Jesus said: “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing to give up their lives daily to follow me”.
Surrender—it’s an unpopular word, admitting defeat, forfeiting a game, yielding to a stronger opponent, captured criminals surrendering to police. Today our culture teaches us to never give up and never give in. We want to win, succeed, overcome, conquer—not yield, submit, obey, surrender.
Offering ourselves to God is what worship is all about. The 3 barriers blocking our total surrender to God: fear, pride, confusion.
1. Can I trust God? Fear keeps us from surrendering, but love casts out all fear. God gives evidence of His love: “God says he loves you, you’re never out of his sight, he cares about every detail of your life; he gave you the capacity to enjoy all kinds of pleasure, he has good plans for your life, he forgives you; & he is lovingly patient with you.” God loves us infinitely more than we can imagine.
2. Admitting our limitations. The 2nd barrier, pride. We want to have complete control & that causes so much stress in our lives. A.W. Tozer: “We’re still trying to give orders & interfering w/God’s work within us”. We want to have it all & do it all, and are upset when it doesn’t happen.
3. What it means to surrender. Sacrificing our life or suffering in order to change what needs to be changed. C.S. Lewis: “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become—because he made us. He invented all the different people that you & I were intended to be…It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own”.
“Surrender yourself to the Lord, & wait patiently for Him”. Instead of trying harder, you trust more. You know you’ve surrendered when you don’t react to criticism & rush to defend yourself. I have found this gradually with my inlaws & mom, as I grow older & within my marriage. Surrendered hearts show up best in relationships—you don’t edge others out, you don’t demand your rights, you aren’t self-serving.
Warren talks about money being the difficult thing to surrender, wanting to live for God but earn enough money to live comfortably & retire someday. This competes w/God for his attention, because we can’t serve God & money. Recently, I heard the following in a Greek Orthodox pastor’s sermon on this very point: “Wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also”.
Complete surrender is difficult for me—requires a level of maturity I haven’t reached. I trust God with all my heart, try to be humble before Him & work at it daily, checking myself when it escapes me. I have no attachment to money, probably because my working class parents taught us faith & trust in God is ultimate, our honest work will give us money to provide for our basic needs. Working in banks while going to college & afterwards, I realized that money is transient, life & relationships shouldn’t be. Even now I try to instill this in my children, difficult in today’s materialistic, nonspiritual culture within their peer group. Yet I still haven’t offered Him Complete surrender, and I strive to find a way daily to reach that point. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, says: “The greatness of a man’s power is in the measure of his surrender”.
4. The blessing of surrender. First we experience Peace: “If you agree w/Him, you will have peace at last & things will go well for you”. We experience Freedom: “His commands set you free to live openly in His freedom” We experience God’s power in our life. Victory comes thru surrender. Surrender doesn’t weaken us, but strengthens.
5. The best way to live. We eventually surrender to someone or something. If not to God, to the opinions or expectations of others, to money, to resentment, to fear, to our own pride, lusts, or ego. We were designed to worship God—and if we fail to worship him, we will create other things to give our life to. We are free to choose what to surrender to, but we aren’t free from the consequences of that choice. E.Stanley Jones: “If you don’t surrender to Christ, you surrender to chaos”.
Our greatest hindrance to God’s blessing in our lives is ourselves—our self will, stubborn pride, personal ambition. We cannot fulfill God’s purposes for our lives while focusing on our own plans.
Paul had a moment of surrender when he was knocked down by blinding light on the Damascus road. For others, God gets our attention with less drastic methods. Surrendering is never a one-time event, it is the practice of surrender which is moment by moment and lifelong.
Are we all still arguing & struggling with God over his right to do with our lives as He pleases? Now is our time to surrender—to God’s grace, love, and wisdom.
Question to Consider: What area of my life am I holding back from God?
Footnote: During the Christmas holidays as a family we attended church services as often as we could thru the Epiphany, Jan 6th. In Glyfada Athens where we live (and in all of Greece for that matter), there are churches in every neighborhood–something I still can’t get over, since growing up in Manhattan this wasn’t the case–when I lived in Canarsie Brooklyn as a child, we would take the LL train to Manhattan in the early morning to attend church services at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox church at World Trade Center. No matter where we live geograpically, I remember what each pastor offered me in my life. Pastors each have a shining strength within them– whether it be their clear, simple voice chanting during the service, their simple yet strong message in their sermon, or their humble character giving you ease for confession & having them as your “pneumatiko”, your spiritual father here on earth –we do not always find this in all priests. On January 6th, I noticed that in the main church of our Athens suburb, the church interior was almost completely renewed: icons were not being restored on the walls, but completely replaced by another iconographer. I remember somewhere within Warren’s book where he tells us that churches have been with us for over 2000 years, that we should take note of that. I realized when I attended church this past Wednesday for Epiphany, my own epiphany–our churches renew their interiors, reinforce their structures so they can last 2000+ years. Our churches, pastors wait for us to go to them with our struggles, trying to reach God. Their job is to receive us, and proactively reinforce our church interiors, our church’s continuance for the years going forward. We are solely responsible to proactively renew our faith, our surrender to God, its not our “pneumatiko’s” function.
* Weekly we will be writing about what inspires us from each consecutive chapter of Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. If you read along with us, please share your inspirations. There’s no need to catch up, just jump right in.