Surrender is an action verb (used with object) meaning to give (oneself) up, or to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc. Surrender is the hallmark of Christianity, and yet most of us really struggle with the idea of surrender, even though our walk with God started with it.
When we live a surrendered life, God is able to work in and through us. What Satan means to destroy us, God will use as a testimony. I can’t say that I live a totally surrendered life. There are times I get it right, and other times I fail miserably.
The past three months have been a lesson for me in surrender. May 23, 2014 I was unexpectedly let go from my job. I was told one thing, I suspected another but when I filed for unemployment I was given a completely surprising and different story.
What I knew, was that God had placed me in the position that I held. Serving the residents and empowering them to change their lives, was a God-given passion. The week following my dismissal, I realized how much of my life was consumed with work. For fifteen years, even when on vacation I was always available to those I served. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
Then the negative messages set in. I started questioning who I was and what I was doing. I started pressing in to God, I loved the time in His presence. Daily seeking Him and hearing him. The words that were spoken over me encouraged me, and I realized they had started before these events. God’s peace set in, I looked to Him for my identity.
A few weeks later I learned more about my firing. Every ounce of my flesh wanted to fight back; those who knew what was going on, were angered and wanted to see me fight back too. I sat down and wrote out my unemployment appeal, with plans to confront those who had made slanderous allegations against me. Looking for a job when you have been fired isn’t easy, my unemployment was being denied, and the finances were not coming in that we needed.
But then I heard God say no. Don’t fight back. I am your provider. I gave you your purpose and value. I stood on the promises in His word, and rested in His peace. My two page letter to unemployment was reduced to four sentences. My anger towards those who spoke and believed lies were turned into prayers. The wait wasn’t always graceful, and sometimes it was going through the motions. But God restored what was taken from me. Although it didn’t come in my timing or even as I thought it would. I am still a work in progress, and still trying to see the next steps, I know that God has me and that living surrendered is worth it.
As I think about surrender, two pictures kept coming to my mind. Someone splashing wildly in the water, screaming for help. The lifeguard jumps in swims out and saves the person without fear. The person is drowning. But if you have ever been at a pool with children, there are a hundred other children acting the same way. Lifeguards are trained to spot someone in trouble. The lifeguard is going to evacuate the pool, swim out to the person, and if the person is conscious, they will have the person calm down. The person must surrender control for the lifeguard to safely get hold of them and pull them to safety. If the person is wildly thrashing their arms, the lifeguard runs the risk of being pulled under also.
God is like a trained lifeguard. We can’t pull him down, but our actions slow Him down and keep us captive in the situation. He is not going to force Himself or His help upon us. He gently says “give it to me”, but until we do, even though He can help us, He is limited by our actions. He waits for us to totally surrender before he reaches in to save us.
Salvation is a total surrender – I know that I am a sinner and I need a savior. I believe that the price Christ paid on the cross is bigger than anything I could have done, and that God’s grace will cover me. When we make that decision, the surrender comes naturally. I give up who I was and give myself to the influence of God. This is why we see so many new Christians have such dramatic changes in their lifestyle. They are surrendered. They are totally God centered at that moment,their life laid before Him.
As we start to walk out our Christian life, we become more like the televised drowning victim, screaming out for help, wailing around our arms trying to save our self from the circumstances surrounding us. In the heat of circumstances we easily forget that the grace that saved us is still there to empower us to live a surrendered life. We forget that we don’t have to do things alone that if we let Him, God still wants to take us through to bring us up to the next level.
A surrendered life is pictured in Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. A surrendered life, Christ lives through. It is Him, His Faith, His love that flows through us driving our actions and beliefs.
We can tell that we are not living a surrendered life if we are:
1) Trying to manipulate to get things our way – Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban, Abraham and Hagar
2) Trying to force our own agenda Matthew 23: 2-4 The scribes and Pharisees
3) Trying to be in control
4) Reacting negatively to criticism Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.
5) We feel burdened Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
The second picture that kept coming to mind is a police arrest, and it may just be a television perception, but I see three levels of surrender. All of these are mentioned in the bible. The universal sign of surrender we raise our hands (Psalms 134:2). The second the person on their knees, this is mentioned in Genesis 4:12, Ezra 9:5. Ephesians 3:14 The third, with the person laying flat (Deut. 9:25 and II Chronicles 29:20). It is not necessarily our physical appearance that God is looking at, but our heart because according to John 4:24 we are to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
So how can we live a surrendered life, how can we give ourselves up, and give in to the influence of God? It is done moment by moment, circumstance by circumstance.
First when we see ourselves responding in manipulation, force, control or negatively, we must stop immediately. See we can stop those thoughts from coming to us, we can only stop how we respond. II Corinthians 10:5 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.”
Then we must place our trust in God, the Great I Am. We must expect Him to act, Matthew 19:26 says “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. The very word Impossible says “I’m possible.”
It is easy to get discouraged when we look at circumstances, especially when it feels like nothing is happening but I Peter 5:5 says Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. We must wait on His time. Occupy your waiting with prayer, praise, God’s Word, service.
Lastly we must obediently follow God’s lead. John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
Realize that there are facets of God that we surrender to and that there are areas of our lives that we must surrender. Jesus walked in perfect surrender, and we have the ability, through God’s grace to surrender our lives also. We are a work in progress, and God knows that. We are not a surprise to Him, when the enemy condemns you for your shortcomings, be encouraged that in our weakness Christ is made strong.
When we surrender, there are times that it may seem like we have lost everything. The very things that we think we want or need, God may ask us to set aside, but what we lose is nothing compared what we gain through Christ. Philippians 3:8 But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ. A surrendered life will always leave us fulfilled in the long run as we walk in his supernatural power and grace.