Surrender to God – What’s the Phrase Really Mean?
Surrender to God – it’s a term you may have heard, but what does it mean, exactly? Surrender is not a word often associated with positive actions. After all, “surrender in the name of the law” usually means trouble for someone. And we know that when one side surrenders to another in battle, it’s a sign they’ve given up any hope for victory.
Surrender to God – If I Do That, What Am I Giving Up?
If we surrender to God, what are we giving up? Does it mean, as it does for the enemy in battle, to give up on victory in our lives? Is God holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to give Him everything we have, like a bandit or mugger might do? To be sure, there are those who are willing to portray God in that way, especially where self-gain is involved. But when we come to know the true character and nature of God, we quickly discover how false that image is.
Surrender means to yield ownership, to relinquish control over what we consider ours: our property, our time, our “rights.” When we surrender to God, we are simply acknowledging that what we “own” actually belongs to Him. He is the giver of all good things. We are responsible to care for what God has given us, as stewards of His property, but by surrendering to God, we admit that He is ultimately in control of everything, including our present circumstances. Surrendering to God helps us to let go of whatever has been holding us back from God’s best for our lives. By surrendering to God, we let go of whatever has kept us from wanting God’s ways first.
Surrender to God – A Choice for Adam & Eve
In the beginning, God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them everything they needed. All that was good to eat was available and attainable for them. All, that is, except one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Enter the serpent, the one we now recognize as Satan. Sly and deceptive in all his ways, the serpent’s first move was to question the word of God, when he suggested to Eve, “Did God really say that you couldn’t eat from that tree?” As we all know, suggesting that forbidden fruit may not be forbidden after all is almost the same as license. Only the wise will question the potential result of giving in to temptation.
What if Adam and Eve had been wise enough to see the deception? What if they had recognized the choice that was being put before them, and rather than doubting God’s Word, they had chosen instead to obey God? What if they had realized God was to be obeyed, even if His command didn’t seem to make perfect sense to them? But note that God did not say to Adam and Eve, “you can’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Rather, we read in Genesis 2:16-17: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Surrender to God – A Choice for All of Us
Adam and Eve were given a choice to surrender to God when He said, “you shall not” as opposed to “you cannot.” The fruit of this tree is not something we’re likely to find in the produce section of our supermarket, but rather it represented the alternative God offered. Should Adam and Eve trust and obey Him for a greater reward down the road, or should they give in to the momentary desires of their hearts? Had they chosen to surrender the longings of their hearts to God, it’s possible that we may all be living eternally on a perfect earth, right here and now. Tragically, Adam and Eve did not choose that path. And because of that first act of disobedience, our hearts have become more and more prone to selfishness with each generation. (Consider the evidence presented in chapter 4 of Genesis – when Cain, the very first human born to a woman, murdered his own brother. How quickly the corruption occurred!)
Before you decide to blame every problem throughout history on Adam and Eve, though, it’s important to consider that we are all given the same choice they were given. It’s just that they were the first ones to blow it.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
– We have all
and deserve God’s judgment.
, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him.
, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He
for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was
rose from the dead
according to the
. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your
, declaring, “
Jesus is Lord
,” you will be saved from
and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow JesusYes, I am already a follower of JesusI still have questions
The act of surrendering is very difficult for those who realize that the battle is lost. In his book No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda tells a fascinating tale of being one of the last Japanese-born soldiers to surrender in World War II.
Onoda had been stationed on Lubang Island in the Philippines when it was taken over by U.S. forces in February 1945. Almost all of his comrades were killed or captured, but Onoda and several other men hid deep in the jungle. While his fellow evaders were eventually killed, Onoda held out for 29 years, dismissing every attempt to coax him out of the jungle as a trick.
His primary motivation for not surrendering was his devout belief in the Japanese military code of discipline and honor. Because of this, he had been ordered by his superiors to never leave his post until he received a specific order enabling him to do so.
In 1974, the Japanese government sent its commanding officer to Lubang to order Onoda to surrender. When Lieutenant Onoda stepped out of the jungle to accept the order, he did so in his dress uniform and sword, with his rifle still in operating condition. Even in surrender he maintained his discipline and retained his honor.
This incredible tale of one man’s discipline, honor, evasion, and surrender could be compared to our Christian walk. When we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are duty-bound to him—purchased by his blood and redeemed from sin—and we are to be disciplined by grace through his teachings, drawing near to him as he drew near to us. As believers, we make Christ a daily priority—but all too often we mix our duty and honor to God with duty and honor to ourselves.
Sometimes we evade being captured by God because doing so would mean surrendering areas of our lives that we like to control. To live the life that God has planned for us, which he promises is best (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11), we need to wave the white flag of surrender.
But how do we do this?
