Monday, January 14, 2008
The Good Surrender (Transcript)
If you're in war, the last thing you want to do is surrender to your enemy. Surrender means defeat, humiliation, and loss. Of course, if your enemy surrenders to you, this is considered good.
But I speak of another kind of surrender.
Not the surrender to an enemy, but the surrender to a Friend. Not the surrender of defeat and humiliation and loss, but the surrender that leads to gaining that which could never be gained otherwise.
The word "surrender" never appears in the Scriptures in this context.
Yet we know by inference that it is one of the most important concepts to the Christian life.
It's expressed in such passages as 2 Corinthians 12:9...
..."My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
or Luke 22:42...
"...not My will, but Yours, be done."
Surrender is that state in which we recognize our own weakness and limitations before God, and rest in Him, rely on Him, lean on Him, and surrender to His will.
Surrender is seemingly never total. It's an ongoing process. But to the degree we are surrendered to God's will, to the degree that we are dependent on Him, to the degree that we are surrendered to His sovereignty, it's to that degree that we are able to walk by the Spirit.
And sometimes surrender is a three-steps-forward and two-steps-back deal, which can be frustrating. Surrender can be the result of our being broken in some way. And we often can work with this brokenness, or we can fight it.
But the Catch-22 is, that the more we can rest in, and cooperate with, and accept the process, the better the process goes along.
Conversely, the more we are frustrated and annoyed at the process, or even fight it, the bumpier the process goes along. This is called "kicking at the goads", a reference to stubborn oxen kicking against the sticks used to prod them along.
Jesus has promised that His yoke for us is easy, and His burden for us is light. We may not feel that way sometimes, but it helps to remember it, and it certainly doesn't make it easier and lighter if we fight it.
Two things that hinder us from being surrendered:
1. Not recognizing the hand of God in our trials, as a means of breaking and shaping us.
Joseph, in Genesis 50:20, recognized that God had meant Joseph's awful trials "for good", even though his brothers had meant it "for evil". We would be wise to recognize our own trials and life situations as God's means to break and shape us.
I still remember a sermon I heard over 25 years ago, at a little Baptist church in Dallas, Texas. I remember it was a blue church. The walls were blue, the pews were blue, I think even the choir robes were blue. Anyway the guest preacher for that day was a guy named Jack Taylor, and he said something I never forgot.
He is a Southern fella, and so he said God "fixes fixes to fix us" (Yankee translation: God brings things into our life to mold and shape and break us. I'm qualified to translate, because I've been in Tennessee now since 1986).
Anyway, he said this profound thing that I've never forgotten:
"If God fixes a fix to fix you, and you fix the fix instead of it fixing you, then God will have to fix another fix to fix you."
One ol' boy preacher I heard recently understands that (or at least his wife does). He laughed because some trial happened to them, and his wife said, "I wish you'd have learned that from the Lord last time, honey, so we wouldn't have to go through it again."
The "fixing" that we need is to be "surrendered". Surrendered to the Lord. The Good Surrender.
2. The second thing that hinders us from being broken is self-centeredness.
We want our own will, not His. We want things to go the way we want them to go. We are angered when our will is crossed. We will seek to escape or dodge the trial in our life, instead of letting it shape us. We want what we want, and we will jolly well do whatever it takes to "make it happen".
When we see this in others, we are repulsed. It sickens us to see this, whether it's a child throwing a temper tantrum in Wal-Mart, or an adult thinking only of themselves in a conversation.
We see its evil so clearly in others, yet sometimes we despise it in others only because of our own self-centeredness. Sort of, "How DARE you think you are the center of the Universe! Don't you know that *I* am the center of the Universe? What about ME?!!?" Of course we don't say this. We only think it.
There is no direct remedy for this self-centered, self-indulgent, self-ish, self-aggrandizing attitude, except the work of brokenness itself. Of course there are indirect means, primarily the Word of God and prayer.
And so we see a circle of brokenness. The more we are broken, the more we can be broken, so the more we're broken, and so the more we can be broken.
