Does surrender conjure up images of a criminal giving up his gun and surrendering himself to the police? For many Christians this is what we envision and it terrifies us.
In her article, Winning Through Surrender, Kathy Cordova writes:
“For most of us the word surrender has a negative meaning because we think surrender is waving the white flag and giving up.”
We consider the spiritual process of surrender with giving up, but spiritual surrender is not about defeat. It is about acceptance, joy and faith. Spiritual surrender is about a mutual relationship with loving reciprocity between the creator and the creation.
It’s about accepting the gift of salvation and experiencing the joy of a relationship with the God of the universe who not only loves us but knows us well.
I realized that after all these years as a Christian I did not have a healthy perspective of what surrendering to God really meant. I felt that I could never live up to the traditional Christian perception of surrender.
I was fully aware of the weakness of my flesh and did not understand what it meant to sacrifice my life for God daily.
The Romans were used to making regular, ritual sacrifices to their gods. They smelled these daily sacrifices being made as they walked through the market place. Although they had turned away from these practices, as Christians they probably still felt the pull.
The Apostle Paul wrote that they were still supposed to make sacrifices, but of a slightly different nature:
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of all the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedicating of your bodies, (presenting all your members and faculties as a living sacrifice an well-pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
As we read this verse, Paul writes that the key motivator for presenting ourselves as a sacrifice is understanding “the mercies of God.” Paul said that each of us is a priest of God and that we are to offer ourselves on the altar of the Christian faith out of gratitude and our deep love for God and the salvation he so willingly offered us.
What is our “reasonable” sacrifice?
It is loving one another through acts of kindness, forgiveness and showing mercy to those around us. We did not deserve God’s forbearance (loving kindness, mercy and grace) that He poured out freely upon us through Christ’s blood shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
We surrender ourselves out of gratitude for all that God has done for us and for what He will yet do (miracles and an abundant life) as we surrender our will to Him daily.
Spiritual surrender acknowledges that we’re not in control and releases the ‘driving’ and ‘directing’ over to Jesus. It’s getting ourselves out-of-the-way and trusting God to guide us, provide for us and intervene in the personal matters of our lives.
Often, we think there is something we can do to fix a situation with a friend, spouse, or family member. As we lay down our doing (our desire to control the situation), and step aside, miracles can happen.
This is not giving up but an active surrender to the will of God, where we allow the Holy Spirit to move and do a miracle.
Surrendering also takes practice. Paul tells us that we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. Unfortunately, the first instinct of any living sacrifice is to crawl off the altar.
It is a daily act where we entrust ourselves to the power of Christ in our lives. It is not a whipping pole where we are beat into compliance. It involves a respect for God’s authority (knowledge and wisdom that is beyond our own) and a willingness to let Him take over when we are struggling, failing and falling apart.
We need to change our attitude about surrender. Surrender is not manipulative but actually meant to spur us into loving action.
In his sermon from early in the last century entitled Are You Grateful, William Birch writes:
“[Surrender] means self-offering of one’s will to God. It is not passive, it is an active surrender to the will of God. Most of all it is an attitude of deep loving receptivity towards God. Offering our hearts and minds to him that He may transform us.”
Birch exhorts us to be fragrant like roses with our good deeds that bring a breath of heaven to a lost and hurting world. This is our reasonable sacrifice that is acceptable to God:
“Some people are like a picture of a rose, which has no perfume. Be perfumed that is, living Christian, be fragrant of good deeds which are the sweet breath of heaven” and thus you will show your gratitude to God. Be an honour to the gospel of Jesus and a comfort to mankind.”
Can it be that God desires our surrender because He loves us and has our best interests and highest good at heart and that He wants us to be happy, fulfilled and joyful?
It takes faith to believe that God loves us. It takes faith to surrender ourselves to God. It takes faith to be a living sacrifice.