Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Surrender: the only way


When I was thirteen years old I read a book by John Piper called Don’t Waste Your Life. The book introduced the idea that God did not create humans for their own pursuit of happiness but to glorify Christ and to fully surrender to Him. As a young girl, this frustrated me, making me feel used to the point where I did not think about Christ for a few months even though I continued to “go through the motions”. It has taken me years of struggling with God’s word and His will to finally begin to understand the meaning of surrender. Surrender is a beautiful, powerful concept that is often misunderstood. When sinful human beings commit their immortal lives to an amazing power, miracles happen. God loves humans enough to teach his children to surrender everything if they want to follow him. He knows that surrendering is the secret to true joy and power. There is no complacency in a true spiritual walk with Christ, but radical surrender and complete trust with God.

A true spiritual life includes surrender. One of the problems many people have with surrender is that it’s unnatural, uncomfortable, and sometimes illogical.  As Oswold Chambers says “Be stupid enough to come and commit yourself to what he really says.” Chambers is referring to the fact that God’s calling may require blind faith or following irrational thinking. Understanding that at times God’s word is hidden, we cannot fully understand all of His leadings and plans.  True surrender involves everything including being willing to totally change personality and character, moral values, and even accepting the risk of pain and sacrifice for Christ (Whiting). The word “surrender” which can be associated with military fighting and wars coincides with independence and the way man wants to relate to the world as his own (Whiting). The opposite of surrender would be “mastery, control, efficiency, handling, and manipulating” (Whiting). These are perfect descriptions of the world’s idea of “independent”, “successful”, and” boss”- things many people strive for.

The Bible not only emphasizes the importance of surrender over and over again but says that taking up our daily cross is the only way of truly following God. Biblical verses teaching surrender include Psalms 116:15, Colossians 3:5, Romans 8:13, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 just to name a few (NIV Bible).  A story in the Bible that illustrates surrender in an illogical and uncomfortable situation can be found in the calling of the disciples (Matthew 4:18-22). When God called the disciples He asked them to leave their families, jobs, and old ways of living. He did not give them time to bury their dead or consider where there money would go. They left everything to follow God with no hesitation. One disciple had to leave behind burying his dad not knowing who would provide for him. Because the disciples chose to follow Jesus and surrender everything to Him they got the divine opportunity of walking with Jesus day by day and experiencing countless miracles and events beyond what they could ever imagine. The disciple’s lives were completely transformed and empowered by Christ, and their deaths illustrated complete surrender by martyrdom.

I recently heard my friend tell a story about when God called a Southern woman to do something seemingly illogical and definitely uncomfortable. A woman was asked by God to comb a strangers’ hair in the middle of an airport. At first the woman could not believe that God would call her to do such a strange and uncomfortable thing.  Finally after much contemplation, she decided she would follow God’s leadings and went over to the poor and elderly looking man. She asked him if she could comb his messy hair, and he said yes. She combed his hair and made it look nice. When she finished the old man began crying. She asked what was wrong and he said “Thank you”. He said he was going home to his wife who he had not seen in over two years because he had been forced to live at a nursing home. He was so thankful that someone would fix him up so his wife would be happy.

God has never called me to do something quite that illogical and risky, but coming to Southern when my friends were at a different university was quite an uncomfortable calling. I left behind my best friends that I have ever had because I surrendered to Christ’s will. At first it was not easy, I was homesick a lot and missed my old friends and family, but God has renewed my identity upon coming to Southern and shown me that His ways are always best.

A fulfilling spiritual walk requires complete trust . Skeptics question why a follower of God would be willing to suffer and experience persecution because of their trust in God. They find it unthinkable and ridiculous that faith could go so far as martyrdom. Yes, the follower of God will get rejected from society and persecuted. John 15:20 states, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…” Through all persecution, Christ promises to never leave us and provide perfect peace as well as eternal life.

In the Bible, Paul was a martyr for Christ countless times. He spent time in prison, received beatings, and was even stoned. Through all this torture, Paul had perfect peace and even true joy. This is what Christ offers: a perfect peace that can surpass all pain and trials, comfort through anything in this world, as well as an eternal plan for salvation. After the God follower surrenders to God, they do not have any concerns about where they should spend eternity because they trust God. Their life is in the maker’s hands, and death is no longer a catastrophe but a hopeful prophesy that heaven is nearer. 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where oh death is your victory, where oh death is your sting”

I have never been persecuted to death but I have experienced persecution from my classmates. In middle school, because I chose to follow the Ten Commandments, I got ridiculed and named “goody good girl”. Because of my relationship with God, I was deemed unpopular and friendless. At first I did not understand why God would let me go without friends for a whole year, but I trusted that God would keep His promise. My grades became so good that I received 8th grade valedictorian. I saw that God kept His promises.

Through the years, I have continued to fight with the idea of surrender and trusting my life fully to God’s leading. I have learned that it is my utmost privilege to live without complacency and to surrender even to the point of persecution. As I offer myself up to Him and pour myself out for His glory, His blessings are so abundant and his peace providential in my life.

Carlos writes that a total conversion and surrender to Christ is a rare and amazing human experience. Our selfish nature and our hearts are desperately wicked and sinful. God wants to reconcile us, but that requires death of all sin in our lives, some of the very things that form us and our identity. “Our natural life must not rule but Christ must rule within us” (Chambers). While I had a hard time surrendering and trusting at first because I did not want to give up my identity and selfishness, I now understand why surrender and trust are the only ways to intimately walk with Christ. Surrender is giving God permission to use power to transform lives. As we trust Him, he brings beauty and strength into human weakness and forms a new creation. I have seen God’s merciful hand in my life through many ways and even miracles, proving to me that God blesses a surrendering and trusting heart.

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