We may want to keep this in mind before we make foolish vows to the Lord. For example, I heard a song on the radio that went like this:
"The Cross demands allegience. I'll give nothing less than all!"
Really?!!?? "Nothing less than all!!??" Get real. There's some breaking to be done, isn't there?
Unless you're Jesus Christ, you'd be wiser to stick with Keith Green's musical thought,
"Just keep doing your best, pray that it's blessed, and He'll take care of the rest...He's gonna do it...He'll take care of the rest."
The Part of Prayer In Brokenness and Surrender
Few things are as important to our brokenness as prayer. All kinds of prayer.
--Petition (asking for things)
--Intercession (praying for others)
--Adoration (speaking lovingly to God about His wonders, attributes, goodnesses, etc.)
--Confession (telling Him what He already knows about our sins)
--Thanksgiving (is there any end to the list of blessings, not the least of which is His forgiveness of those sins we just confessed?)
--Praying the Scriptures (using verse-by-verse passages to prompt our praying,
reinforcing our understanding of the mind of our Lord)
--Meditation (technically not prayer, but great to do in the same time-frame context, meditating for example on His attributes, His love, His Word).
This kind of prayer takes time, but how rich and blessed it is. As the saying goes, Prayer Changes Things, but just as importantly Prayer Changes Us.
If we pray with our brokenness and surrender in mind, we will be a long way toward truly "loving God and enjoying Him forever".
The following are some evidences of surrender. They are worth thinking about, one by one, not for the purpose of being discouraged because we fall short, but for the purpose of humbling ourselves before the Lord, that He may lift us up.
Dealing with issues of surrender should never distract us from our wonderful Savior, and should never cause us to try to earn His love and favor by our Performance. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us because He chose to love us, even while we were His enemies.
Nothing can separate us from His love, including our lack of surrender!
And while that wonderful thought alone might help us desire brokenness and surrender to Him, I repeat that His love and favor for us are not dependent on that love and surrender.
Having said that, here are some evidences of surrender:
1. All our “rights” surrendered. Of course we have been blessed with promises in the Scriptures that we might call “rights”, such as the “right” to approach the throne of God in prayer, the right to be filled with the Spirit and fellowship with Jesus. But the very idea of thinking of these as “rights” instead of precious “privileges” should be a red flag indicating a lack of humble surrender in our minds.
2. Willingness to be rejected. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” should be our attitude.
3. Transparent - willing to share weakness.
4. Vulnerable - willing to share failures.
5. A sense of total inadequacy in self strength - 2 Cor. 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God..."
6. A sense of adequacy in Christ through His strength - Phil. 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." 2 Cor. 3:6, "...who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
7. Trusting God whatever - resting even with external turmoil.
8. Obedience out of a love motive because I want to, not because I have to.
9. Recognizing the power in weakness.
10. Willing to be weak.
11. Willing to fail.
12. A readiness to let others receive credit.
13. Genuine humility. Not “I am nothing, just a worm”, but, “Everything that I have has been given to me by the Lord.” I can only boast in Him.
14. Placing value upon those who have little or no value to yourself.
15. A readiness to affirm or build up others. It's a well-known cliché that we often put others down only to make ourselves look better. Surrender does away with that. We can be a Barnabas, an encourager to others.
17. Willing to not be in control.
18. Willing to be misunderstood.
Dying To Self
Another phrase for "surrender" is "dying to self". I wrote the following in my Bible in 1985. I regret I don't remember who to give credit to, but it has been a great blessing to me over these many years:
WHEN you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely provoked, and you don't sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ – that's dying to self.
WHEN your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence – that's dying to self.
WHEN you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, any annoyance; when you stand face-to-face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility – and endure it as Jesus endured – that's dying to self.
WHEN you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any people, any raiment, any interruption – that's dying to self.
WHEN you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good words, when you are uncomfortable with commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown – that's dying to self.
WHEN you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances – that's dying to self.
WHEN you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart – that's dying to self.