Tuesday, December 5th, 2023
For some of us surrender looks and feels too much like giving up. As I stood stirring my pot of slow-cooking peanut brittle this weekend, I found myself with lots of time to ponder this thought. For most of my life I have struggled to find or allow myself time to rest. I felt that I always needed to be checking a box or crossing something off my never-shortening project list in order to feel productive. I think parallel to this is my difficulty in fully surrendering to God. It goes against my nature to think about letting someone else run the reigns of my life. Birthed out of numerous experiences, I have felt that I needed to protect and look out for myself. My brain was trained to work overtime in order to protect and secure my own future. I know this is natural for many of us. This is why there are so many scriptures on the topic. Let’s look at a couple of them. In Luke 14:33 (NIV) it says:
33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
From our earthly view this is so counter cultural. The world says that everything we have is what makes us who we are. All that we own is evidence of how hard we have worked. If we have nothing, we will be rejected by society, and on and on. But Jesus is telling us we have to give it all up and make following him our identity and our only focus. Let’s look at another scripture. John 3:30 (NKJV) says:
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
God gave me a phrase recently that keeps rolling around in my mind, “God is desiring more and more from us and allowing less and less of anything else”. When we say we want more of Him, that means we have to make more room for Him, which often means we have to make a few sacrifices. We may need to set aside some hobbies, some time, some finances, even some ministry opportunities in order to be able to dwell longer at the feet of Jesus. These things in and of themselves are not wrong, but we have to be willing and able to “decrease” them if that’s what God asks. Let’s look at Luke 9:23 (NKJV):
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Deny in the Greek Lexicon means: “lose sight of oneself and one’s own interests”. Again, all of this goes so much against our fleshly grain, but if we are unable to take our focus off of ourselves how will we ever put it on our Heavenly Father? We have to give up our focus on ourselves so that we can focus on God. For our own good, God did not make us one of the creatures that can see two different fields of view at once. Good thing because we have a hard enough time keeping one in focus.
God gave me another interesting phrase the other day regarding giving up. He said, “Giving up to God is very different than giving up on God.” The scriptures call us to give up to God. The enemy and our flesh want us to give up on God. To be truthful, I don’t really like the words “give up”. To me, they speak of failure. Our world too tells us that giving up will never lead to success. Our world tells us that giving up will make us unpopular. Our world tells us that giving up is a sign of weakness. And this is why the call of Christ is so full of opposites. Worldly success and popularity are nothing but man-pleasing traps. A position of weakness is what God actually desires because that is what makes room for the strength of God. In more than one scripture God celebrates our weakness. 2 Cor 12:9-10 says:
9 And He said to me, “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. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul here is celebrating his weaknesses. The things in the natural that seem to have given up are the places where Christ can “give in”. These are the places where His glory can shine through. We think our weaknesses are what disqualifies us from serving God, but these are often the places that God uses because they are already broken and ready for a Savior.
Giving ourselves up to God goes against every fiber of our fleshly being. If it was easy, this world would be in a much better place. Putting God first means we have to be willing to sacrifice everything else, including ourselves. If instead we keep money or our time or our goals or our spouses or our weaknesses as our primary focus, then we are choosing to surrender ourselves to these things. This in turn creates some holes in our fortress where the enemy has a chance to come in and trip us up. As we go about our day, let’s ask ourselves if there are any new places where we need to give up to God. Are there places where we haven’t fully surrendered that may be keeping us from God’s best for us? It’s just as important to ask ourselves if there are any areas where we have given up on God. Are there places where we need to rekindle the flames of our faith and believe again in the promises of God?