In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus Christ gives us very clear instructions on how to surrender to his loving authority:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Should I Surrender?
The answer is: Yes! In this passage, there are four challenging but necessary steps to take if we want to lead a surrendered life following Christ our Lord:
- Be open to surrender
- Deny yourself
- Take up his cross
- Follow him
The first step is perhaps the hardest one. Please note Christ’s subtle invitation to join him: “If anyone would come after me.” Here is an open invitation to surrender to, and walk through life with, the Creator of the universe and the Savior to sinners.
As wonderful as that sounds, it is hard to do, for surrender goes against the grain of our stubborn, sinful hearts. For a non-believer, it takes admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and embracing Jesus Christ by faith, receiving his eternal, loving grace, which enables a person to surrender in the first place. As for me, it took many years to surrender to him.
For believers, your Christian walk reveals that you have the greatest Advocate (1 John 2:1) and Friend that you will ever have in Jesus (John 15:15). But he has expectations that are for your good, and he lays out some very specific conditions to his disciples on how to follow. This brings us to our next step.
…let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (v. 24b)
The second thing Jesus calls us to do is to “deny ourselves,” which means that we are to surrender self-will and embrace his perfect will. It is daunting task to be sure and one that we are under-powered to do on our own (2 Timothy 1:7).
Think for a moment of your life. Are you living it on your terms? Or are you living it on his terms? When you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you said in essence, “I surrender all to you, Lord.” Can you honestly say that you have done this in all areas of your life?
If you are like me, the answer is No—but I really want to. Take a moment now and pray to the Lord to reveal those areas in your life that you have failed to surrender to him.
Take Up His Cross
The third thing Jesus calls us to do is to “take up his cross” (v. 24b). What does this mean?
As followers of Jesus, we know that we were crucified with Christ on the cross (Galatians 2:20). Because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind, his crucifixion gives us the opportunity for open fellowship with him for all eternity (1 John 1:3). But it also means that we will share in the burden of carrying the cross (Matthew 10:38). We are to seek and follow God’s will no matter the cost (1 Thessalonians. 4:3).
In today’s world, your relationship with God might cost you your family, your friends, your job, or, in some extreme cases, your life. Fortunately for us, Jesus Christ was the perfect model of surrender (John 5:30). Because he loved his Father and us so much, he surrendered his perfect and sinless life to God, making a way for us to enter into fellowship with him (Matthew 26:39).
Believer, will you surrender the self-will that hinders you from having a better relationship with Jesus Christ? Or will you evade capture by his Lordship, holding tight to earthly things that will eventually fade away at the expense of forfeiting all that God has for your soul?
The last thing Jesus asks us to do is to “follow me.” For humans, following anyone is a difficult task—especially when it involves giving up any measure of control.
A perfect example of this is Jesus inviting Andrew and Peter to follow him (Matthew 4:17-19). They left everything behind when they did. Jesus also encouraged the rich, young ruler to follow him (Luke 18:18-23), but he refused to sell everything he owned and thus wouldn’t follow him.
It is tough to follow because we like the feeling of leading. How many of us like to drive behind a slow-moving truck on a two-lane highway? As impatient as we are, it won’t be long before we pass it, thereby enjoying the wide open road ahead of us. How often do we feel that God is moving too slowly, causing us to sprint ahead and leave him behind?
When we do this, we leave the safety of his will for the uncertainty of our own. That usually doesn’t lead anywhere good. Being dedicated followers of Jesus Christ takes strength and wisdom but, more importantly, it requires us to surrender control of lives once and for all to him, the Lord of all creation, for he is the source of such strength and wisdom.
Will you deny yourself, take up his cross, and follow him?
Find Your Life
It is worth pondering: Is there any downside to not surrendering?
In verse 25, we see a clear warning for failing to surrender to Christ:
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Quite simply, anyone who seeks to save his life by pursing their own interests and rejecting God’s gift of Jesus Christ will live a shallow, meaningless life devoid of him and an eternity apart from him. While he may choose to bless people with earthly riches, those who reject him will have no place with him in heaven. Hell is full of “wealthy” people who never surrendered any portion of their lives—and especially not their souls—to God in Jesus Christ.
That’s why total surrender to God through faith in his Son is the most important decision a person can make.
In the final analysis, Lieutenant Onoda needed to be coaxed into surrendering. If you have not placed Jesus on the throne over your life, can I encourage you to do that today? Can I encourage you, my fellow believer, to make the choice to surrender all you have to God? I fear that if we, the body of Christ, don’t surrender all, we will be like Lieutenant Onoda and stubbornly stick to man-made duty, honor, and plans that do not draw us closer to God.
Waving the white flag of surrender never looked so good.
Which of these four steps is the most challenging for you?
, via Wikimedia Commons]