September 13, 2016

Surrender means . . .

Jesus begins His prayer in John 17 by defining eternal life and saying what He has done . . .

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:4–5)

Chambers says yielding our will to God is the basis of surrender and when that is done, all is done. This reminded me of a young missionary who, “The biggest problem with being a living sacrifice is that I keep crawling off the altar.” Does that mean she is not surrendered?

I did a brief search in my resources (Logos Bible Software) and found many examples of surrender. Most of them describe what surrender looks like in the particulars. That is, if I am surrendered to God, it will show itself in how I respond to life situations.

However, as my missionary friend indicated, even after redemption and surrender, we mere mortals have a stubborn and persistent old nature. The Bible says this must continually be denied, put off, replaced, given up. Surrender may be a monumental, one-time decision, but that decision is tested continually. It was for Jesus, and it certainly has been for His followers.

The New Testament commands attest to this battle by calling us to remember, persist, yield, give up, walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. I am to deny my will but as Jesus said to the Father, “Thy will be done.”

This is a daily decision. My choice to yield to God is tested by my will (or won’t) power, by emotions and feelings, by perplexities, my understanding of things and by my intellect or my ideas of what should be happening. The Bible addresses these challenges:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5–7)

Tests come through emotions like fear and anger. I’m must fear God, but there is that timidity or plain scaredy-cat fear that I’m to recognize as an enemy. “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7) referring to the fear that immobilizes and prevents obedience.

Anger can keep me from doing the will of God too, as can excessive passion, and other strong emotions. These are tested by life’s events. Will I keep on with God or will I give in to what I want — which is usually comfort and happiness, and if it does not seem possible God’s way, will I try to get my own way?

The big tests are those that severely press me, the physically and emotionally painful trials like sickness, loss, rejection, humiliation, and so on. Interestingly, in my search I found this comment from another book by Chambers:

Let God do as he likes. If you are ever going to be wine to drink, you must be crushed. Grapes cannot be drunk; grapes are only wine when they have been crushed. I wonder what kind of coarse finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine that came out would have been remarkably bitter. Let God go on with his crushing, because it will work his purpose in the end. (Oswald Chambers, So Send I You. Discovery House, 1993)

As I think about these things, it seems to me that surrender is mostly about faith. Who or what will I trust? My wishes? My understanding? My feelings? The experts around me? The opinions and findings of science? The way I feel? That pressing need to escape pain? Or will it be Almighty God, the God who sometimes speaks, is sometimes silent, who does not always tell me what, why, or how, but who says that He is always with me and who works all things together for my good?

Surrender is about knowing who God is and how much He loves me. When I realize and remember that, then yielding to Him the ‘whatevers’ of life becomes a no-brainer.

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