Ok, so during our short time so far in Costa Rica, the Lord has been doing a deeper work in my heart regarding that oh so famous word…surrender. We like the idea of surrender. As we talk about the great lives of heroes of the faith long ago and the fully surrendered lives that they lived so that God was most glorified in them. We then think of our own lives and the idea of living in such a surrendered manner. We can imagine ourselves being completely sold out for Jesus and just doing everything to advance His Kingdom. We also like the sound of the word “surrender.” In terms of the Christian life, it is a sound that is so sweet. We sing so many songs about surrender. We love to sing about it. Churches throughout America and other parts of the world can be found lifting up our choruses of “I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all. Oh yes, we like to sing such songs.
But the million dollar question that we must ask ourselves is…Are we really surrendered? Let it be known clear as day that when I reference the word “we”, I put my big fat lazy self right smack dab in the middle. So, I am sooo included in the word “we”, but I choose to use the word “we” because my guess is that I’m not alone in this lack of understanding of what it means to truly surrender. And in these first few weeks being here in Costa Rica, God is revealing a part of my heart…an ugly part…that still wrestles against a complete surrender to Almighty God. And here is something that the Lord has been showing me. With regards to surrender, you’re either all in or you’re completely out. There is really no such thing as a partial surrender. And sadly, that’s what my heart and flesh often want to settle for…a partial surrender to the Lord. But such surrender is no surrender at all.
The man that sings “I surrender all”, but continues to work overtime every week at the expense of his family just so that he can maintain his lifestyle of pleasure and leisure is not surrendered at all.
The woman that says, “Lord, I want to follow you. I surrender my life to you”, and spends time going to church, attending Bible study, is involved with ministry, but continues to live with her boyfriend knowing that it is sin, this woman is really not surrendered.
The missionary who says, Lord, I am willing to forsake all things and serve you on the mission field, but I want to go somewhere where it won’t be so difficult to live and where I can still do the things that I like to do, such a man is not walking with a heart that is truly surrendered.
I know that these statements sound rather harsh. And the truth is that they are harsh. But the Gospel demands our lives…all of our lives. The Gospel demands “violence” in regards to our all out pursuit of God. Jesus states in Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of God has suffered violence and the violent take it by force.” This cannot be done with a heart that is “partially” surrendered. Jesus also states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…So, likewise, whoever of you who does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27,33) Wow! This is powerful. But these are the words of Jesus Himself. We must accept them and live by them. We must believe these words just as strongly as we believe John 3:16. Again, with Christ, it’s all or nothing. We can’t pick and choose how we want to follow Him. Basically, Jesus wants only the heart that is fully surrendered. And by His grace, we can have such a heart. Thank the Lord for such grace.
So, here is my confession: I have not been fully surrendered lately with regards to the call of God on my life. Some may think that if you’re a missionary who has left the comforts of America to serve God in another country, then you are surrendered. But I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. We missionaries have wicked deceitful hearts just like anybody else. We have the same struggles between the flesh and the spirit. We can have the same tendency to cut deals with God or to do things on our terms rather than His, including ministry! And God is No respecter of persons with His children. Missionary or not, the criteria for being His disciple requires a fully surrendered heart. And my prayer is that the Lord brings me to such a surrender through what He has been showing me.
Here is where I have been wrestling with God, or better yet I should say, here is where I have been struggling between the flesh and the spirit. Most of you know by now the difficulties that we have gone through in the past two years. If you are not familiar with our story, just read some previous posts and you will understand. So, after going through the world of cancer treatment, then our daughter being called home to Heaven, then being shot at while serving in Haiti, I’m beat. Seriously, I just feel tired. We’ve been through so much. Yet, by God’s grace, He has given us the passion to still make His name known among the nations, and so here we find ourselves in Costa Rica for a year while attending language training school. So, yes, by God’s grace alone, we still desire to serve the Lord on the mission field. But before you say to me, “What faith and trust in Christ you are demonstrating!”, I need to confess that I have been lacking faith and trust rather than demonstrating it. Here’s how:
Since we left Haiti so abruptly, we have not yet determined, or allowed God to show us, where we will be serving next. We only know that we desire to serve in a spanish speaking country. So, here I am researching many different countries and learning about what the needs are and what the opportunities are and so forth. But I have found myself shying away from several countries because it would just seem to be too difficult. So, I have found myself just thinking about countries that I am more familiar with, or countries that would not cause such hardship, or countries that would enable me to do ministries that I am familiar and comfortable with, or countries that don’t have such severe climates, or countries that don’t have such weird looking people, or countries that have a Wal-Mart, or countries that…Do you see where this is going? It has become centered on me rather than centered on God. And that is what happens when the heart is not fully surrendered. And that is what God has shown me has been the condition of my heart in this matter.
And I have wrestled with God in this. I have told the Lord, “Lord, I’ve been through so much. I want to still serve You, but I just don’t want it to cause such discomfort since I’ve experienced enough pain and discomfort to last me a lifetime. Therefore, I’m willing to serve You and tell people about Your great love and faithfulness, but I just want to go to a place that ‘I’ want to go to.” And, of course, this doesn’t work with God. And He lets the conviction begin to silently invade my heart and affect my peace until it reaches the breaking point where, in tears, I fall to my knees and say, “Ok Lord, I surrender. Whatever You desire for me. No matter what.” And by His grace, that is what He is doing in my heart.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not intentionally looking to go to the most uncomfortable, weird, difficult place to serve Him. But I must be at the point where I follow God no matter where He takes me. Whether He takes me to the remotest most difficult part of the earth or whether He puts me in a nice modern city is not the real issue. The real issue is Do I trust Him completely to give me the grace that is needed to bring Him glory through whatever situation I find myself in? That is the central question.
I often get better understanding of things when I associate them with a picture in my mind. So, I was telling this to my wife a few night ago, which by the way, my wife is often the one whom God chooses to use to bring about a weight of conviction in my heart that leads to change. So, anyway, I was telling my wife that it feels like for the past 2 years that I have been in this huge 12 round, knockdown, drag out, heavyweight title fight that didn’t end the way that I had hoped. And I feel pretty beat up. And I’m willing to get back in the ring, by God’s grace, but I tell Him that I really don’t want to go for another 12 round fight, but that perhaps He can just give me something like an easier 6 round fight that will not cause so much pain and suffering. And then the conviction comes strong on my heart as I hear the words of my Savior saying, “Don’t you trust me?” And I’m brought to the place of conviction realizing that me desiring to only have a 6 round fight without much suffering is just another way of me saying, “God, I don’t trust You.” And God graciously allows my heart to fall under that weight of conviction, and He reminds me of His love and grace, and He brings me to my knees in tears, and allows me to truly say, “Lord, I surrender.” And in this He is glorified.
So, I must stand on the truth that God is sovereign. He is in complete control of my life. He will bring whatever is needed in my life to bring glory to His name. Perhaps this next season will be one that is more difficult than the last season, I don’t know. I’m not hoping for that, and I’m certainly not looking for it. But I have to be brought to the place where, should this be what the Lord has ordained for us, we will gladly say yes in complete surrender to His will, knowing that He is good and that He is trustworthy above all else. And that is what is meant by true surrender.
May we all be brought to such a place in our lives. He is worth it all!!