I have been thinking about surrender. The surrender of our lives, our wills, to God. It’s a subject I’ve heard Christians using a great deal lately and I used in last week’s post. I wrote about it as something I did in the past and that’s how I’ve been hearing it used; as if surrender to God is a one-time thing. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’ve found it’s a choice I make on a daily basis. In my experience, both the big moment of surrender and then the daily surrenderings are both true.
I have a moment of utter surrender in my life. It was so momentous that it does separate my life into BEFORE and AFTER. Various crises and experiences had brought me to a place where I was willing to consider that I was a Christian only because I’d been raised to be one. Perhaps nothing I believed was true. I needed to know the Truth, whatever that was. Everything AFTER that moment has been a glorious adventure of God revealing Himself to me. It has also been an endurance race of terrible pressures and processing. There have been times when I’ve drooped on the edge of my bed so raw on the inside that I’ve felt that, if one more thing dropped on me, I would die. I do not speak in hyperbole: my feelings had a very real effect in and on my body. My prayers were not great prayers of faith during these times but were rather, “please. I can’t take anymore.
The pressure would let up for maybe a day. There would be a moment of refreshing and then it would start all over again. I didn’t understand what was happening in those early days. I came to recognize these-shall I call them near death experiences?-were but the portent to a deeper experience of the Life of Jesus Christ being formed in me. Knowing this does not make these experiences hurt less but it does allow me to experience them in hope. Jesus has not come into my life and changed my circumstances around so that all is sweetness and light and frolicking in the fields with nary a care or a need and no personal cross in sight. His coming into my life, into my very self, has often meant circumstances have gotten worse rather than better. It’s meant destruction of my flesh life but not my real life which is hid in Him. He has overcome. He has given His life to me. He is Lord of my circumstances and will work victory in my life but it requires choosing on my part. I surrender to Him not once but every moment.
The reason I was thinking about surrendering as being both a one time and an every moment experience is because I had an opportunity to surrender to the workings of the Life of Christ on the inside of me. I had a person say one thing about me to my face and then say the opposite thing to anyone who would listen. I was angry, embarrassed, hurt, and betrayed. One of my first impulses was to run to someone I knew would listen to ME. I wanted to pour out the story and have someone tell me how terrible it was, what a big meanie that other person turned out to be, and pour the balm of commiseration on my feelings.
Right along with this impulse came the command from the Holy Spirit to do no such thing! I was to be silent! I was to put this situation and all my resulting feelings in His hands. Not only that, I was to allow His forgiveness to flow. My primary desire is to be obedient in all things but I have to admit there are times I feel like I’m choking on said obedience. It was a fight to obey. Obedience meant dying to my self-righteousness and living unto Him. Within a few days, I read something that confirmed my belief that surrendering is not something I did in the past but something I must continue to do every day. I’ve been going through Andrew Murray’s Abide In Christ devotional and, in the entry for day sixteen, I read:
“And such surrender of all for Christ, is it a single step, the act and experience of a moment, or is it a course of daily renewed and progressive attainment? It is both. There may be a moment in the life of a believer when he gets a first sight, or a deeper insight, of this most blessed truth, and when, made willing in the day of God’s power, he does indeed, in an act of the will, gather up the whole of life yet before him into the decision of a moment, and lay himself on the altar a living and acceptable sacrifice. Such moments have often been the blessed transition from a life of wandering and failure to a life of abiding and power divine. But even then his daily life becomes, what the life must be of each one who has no such experience, the unceasing prayer for more light on the meaning of entire surrender, the ever-renewed offering up of all he has to God.”1
After I read this, I began meditating on an interesting verse in 1 Corinthians 15. “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” the Apostle Paul says (verse 31). He says this in the midst of speaking of Christ being raised from the dead, His being raised the promise that we too shall be raised, His reigning until all enemies are destroyed, including death, what our heavenly bodies are like…in the midst of all this comes “I die daily.” I used to think that a strange thing to say until I consider it in the light of both my experience and other scriptures.
In Matthew 16: 24-28 I find, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’.” I have often heard people saying “This is my cross to bear” and by that they mean a co-worker, a neighbor, a family member, or a disease or physical limitation. I look at this verse and I see they are half right. The co-worker, neighbor, family member, disease, and physical limitation might be the circumstance that contains the cross but the cross is there for us to die on. And, I notice how many action verbs there are in this passage. This denying myself, this taking up of my cross, this following Him is not a one-time moment of surrender. It is a choice I make every day and I find I have plenty of opportunities each and every day in which to make it.
I die daily. The Apostle Paul has to be speaking of the little deaths I have no doubt he had to die every day. I read his letters and read of those who followed around behind him disparaging him, his intellect, twisting his message, and imposing legalism on the precious believers. And yet, I don’t get any sense of frustration here. I read it more as “I die daily!” It is a thing of great joy.
I understand that joy because I surrender nothing to God but what He does not give me Himself. Any vindication I would feel at defending myself, any pleasure I would get at retaliation, any feelings of superiority that would come from shredding someone else’s character…all of it belongs to that realm of the flesh-life. I’m reminded of Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” I see this reflected in the words of Jesus as I continue to read in Matthew 16: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
I always read this scripture and thought it referred to the actual laying down of my life: physical death. My Mom reminded me of a passage in The Song of Solomon: “Catch the foxes for us, yes, the little foxes! They are ruining the vineyards when our vineyards are in bloom!” (SOS 2:152). Expositions and commentaries have told me this passage is referring to little sins like jealousy, pride, etc. I don’t disagree and yet I do think this passage can be applied to the hurts and wrongs that come throughout our daily lives. Jesus is the vine and I am the branch abiding in Him. Refusal to surrender to Him when someone wrongs me either behind my back or directly to my face, quenches the Spirit. Left undealt with, these little hurts and wrongs become the little foxes that destroy the vineyard in bloom.
The message during this Sunday’s Church Service was on Psalm 1 and I was struck by verse 3: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season.” In season. It doesn’t happen all at once which is something that makes me deeply grateful as I don’t always feel victorious. I still have a way to go in surrendering because my first impulses do not align with who I am in Christ. Neither does forgiveness happen instantaneously. But then, His expectation is that I bear fruit in season. He remembers I am but dust (Psalm 103:14). I reckon myself dead to sin and alive to Christ (Romans 6:11) and I am confident that He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
Even so, Come Lord Jesus.
Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982
- Murray, Andrew, Abide in Christ, Barbour and Company, Inc., Uhrichsville, OH, 1985, Page 97
- Stern, David H., The Complete Jewish Study Bible, Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2016