“Teach me to do your will…my God.”
Ps 143:10 NIV
Through the act of surrender, you receive power that you cannot receive any other way. Through submission, you receive freedom that you will otherwise never know. The 12-Step Program of recovery offers a path to freedom for alcoholics and addicts. But at the core of the twelve steps lies a great paradox: In which of the twelve steps does it say, “Now try really hard not to drink?” In which of the twelve steps does it even say, “Now decide not to drink? Amazingly, this powerful tool against our most powerful addictions never asks people to decide to stop doing what is destroying their lives. Instead of mobilizing the will, its followers surrender their will to God. If you try to overcome the problem by your will, it will beat you. But if you surrender your will to God, deliverance becomes possible. Surrender, which we think means defeat, actually turns out to be the only way to victory. This is not just the case with alcohol and drugs, but with sin in general. Why does our will fail? The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that when it comes to drinking, we say and feel “never again.” But we do it again. Why? “We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week ago…the certain consequences that follow taking a drink do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily replaced by the old threadbare idea that this time we can handle it ourselves.” So the word for you today is: Surrender to God.
“Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…to God.”
Ro 12:1 NIV
Paul writes, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…pleasing to God.” During a Jewish sacrifice, an animal would be killed and then its body placed on the altar to be consumed by fire. So what happens if you put a live creature on the altar and say, “Stay there until you’re consume,” then light the fire? The creature will jump off! But Paul encourages us to crawl back onto the altar, to surrender day by day, moment by moment. In the moment it feels like death, but it is really the only way to live. For example, suppose somebody does something that angers you. The situation is complicated, so you are not even sure of the right way to respond. Without even trying, your mind fills with all kinds of bad thoughts. In that moment you do not know what you should do. But God knows, and if you surrender to Him, He will show you how to respond with grace. The options that look attractive to you—avoiding, evading, gossiping, blasting—you relinquish to God. If your hurt runs deep, it will be about five minutes before the revenge fantasies start raging back. You will have to surrender all over again. But you can recognize those fantasies a little quicker now, and yield a little longer. As you learn to surrender to God in each given situation, you no longer have to surrender to your own impulses. You lose a life, but you gain a life—a life much better than the one you lost. In the end, it turns out that nothing you lost was really worth keeping anyway.
“In my distress I cried out to the Lord.”
Ps 18:6 NLT
There are times in life when the best thing you can do is cry out to God from the depths of your being. Don’t worry about looking undignified, or having people think you have no faith. The psalmist said, “In my distress I cried out to the Lord…[and] He heard me.” Every parent knows that cry. It’s different; it’s not a temper tantrum or a whine for attention, it’s a cry of distress. And though it comes in the dead of night, before you know it, your feet hit the floor and you’re at your child’s side holding them, changing them, feeding them, and comforting them. That’s how God feels about you. When you get so low that you’re reaching up just to touch bottom, cry out to God! David said: “He reached down…and drew me out of my great trials. He rescued me…On the day…I was weakest, they attacked. But the Lord held me steady. He led me to a place of safety, for he delights in me” (vv. 16-19 TLB). David discovered that God was his “high tower” (v. 2 KJV). In Bible times a high tower was a place of safety where the enemy couldn’t get to you. Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (NKJV). It represents a place of security in God where you’re lifted above the threat and circumstances. It’s where you regain your perspective; a place where you can look ahead and know this trial will soon be over. Go ahead, cry out to God and He will answer.
“Not what I will, but what you will.”
Mk 14:36 NIV
Because surrender is so closely connected to our wills, often a price is attached. You can feel devoted to God, yet when it comes time to act you discover that your surrender is only skin-deep. Anticipating this, Jesus often identified the particular area where surrender was needed in a person’s life. To the woman caught in adultery He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11 NKJV). That means you must surrender your sexual drives and desires to God. Many times surrender will involve money, because money is all about trust and control. To a rich businessman who wanted to follow Him, Jesus said, “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor” (Mk 10:21 TLB). But the man was unwilling to do it. Often surrender will involve an act of self-disclosure about a grudge, attitude, habit, or sin. When you’re with a trusted friend, God may prompt you to talk about a matter in which you have struggled or even failed. Don’t be surprised when your immediate response is “No way!” Other times you may be with someone and feel the need to confront them about something, and it makes you uncomfortable. So here’s the question: Will you surrender, when surrender means doing something uncomfortable? If it were comfortable, it wouldn’t be surrender! The supreme example of surrender is Christ in Gethsemane, praying , “Not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42 NIV). It was the hardest prayer He ever prayed, and the one that launched Him into His destiny. Amazingly, the prayer that brings God’s power—is the prayer of surrender.
“If any of you want to be my followers…you must…take up your cross.”
Mt 16:24 CEV
Surrender is not the same thing as passivity. God’s will for your life involves exercising creativity, making choices, and taking initiative. Surrender does not mean being a doormat; it does not mean you accept circumstances fatalistically. Often it means you will have to fight to challenge the status quo. It doesn’t mean that you stop using your mind, stop asking questions, or stop thinking critically. Surrender is not a crutch for weak people who cannot handle life. Instead, surrender is the glad and voluntary acknowledgement that there is a God, and He is not you. His purposes are wiser and better than your desires. Jesus doesn’t come to rearrange the outside of your life the way you want; He comes to rearrange the inside of your life the way God wants. In surrender, you let go of your life. You recognize that you are no longer the center of the universe, and you put God there. You yield to Him. You offer obedience. You do what He says. Jesus was very clear on this point: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies [to self] it produces many seeds” (Jn 12:24 NIV). How do you live a productive and fruitful life? By dying to yourself daily. D. L. Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with one person who is totally surrendered to Him.” Today, kneel and pray, “‘Lord, take me, shake me, break me, and make me what You want me to be.” That’s a prayer He will answer.