Thursday, June 16, 2011

Locus of Control

We started last Sunday’s Bible study with this Bob Newhart clip. Or rather, I summarized the clip as we were having internet difficulties. In the clip a woman complains to Bob of her many phobias. What is his advice? He simply tells her to “Stop it!” On one level, this advice seems to make sense, yet we know it can’t work otherwise we could all solve our problems by just stopping.
We could just stop worrying. We could just stop whining. We could just stop self-medicating. We could just stop sinning. Then life would be just great.
We can’t just stop it because even though we think we are in control; we are not.
The psychology concept we looked at is called locus of control. In this theory some people have an external locus which means they believe that their lives are out of their control. They think things are controlled by fate. While these folks tend not to worry or fret, they also see little point in planning or working on change.
The second group has internal locus of control and works from the idea that they can control what happens by working hard. They believe that what happens in their life is controlled by their own actions. While these folks tend to be successful in life, they also have a habit of blaming themselves for things that are not under their control.
I recently heard a scientist say that plants don’t have brains because they can’t move. They have complete external locus of control because there is nothing they can do about their situation, anyway. Animals and humans can move, so we need brains to enable us to make decisions.
The question we discussed was whether or not Christians are internal or external when it comes to control. The answer is not an easy one.
Christians are considered external because we believe that God controls what happens in our life. However, we behave as internal people because we work hard and make plans to change.
I like to think that we are neither external nor internal; we are eternal.
God gave us His law and wrote it in our hearts. We are conceived in sin and proceed through our lives breaking that law on a continuous basis. God sent His Son to live a perfect life and to die and rise again. In this one event we are saved from what we deserve. The control of our salvation is with God and God alone.
But God does not leave it at that. He wants blessings for us in our present life as well as eternal life with Him. He sends His spirit, and through the act of sanctification, works His good in us. We have freedom of will, we have choice, and we can work on things. Anything good that happens in our life is due to the work and blessing of God.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9 NIV
We try to take control of our life and we create havoc. No wonder we are crushed, perplexed and in despair. God creates a treasure in us and molds us into jars suitable for His work.

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