|Volume 19 Number 7 July 2017||
To surrender is to submit willingly, giving up control, to renounce or to forsake. It is an act of relinquishing control or possession to somebody or something. For Christians, this means God is fully recognized as the One and the only One in control. They come to accept wholeheartedly, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Through obedience to the Gospel message of salvation from sin—the good news—Christians declare their allegiance to His Son, Jesus Christ. This commitment culminates in baptism and is adhered to until death.
The hymn “I Surrender All” is convicting every time this writer sings it. The question was posed to the congregation by a preacher who challenged us with this question: “Are we singing this song with an exclamation point or with a question mark?”
All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give,
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power, let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all, all to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
It is perhaps the most difficult, distressing and heart-wrenching song for this writer to sing because I know it is not true in my life. The fact that I have more years behind me than I have in front of me brings a sense of urgency to my surrender. However, the words of Paul in Philippians 3:12-14 express my deepest desire to keep striving for that total surrender. “Not that I have already attained [achieved it], or am already perfected, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul had more to forget than any of us. He referred to himself as the chief of sinners, but he boldly proclaimed that he was pressing on toward the goal!
Paul emphasized the need for the progressive realization of a worthy goal. What goal is there that is more worthy than the reward of Heaven? Paul said that he had not already been perfected. He still lived with all of the struggles encountered in a fallen, broken and sin-cursed world. The daily struggles he lived with and through are beyond our comprehension. Yet, we must recognize as Paul did, we must fight the good fight—not a fight; we must finish the race—not a race; we must keep the faith—not a faith to receive that glorious crown!
Surrender as being used in this article is a complete renunciation of self with the desire to continually grow in Christ. It is a complete and total incompatibility with the deliberate practice of sin! John tells us in 1 John 3:8-9, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” Paul said it like this in Romans 8:13-14. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Surrendering all—what does that look like? How is that done? We must go to the One who was perfect in every aspect in His surrender to God’s will, the Lord Jesus Christ. He surrendered the essence of Who He was to come to this earth, not only in the form of a human being, but also as a newborn infant! Who in society is more vulnerable than a newborn?
When Herod heard about the birth of Jesus, he secretly called the wise men and determined from them what time the Star in the East had appeared. After they fell down and worshiped Him, they opened their treasures and presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:12 records, “Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” Matthew 2:13 says, “Now when they had departed, behold an angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’” When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the wise men, he was “…exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men” (Matthew 2:13).
When Herod was dead, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and told him to go to the land of Israel for those who were seeking the young Child’s life were dead. So Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Israel. Matthew 2:22-23 records, “But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” Time and time again, God intervened to keep Jesus safe as He fulfilled His Father’s purpose and plan for the redemption of the world.
We receive such unparalleled encouragement from the writer of Hebrews telling us we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 reads, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
What is the message? Jesus is our Leader and He perfects our faith. We are encouraged by His goodness and His example. Jesus completes our faith—our lives as Christians in their greatest fullness. We must be filled with His mind and temperament, making His mind our mind, by constantly keeping before us His example as the very best!
Jesus was Heaven’s dearest and best personified in His sinless perfection. His perfection expressed in total surrender could not have been more vividly displayed as it was during those final brutal hours leading up to His crucifixion. Luke’s account of Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives before His betrayal and arrest are filled with the drama of His suffering and humiliation. As He prayed, Luke 22:42-44 says:
…Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done. Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.
What do we learn? Strength comes after surrender when we are all alone, perhaps especially when we are all alone! God is always with us, most especially during those times when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. God is with us when we face any and every tremendously hard and terrifying experience. God is with us during those times when we face the big valleys of life—the ones that cause us to cringe in fear and dread when we think about them!
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul told the church that they were to be “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Bringing every thought into captivity is one of the hardest relinquishing expectations. Does it rank right up there with surrendering all? Did Christ know precisely what that meant and why? Paul fully understood that our minds must be transformed by being renewed. In order for us to do the will of God, we must first think the will of God. That is only possible through embracing by obedient faith the whole of His Word.
In his book, The Power Zone, Larry Calvin entitles one chapter “Worry-Free Living.” Is that really possible? According to Mr. Calvin and more importantly according to Scripture—Yes! He states, “A one-word summary of Paul’s message to the Philippians would be relinquishment. When we place our problems in proper perspective…we relinquish our will to him." One writer suggests, “Relinquishment calls for a reversal of our natural bent. It means I must be willing to live without some one, some thing, some status, some right, some security. Only through yielding to God can we genuinely and effectively deal with worry in our lives. He provides the power. Our job is to stay plugged into the power source. If we’ll do that, all else will follow.”
In his book, All Stressed Up and No Place to Go, Dr. David L. Lane states there are two days in every week that we should never worry about—Yesterday and Tomorrow. He writes, “Worry is really an attempt to control the future. Just as guilt is an attempt to reshape the past, worry is our godlike push into the future, attempting to shape it the way we want. Of course, it is just as impossible for us to control our future as it is to reshape our past, but we persist in the attempt.”
God reveals one of His many expectations of us to bow in submission to Him in Isaiah 57:15-16. “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” To have a contrite spirit before God is to have a profound sense of our sinfulness.
It is a daily challenge to give up control. Giving up, giving over, submitting willingly and abandoning our “rights” before God strips us of our delusions of independence. Every breath we take and every step we make is at the will of God Almighty.
God declares forthrightly, “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand up together” (Isaiah 48:13). Where does that put you and me with our mirage of power, authority and control?