants put on their coffee cups: “Caution – Contents hot”! These things are put there for the benefit of people “who just don’t get it”. The article I was reading pointed out the fact that some folks just don’t get it. The author of the article pointed out that many folks use poor judgment when using appliances – and some use poor judgment when judging other people. He wrote from experience. Many underestimated his abilities in his early years. He had epilepsy, dyslexia, and other disabilities that caused doctors, counselors, and teachers to warn him that he would never be able to function or graduate from high school. Yet, through the help of his faith in Christ, he overcame his obstacles and graduated with honors and went to college on a full academic scholarship. He refused to let the poor judgment of others prevent him from being all that God called him to be.

Be prepared, friends. When it comes to doing God’s will in your life, some people won’t get it. They may accuse you of impure motives, or selfish ambition, or trying to get ahead of God, or any other number of things— but you cannot afford to allow yourself to listen to their judgmental comments.

A Little League coach once told me that he coached a 9-10 year old team who had won the league championship, and he was asked to coach the League All-Star team. As he began preparing the team for it’s first tournament, the coach from the team the year before shared with him some solemn advice:  

“If you are out here to make friends, quit now! You’ve got 14 great players who are used to playing all the time, and 14 sets of devoted parents who have sacrificed to help their child make it to this level and only nine positions to fill. None of them will understand why they have to be one of the ones who sit on the bench part of the time. Plus, every other coach in this league will second guess every decision you make. If you lose, it’s your fault. If you win, it’s because you had a good team. So don’t expect to be the hero. And whatever you do, whatever coaching decision you make, you’re the one that has to live with it…so do what you feel is best.”

Though it was only Little League, and hardly a matter of life and death, these sobering words prepared the coach for the challenge before him. They also served to remind him of the fact that we cannot let the opinions of others keep us from doing what we know we should be doing with our lives. The team won a few games and then lost in the tournament. The coach shared with me that he will no longer coach Little League Baseball All Star teams but might start dong something less dangerous  — like alligator wrestling!

Letting God take control of your life and following God’s plan instead of the plans others may have for you  – means:

You don’t let others define you

You don’t let others judge you.

and thirdly—it means you don’t let others hold you back.

Verses v. 5-6 of Mark 6 say about Jesus:

He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

If Jesus had stayed in his hometown and did only what those in His hometown wanted Him to do, He would have never accomplished what God called Him to do. People who follow God’s will for their lives instead of the plans of others for them recognize when something isn’t working, and they move on. This happens in all kinds of situations. Workers who seem like underachievers in one job often excel in a new one. They haven’t changed, the situation has.

Sometimes when what we are doing is not working out, we have a tendency to say, “I’m sorry. It’s not you…it’s me.” We think that is being “humble.”  Sometimes that may be true.  But there are times, though, when we might have to realize that God’s plan is for us to move on and do something else – and let someone else do what we are doing.  This is what Jesus did in Nazareth. He was unable to perform miracles there because of their lack of faith, so what did He do? Did He stay in Nazareth and flounder? No. He moved on. He also taught His disciples to do the same thing. In verse 11 of our passage  He told His disciples:

If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave…

You have to find your place and your ministry and not flounder under other’s expectations. Follow God and God’s will for your life – and don’t let others hold you back. Let God be in control of your life – and not others.   

Letting God and God’s  will have control of your own life and following God’s plan instead of the plans others may have for you means:

You don’t let others define you

You don’t let others judge you,

and You don’t let others hold you back.

Friends — God wants us to be like Jesus. Many times we make the mistake of thinking this means being “meek” and “mild”. While Jesus did serve others, Jesus was no one’s doormat. As you examine the life of Christ, you see the profile of an independent, Godly, strong man. He was not proud, or arrogant, or egotistical but He was strong and self-assured. He knew who He was – who God called Him to be — and where He was going. He knew what God called Him to be doing. He knew the work that God had called Him to do, and He didn’t put His feelings of self-worth up for a vote for  others to vote on – He was willing to see Himself as God saw Him –- let God control His life — and do what God wanted Him to do, whether it was how others saw Him or what others wanted Him to do or not.

To be like Christ means you let God control your life instead of letting the opinions of others control you. To be like Christ means you let God define who you are instead of letting others define who we are. To be like Christ means you let God tell you who you are instead of letting others tell you who you are. To be like Christ means that you don’t let others judge you – you have God as your judge. To be like Christ means that you don’t let others hold you back, you let God move you  forward. To be like Christ means you follow God, and you let God take control of your life.

So – the question you have to answer is – who controls you?

Does God have control of your life? Do you let God define who you are and what you do – regardless of what others might think of you and what others may feel you should do?

Or are others in control of your life? Do you let others control you, define who you are, judge you, and hold you back from doing what God has in mind for you to do?   

Friends – let God control of your life. Be like Christ. Live like Christ. Let God define who you are and what you do. Don’t let others be in control of you and don’t let them hold you back.

Let God be in control. Amen.