“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
My Dad was a stubborn man who rarely gave an inch to anyone on anything. He was opinionated, bullheaded, and unbending, usually doing and getting what he wanted. Surrendering to someone or something was clearly not his style. But eventually he had to experience surrender. At the age of 86, when he looked up at those who were standing near he said, “I can’t do this anymore,” and breathed his last; he finally surrendered to death.
He fought long and hard, and lived on longer than anyone thought he could have. His doctor commented a number of times on how strong a man he was, amazed he was still alive. Strong or not, eventually he had no choice but to accept defeat, and to surrender to a power he could not win against.
Surrender is the moment someone has either lost a fight, realizes they cannot win, or are simply no longer interested in fighting; that moment of acceptance, when one realizes they face a force that cannot be overcome. It’s acknowledging checkmate is inevitable, and that fighting on is merely academic.
I too am a fairly willful and stubborn (maybe I get it from my dad?), and for some years of my life I was fighting against the inevitable. Not death in this case, but something a bit better; the love of God for me, and His call upon my life.
In August of 1980 I too surrendered. I gave up. I gave in. I was tired of running, chasing after other things, and was ready even to end my life. But one morning I put my hands up to God, and I promised total surrender to Him if He would have me, if he would hear me, if he would change me. God had finally checkmated me (I had checkmated myself actually). God smiled. He had “captured” me. He won.
And when I surrendered, He came and blessed me. As His surrendered captive, He unloosed my shackles and set me free from my real enemy. He poured out His love on me, and filled me with His Spirit, His joy, and a peace I had never known and that I could not describe. He began to give me visions. I started hearing His voice; several times audibly. His Word became alive to me, and like food to my famished and starving soul! It was like a spring of cool water in the desert. I had become more alive than I had ever been.
This is what happens when we surrender to God. He sets us free from our enemies. In Zechariah’s song (Luke 1:67-75) we read:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel… He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke through His holy prophets, those of ages past, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us… to grant us deliverance from hostile hands, that we may serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives.”
Ever since that wonderful moment, I have had the privilege and joy of knowing and serving God “without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him.” Of pursuing Him and following His direction and lead. I’ve had the privilege of being sent by Him to a foreign land where I was allowed to share Christ with multitudes of people, and see many thousands receive Christ as Lord and savior.
The story of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-27) is one that saddens me. He came to the Lord of Life itself. He bowed before the Alpha and Omega. He was in the presence of the King of the Universe. He asked for direction and instruction. Jesus looked at him, loved him, and gave him the direction he needed:
“Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
This poor rich guy was shocked. He refused the direction, and walked away sad. He was a wealthy man who was not ready to surrender himself to God. He wasn’t ready to give in, to give up, and to receive the indescribable blessings of God. He chose to remain a prisoner of himself, the world, and of his stuff. Perhaps a prisoner of his own success or ego. Whatever it was, he wasn’t ready to experience the freedom of surrender to God.
To be clear, freedom in Christ does not come from the dissolution of all we possess. It comes from surrender. It comes from bowing to Christ, and giving him all of our heart and life. It comes from obedience.
When we surrender, we too will sing the song, “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God!” Whoever surrenders to Christ shall be free indeed. Free from fear. Free from the clutches and consequences of sin. Free from the fear of death, and from death itself.
As you may guess, I’m an advocate for surrendering to God.