Today, I was asked how a Christian surrenders his or her life to God. Tough question! I think that I gave an OK answer, but it got me thinking quite a bit...
Facts first: notice that the question implies that this person is already a Christian. They are already pursuing a Christian lifestyle and declaring a relationship with God. In order to do this, we assume that they have been drawn by the spirit to a belief based on fact. When revealed, God is the best fact going.
Faith second: I believe that we must have faith before we can surrender. Can a toddler jump off the side of a pool into his dads’ arms without the faith that dad is going to catch him? We need to pray and receive the gift of faith before we can surrender and jump into the pool. Some kids have the faith to jump into the pool the first time based on dad telling them that he will catch them and that it will be OK. Other kids fall into the category of wanting to see their brother do it (and live through it) before they commit to the act. Blessed are they that believe without seeing. Blessed are the brothers that have had the courage to go first.
Surrender third: surrender is the act of choosing another will above ours. Sometimes that choice makes less sense than what we would have opted for. Sometimes it makes us look foolish. Sometimes it takes courage. Sometimes it is difficult of painful.
Feelings last: I believe that we must have the courage to step off the side of the pool (surrender, take the leap of faith) before we can experience the rich exhilaration (feelings) that come with being caught in strong arms and being splashed.
I don't think that surrendering our life is a one time thing. I think that it is a series of choices that build a lifestyle of trust. I think that surrendering our life means yielding our choices to what God wants, in spite of how foolish it appears to us, or how contrary it is to our desires. After surrendering to Gods way (risking disaster or appearing foolish, which some would consider a disaster) enough times, our faith grows. In other words, the toddler on the side of the pool is going to be very hesitant to jump into dads arms the first time. Possibly the second, third and forth time as well, depending upon his personality and the relationship of trust that he already has established with his dad. Eventually he will come to believe that Dad is going to catch him, and he will relax and have fun. That is the reward of surrender.
However, a week later at the pool, when dad tells the toddler to jump into his arms again, and the toddler is hesitant. Why? Dad promised to catch him. Dad proved himself last week by catching his brother and himself many times. The toddler knows that jumping into dads arms is a lot of fun. Why does he hesitate? Because it is foolish for someone three foot tall that can't swim to jump into four foot of water. Death or serious injury can be the result of such a foolish choice. Yes! dad caught him-- but that was last week! Who can say that things aren't different today!
The toddler may need to have his confidence in his dad rebuilt in order to have the courage to jump again. His dad will do this. Eventually, the toddler will grow to trust his dad so much that he will be begging his dad to catch him.
An example of foolish surrender in the Bible is the story of Jericho. God told the Hebrews that if they marched around the city seven times making noise the walls would come down and it would be theirs. This makes no sense! Who would believe such a thing! It was VERY foolish (and I'll bet they were mocked heavily for doing it!) Yet they did it. Why? Because they had facts (their history and scriptures) and faith. What did they reap? Feeling. Imagine the expressions of delight on the faces of the Hebrews on the seventh day when they shouted and the walls indeed came down. I'll bet that they shouted praises louder at that time than they had the entire week during their marches. Who got the credit (glory) for this foolish act? It was a win‑win situation. God got the credit for bringing the walls down in a mighty miracle, and the Hebrews were credited with faith in the power of their God.
Wanna bet that they were wondering which city they would get to march around next? That's what I would have done. However, to do the same thing again would not have required the same degree of surrender or faith. God gets us to surrender to him in different ways so that we will have confidence in God, and not in the act.
God gave us free will so that we have the ability to choose. We can choose good (Gods way and will) or bad (the way of self, flesh or of evil). Often, we have more than one choice, such as what we want to be when we grow up, who we are going to marry, or where we want to go to college. Often, our first choice or inclination is not Gods will. In other words, Gods way is not always what appears to be the easy way, the quickest way, the straightest line, or most common sense route to our human eyes and discernment.
It comes down to good, better or best. For example, the toddler at the pool was probably comfortable with, and enjoyed, holding the hand rail and playing on the steps of the pool. Perhaps he enjoyed sitting on the side and dipping his toes in the water. Perhaps he was comfortable in the baby pool with the other toddlers. All of these are good choices. However, can any of these choices equal the best choice of the thrill of jumping into the air with all of your might and into your fathers arms? Doubtful. The Bible says that God will use the foolish to confound the wise, and he often does this. What adult sitting around that pool watching that toddler doesn't secretly with that they could trade places with him?
The more we surrender to the will and ways of God, the more confidence, or faith, we will have in God, the greater the rewards. The larger our faith becomes, the bigger leaps we will be encouraged to take. Is there more of a thrill and reward in going off the high dive as opposed to jumping off the side of the pool? Is the splash any bigger? You tell me. I have never had the courage to try.
Francois Fenelon, a 17th century clergyman, discovered a similar truth over 300 years ago. "When it comes to accomplishing things for God, you will find that high aspirations, enthusiastic feelings, careful planning, and the ability to express yourself well are not worth very much. The important thing is absolute surrender to God. You can do anything He wants you to do if you are walking in the full light of absolute surrender."
We must have faith and surrender our will in order to receive from God. However, in order to give to others, we must have love, which is another subject.
Freely you have received, freely give.